In a light-filled atelier, surrounded by objects that inspire, Mark de la Vega runs DLV. His studio is built on experience and fueled by art, history and the true value of luxury.
Looking at your shop and showroom space in Red Hook can be quite envy inducing, but as everyone who lives in New York knows behind every great space there’s often an even better story. So to begin with how did you end up in Red Hook and how did you find this amazing space?
Well, it’s really a story of need, serendipity, and a lot of hard work. I started off in a Co-Op workshop that we are still in today. But as our practice grew we needed clean space to host clients and to do our clean work. Like the Eggshell Mosaic for example… When the 7000 sq foot clean space became available upstairs we had just landed a big project with Anouska Hempel. We did about 50 custom pieces for a town house in the West Village. It was a huge undertaking that took a year to complete. I almost had no choice but to go all in so I took the space. Now in our third year in this space we have it operating like a true Atelier. It’s a very fun and inspiring place to come to everyday. I believe it helps us close a lot of deals too.
DLV has an aesthetic that is totally individual. When you founded the company did you know that this is what you wanted things to look like or has this happened more subconsciously over time?
A: Thank you for saying that. Creativity has never been a problem here. I wake up in the middle of the night working over pieces in my head. I actually love it. I have no stress whatsoever about designing. I also have the ability to move quickly into drawings and prototypes and that’s when the pieces have a chance to start speaking back to you. The changes are quick at that point. I never do anything “because I feel like it” Everything we do has a significance, part function, part aesthetic, part historical.
I also knew I had to separate myself, as there is a lot of design that is following trend. I don’t believe you can have real longevity as a designer running from one trend to another. My aesthetic is very disciplined and I do not introduce pieces willy-nilly.
There is no doubt that DLV products fall into the category of luxury and I loved the quote from Karl Lagerfeld in your studio. When someone who is a fan of work inquires about the cost of a given product how do you explain the value of what DLV does?
That is a challenge of education, I don’t know how well we do that but if we can get them to come to visit our studio they usually get it. When you visit it becomes obvious that we are trying to do something special. I think the maker movement is great but I do not know if I am really a part of it. I worked at the pinnacle of the luxury design world before starting my own practice. It was very vey exciting and I tried to keep my head down and learn everything I could from people that operated in this space very comfortably. I did $120k armoires with the top builders in the world. I learned from the other designers, the fabricators and even the clients. My goal when starting out was to bring all of this knowledge together and figure out how to offer my own version of this high caliber luxury to a wider market. I am not so sure that the public grasps that, but that is the reality of what we do. By the way, for the readers the quote is “luxury is the ease of a T-shirt, in a very expensive dress” Karl is a master.
Q: The diversity of materials and techniques that you use at DLV are really impressive. Hearing about the process of sourcing eggs for your beautiful Coquille D’oeuf technique for instance is so specific. Using this technique as an example, was it something you were looking for to get a particular look or was it more of a situation in which the process found you?
A: We source the organic chicken eggs for their integrity. The shells hold up to our rigorous process of cooking, cutting, and cleaning the shell before we use them. When we used the cheapest eggs (non organic) the shells crumbled and we lost most of the inventory. Also it is a lot harder to make something beautiful from a pile of dust. We want quality hemispheres so that we have a starting place for the piece that can be reminiscent of the life of the material. I want there to be traces of the oblong shapes hidden within the surfaces we create. That’s what makes it special, that is why our collectors invest.
Q: To do the kind of work that DLV does takes a lifetime of commitment to the details. So would it be fair to say that even though you’ve been designing for quite some time now that in a way you’re just getting started?
A: That’s exactly it. You nailed it. I am not concerned about overnight success. I am concerned about how our body of work shows in 5 years, 10 years, and beyond. I create these pieces to far outlive me.