A 3-D modeled lace bra is likely not what comes to mind when one thinks of Lexus; Milan Design Week probably doesn’t rank high either. Yet, for the seventh year in a row, the Lexus team arrived full force in Milan during Salone del Mobile to give the to this year's winner who teaches at Parsons School of Design. Marks’s work was debuted alongside five other finalists within a cavernous space in Milan’s Tortona neighborhood, one of the many hubs of activity during Milan Design Week.
“Creative labor is very, very undervalued in most countries because it cannot be accurately measured,” Paola Antonelli, MoMA’s senior curator of architecture and design and director of research and development said. She has participated as a judge in the Lexus Design Awards since the very beginning. “Companies are just now realizing that having a social impact can attract talent—even more so than free lunches. Lexus, however, is different because design is intrinsic to the company, so it was an organic extension for them. It’s not just a lapel pin they put on for show. They don’t pick products, they pick designers—it is an important distinction—they invest in people and in their ideas.”
Marks, for example, designed “,” which uses advanced 3-D modeling paired with the 16th-century technique for weaving lace to create bespoke bras for breast cancer survivors who have undergone mastectomy surgery. “We all know someone who has had breast cancer, it affects all of us,” Marks explains. “Fifty percent of women who have mastectomies choose to not have reconstructive surgery and I imagine having to get dressed every day, to never have something just made for you. I think subtly over time it wears on your confidence.” Her design won from over 1,548 submissions across the globe. As she accepted the award she pointed out, “Lexus doesn’t have to do this. They could be a successful brand without it. But it shows their commitment to design and to a better world.”
Lexus, of course, isn’t alone in feeling corporate responsibility, but it is the range of its support—the company also hosts the during New York fashion week—is unique.
Yoshihiro Sawa, President of , has a personal connection to designers as he earned his degree in engineering and design before holding a variety of creative positions in Lexus. “Everybody expects a better life, a better future,” he explains. “That is just basic human desire. So we feel responsible to support this work toward a better future not just in the automobile industries, but through other industries as well.”