Yinka Ilori.
Yinka Ilori.
Image: Supplied

Courvoisier is in the midst of redefining the cognac category as it develops an identity of joy, sophistication and celebration. The Maison was founded nearly 200 years ago by Félix Courvoisier and is today the Most Awarded Cognac House.

The last few months have seen numerous developments for the brand, such as the retirement of the sixth chief blender, Patrice Pinet, and the subsequent considered appointment of the seventh, Thibaut Hontanx, as well as the appointment of several global ambassadors. Courvoisier has reimagined, yet honoured, its history, the design codes of the 1800s and ethos of luxury through the release of a contemporary new look and the announcement of varied creatives as brand ambassadors.

The new bottle design references the iconic trends of the Courvoisier experience during the Belle Époque era of the 19th century to the royal courts of the 20th Century. Ambassadors include Yinka Ilori, a British-Nigerian artist and designer;  actor, producer and writer Rashida Jones; jazz-musician Moses Boyd and fashion photographer Betina du Toit, who have all been appointed to bring the multi-sensory celebration of joy to life.

Yinka Ilori has been appointed, in a role made for him, as the “ambassador of joy” for the cognac house. His commission, a meandering table engineered to enthuse conversation and promote joy, has been travelling across the global capitals; from New York earlier in 2022, to Johannesburg this month, with plans to travel to London and beyond. Ilori’s characteristic patterns and colours encapsulate the French belief of joie de vivre – “a way of living that prioritises the enjoyment of the good things in life,” through his celebration of community with tableware, table-settings and carefully curated spacing.

Ilori has reached worldwide acclaim through his multi-disciplinary installations that create and enhance unique and memorable public spaces. His work is provocative and playful – touching on themes and human emotions that resonate across the world with his unique twist on contemporary design.

Yinka Ilori has reached worldwide acclaim through his multi-disciplinary installations that create and enhance unique and memorable public spaces.
Yinka Ilori has reached worldwide acclaim through his multi-disciplinary installations that create and enhance unique and memorable public spaces.
Image: Supplied

Ilori was awarded the Emerging Design Medal at the London Design Festival in 2020, served as a creative director of the BRIT Awards, received an MBE and was named as one of the 12 Artists shaping the global design industry by New York Times, all last year.

What is your practice?

My practice is multi-disciplinary and primarily consists of set-design, architectural projects and graphic design. I centre my work within the public space around belonging, memory making and celebrating joy, especially in spaces that need it. I am a storyteller, and I am an artist. I grew up in a place called Market Estate in north London where art and design wasn't really accessible. So as an artist and storyteller, I try to bring art and design to spaces and people that don’t usually get to experience art. I use words, poetry and text, and pattern to celebrate the personal stories of local communities and people in spaces that need joy. I have been telling stories in public spaces for the last 14 or 15 years now.

What does it mean to be the ambassador of joy?

It is super fitting to be an ambassador for Courvoisier as my work embodies joy. Whether you drink Courvoisier alone or around people, it is a joyful experience, we want to celebrate the joy of Courvoisier or the joy of drinking with your loved ones. I am quite lucky to have been given the role and the name of ambassador of joy and to follow the theme of joie de vivre.

I was invited to present a designer table design for our first intervention in New York, which consisted of a meandering river-like table-scape and which was inspired by my visit to Jarnac, the home of the House and the distillery. It was a really inspirational visit for me and really informed the design. Guests will see the table-scape, which is incredible, it looks like the river, and it has a series of plates, which were inspired by the botanicals, the florals, the bees, and the wildflowers of Jarnac. The glassware and plates are a mixture of the Jarnac red and beige, which are crucial and important to the heritage of Courvoisier. It was very much a celebratory and collaborative project.

What I love about the work I do is that I always feel that my work comes alive when it's used by people and seeing the table being used with music, drinks, cocktails, the energy, the joy, and the laughter. It really brings the experience to life,

What have been some of your favourite works?

I'm quite obsessed with playgrounds and spaces that encourage play both within children and adults. I recently completed a project in London for the anniversary of the Beacontree Estate called The Flamboyance of Flamingos. The name is inspired by the flamingos on the development, which are unfortunately no longer present here.

What I love about my work is that it brings us together and that's what art should do.

We decided to bring them back by creating these play-objects, which replicate flamingos within the playground space. I just love seeing how young kids reimagine the world and how they dream. When you are an adult, you lose the will to dream and then you stop, and you shouldn’t. When you’re young, you really want to take on the world.

I also did a pavilion in Berlin called Filtered Rays and that was my first independent  architectural project with my team. That’s probably my current favourite project because it’s a space that allows people to come together, communicate, host yoga sessions, talks performances, club nights who knows.

What I love about my work is that it brings us together and that's what art should do, it should bring us together to create new memories and forge new ideas.

What materials do you use?

We use a mixture of different materials, obviously it depends on the projects that we are working on. We use a lot of materials that are sustainable and I think that sustainability is not just about the material but the after-life of it. How can the piece live on? Can it be re-used as something else? We did the Colour Palace a few years ago for Dulwich Picture Gallery in London and turned the timber flats into planters for a nearby school. The question for me, is what is going to happen after? That has become a part of my briefing, focusing on the steps after the project.

Yinka Ilori.
Yinka Ilori.
Image: Supplied

Tell me about your recent homeware line?

My homeware line was born during the first year of Covid-19. It all started with a design of socks that I posted onto my Instagram that got like 3,000 likes, for a pair of socks. I was not that busy, so I thought about designing a home-line — it just kicked off from there. I found my suppliers online doing lots of research and now we are stocked at Moda Operandi in the US, Matches, Browns and The Conran Shop.

We are really developing the collection now, working on new ranges and looking at pop-up locations for later in 2022. We are just really trying to take the brand global and I really believe in it; I think it’s one of the most exciting brands out there, we have got so much to say and offer.

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