Ali Godil goes his own way with his studio House of Gül – and with design which is as vibrant as it is unique and charged with spirituality and aspiration
Ali Godil has four craftsmen working in his home and it’s just eight in the morning. But everything is in motion for the designer from Portland, Oregon, who, with House of Gül, stands for design which brings Western and Eastern traditions together like no other. With the Northern California sun shining through the window and his dog happily jumping around, Ali Godil tells us how his design language developed and spirituality became increasingly important in his life and work – just as his social commitment.
The first thing blowing you away about House of Gül is its incredible style. You call it “psychedelic wabi-sabi” . . . Ali Godil: (laughs) That’s how I want you to feel. I use a lot of inspiration from Western abstract art and the 70ies punk culture, but also from Islamic and South Asian art and design. These influences present two different philosophies. One is more rational, more Bauhaus and gridded, the other one is much more expressive and free-flowing. But I absolutely don’t want the label “East meets West”. I want it to be a universal cohesion and that’s psychedelic wabi-sabi. It has this colorful euphoria and meditative rhythm, but also the simplicity, imperfection, and humility of wabi-sabi.
Would you say your design also draws power from the fact that styles meet which usually don’t belong together?
There’s this misconception that Western and Eastern philosophies are mutually exclusive and that you can pick only one. You can be a capitalist and super rational or a hippie artist with a spiritual approach. But I want to bring these two cultures together.
But didn’t you once complain that Western design makes everything look the same?
Yes, I think that’s true. If you take the rational mindset of the West to an extreme, it reduces everything to efficiency and everyone to a consumer. And all you see are white backgrounds with black text in Helvetica and an image in the grid. That’s “blanding” instead of branding. The colorful, expressive, and hand drawn style we’re seeing so often now is a rebellion against it.