Meredith Xavier: Your book, Stripes: Design Between the Lines, is eye candy – the colors and bold prints that you present are so visually engaging. What started your intrigue with stripes and how they play a role in so many facets of the visual world we live in?
Linda O’Keefe: I’ve always loved stripes. From the earliest age I thought they were truly perennial and I can’t say that of any other pattern or design. It also occurred to me that there’s been no time in my life, no matter my age, when I haven’t worn stripes. Once I had the realization that stripes aren’t ageist it dawned on me that stripes were also not gender specific and are traditionally worn by men and women. Then I applied that logic to upholstery and saw that rather than being associated with any one period or style that stripes were used universally in all budgets and walks of life. Long story short the more I thought about stripes the more interesting facts and characteristics emerged and when I suggested the topic to my publisher, Gianfranco Monacelli, he jumped at it.
MX: What is it about stripes that pulled you in and made you create this fabulous book? Was there a particular designer, piece of architecture or object that really started your intrigue?
LO: I’ve always appreciated Paul Smith’s use of stripes. As well as designing edgy pinstriped suits, shirts and socks for men he has striped everything from toothbrushes to carpets to Mini cars. His stripes vitalize otherwise staid, generic or static designs and immediately energize and update them. Such a powerful result from such a simple pattern.
“In this showcase of artistic risks, O’Keefe demonstrates how, in everything from modern furniture to classical architecture, stripes endure as a bold symbol in every aspect of life.” – Shannon Sharpe, Metropolis Magazine
MX: You examine the culture of stripes and the role they play in the decorative arts and fashions of the past. Are there particular designers or artists that you feel made their work stand out to be one of the most significant contributions to the history of this bold pattern?
LO: Historically every fashion designer has featured stripes at some point in their careers but some use them as a rule. Agnes B features them in practically every collection and she single handedly immortalized iconic French Breton T shirts. For decades Marimekko has printed painterly stripes onto lengths of textiles and Missoni weaves complex color combinations in their striped clothing and house wares. Most interior designers take advantage of the fact that stripes equal instantly applied architecture. Used appropriately they lengthen or widen a space. They direct the eye and are as at home in a child’s play room as they are in a formal Regency style dining room.
MX: What part of your research for this, We of course have to ask – where can we find stripes in your everyday life?
While I was researching, writing and producing the book I saw stripes in every aspect of my life, which is why I decided to include a chapter about stripes found in nature. Nowadays I don’t automatically see stripes everywhere. I have to say that’s quite a relief!