Melbourne Design Now Design and Manufacturing Forever Young Luxmy Furniture Talking Business Dessein Furniture Scrapbook Owen and Vokes and Peters
INSPIRATION / IDEATION / DESIGN / INNOVATION / INDUSTRY
editors’ letter The entrepreneurial spirit.
Let’s avoid the race to the bottom on price – there’s enough cheap junk in the world already.
his issue is dedicated to the entrepreneurial men and women working to build opportunity within the furnishing sector. The good news is that there are great companies out in industry succeeding right now; we profile some of them in the following pages. There is much to learn from these pioneers who are persevering, breaking ground, finding new niches and bringing new products and ideas into reality. Success is as much about hard work as it is about restraint, focus and good ideas. There is a recurring theme within this issue – to remain competitive and relevant in an ever-changing marketplace, Australia’s furnishing industry (and industry generally) needs to be innovating, competitive on design and quality, focused on specific niche markets, and remain agile in response to the vagaries of the industry. Let’s avoid the race to the bottom on price – there is enough cheap junk in the world already. Our business profiles, features and interviews all enunciate the central message of resilience, as we continue to gather insights into what is working for leading businesses, we see a consensus emerging around the need for manufacturing and design sectors to collaborate more deeply, and even merge into one highly innovative multi-facetted production sector. Perhaps this is inevitable, an evolutionary principle called ‘survival of the fittest’. Good design as a central pillar to success and competitiveness for Australian industry. Innovative capabilities, craft skills and technical knowledge embedded within industry are equally vital resources for designers to realise their creative vision. More than ever specifiers (architects, designers and consumers) have a unique opportunity to pour fuel onto the spark of local innovation. Play your part in this story! There is optimism about. Even in the face of many challenges, some Australian brands are rising fast.
Ewan McEoin and Linda Cheng
We explore the creative hub of Queensland. We look at technological innovations from around the world and great Australian designs
made right here.
Priyanka Rao, co-director of Luxmy
Melbourne Design Now
Furniture, shows how a fresh, innovative business strategy has helped the contract manufacturer grow through tough times.
Talking Business With Dessein Furniture, CLU Living and American Hardwood Export Council.
The National Gallery of Victoria is hosting a major exhibition that spans art, architecture, craft and design. We meet with Simone LeAmon, curator of one of the key exhibits Melbourne Design Now and explore some unique insights into Australian manufacturing.
Scrapbook Queensland architecture firm Owen and
68 New Products
Vokes and Peters share their inspirations, influences and most idolised possessions.
78 Industry News Cover image: Michele Chow of Dessein Furniture. Portrait by Change Creative (Ty Layton). Art Direction by Linda Cheng.
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A Sunny Disposition Melbourne and Sydney has long dominated the creative scene in Australia. But a new book by Jason bird shows there is much to celebrate in the design culture of the sunshine state.
Reviewed by Katie Oâ€™Brien
onstantly dubbed as the less attractive sibling to its stylish southern counterparts, Queensland is finally outgrowing the ‘Big Country Town’ label and coming of age. The recent release of Hightide: Queensland Design Now showcases the work of 22 of the state’s leading design practitioners over the past ten years. Author Jason Bird, director of Luxxbox, and one part of Brisbanebased design collective Quench, reveals that now is Queensland’s design high tide – there is a line in the sand, a watermark and it was finally time to document how far the humble Sunshine State has come. Synonymous with blistering heat, sporadic thunderstorms and balmy afternoons spent on verandas and balconies, Queensland is a life lived outdoors. Majority of the book’s featured designers now base themselves permanently in Brisbane and, as Robert Forster of the Go Betweens fame prefaces, artists cannot afford to disregard their environment and it is this unique connection between the Queensland
locale and the Queensland designer that Hightide has proclaimed. Bird begins by drawing historical connections between the burgeoning Brisbane music scene of the 70s and the now flourishing Brisbane design scene, highlighting the similarities of major growth and development. Albeit forty years apart, both industries were born from geographical isolation and Bird credits the archetypal Queenslander philosophy of experimentation and ‘having a go’ as being key to the industries’ respective successes. Scattered throughout the product pages are wonderful homages to the state itself from its most adoring fans. Brisbane designer Marc Harrison speaks of Australian design as colourful and humourous, the local designers themselves as mischievous and fun. The Go Betweens Robert Forster offers Brisbane’s geographical isolation as the perfect opportunity to detach, think and create. Whilst local artisan Kent Gration declares
Queensland’s laid back attitude as the key in allowing designers to define themselves locally and internationally without the pressure of the designer spotlight. These moments, scribed beautifully and cast across the books only brightly coloured pages endear the reader to the state itself; its beautiful climate, the relaxed lifestyle and how, when all of these elements are combined, it creates the iconic Queensland designer – that which we should be celebrating. But sadly, this unique connection between genius loci and the designer is lost. This is a book about products. However, the foreword and interludes imply that you cannot celebrate one without the other – they are intrinsically connected, particularly in Queensland. As a result the designers who should be celebrated on equal footings with their creations, take a back seat to their products. David Shaw, the godfather of Queensland furniture deserves a pedestal profile, whilst KT Doyle’s historical research
sToneware Stoneware Lights by Melbourne Designer Adam Cornish are influenced by the Japanese philosophy of Wabi-Sabi - the belief that there is great beauty in imperfection. Runner up at Corporate Culture’s Design Journey Competition 2012, Cornish exhibited the lights as part of a collective of awardwinning emerging designers at the Australian Pavilion of the 2013 London Design Festival. Each of Cornish’s lights is made from natural, locally sourced material with stoneware clay crafted in a way that intentionally retains tiny imperfections. Individual lines and ripples created by the hands of the craftsperson are retained, adding an individual quality to this tactile form. Designed for disassembly, all components are designed to be held together without the use of adhesives, allowing each element to be separated into their individual waste streams at the end of the pendants life. (Text by Katie O’Brien) adamcornish.com
buckeT Melbourne-based design studio Coco Flip have created a delightful new product adding their growing range of beautifully designed lighting and furniture. The Bucket coffee table (pictured), designed by founder Kate Stokes references Australian modernist architecture of the 1950’s in both form and materiality. The concrete top, a composite of recycled flyash and resin is a lightweight alternative to traditional concrete, whilst the delicate frame and ‘bucket’ inset are constructed from brass tubing and sheet metal respectively. All components are manufactured in Melbourne by craftspeople aligned with the philosophy of accuracy and quality championed by Stokes. (Text by Katie O’Brien) cocoﬂip.com.au
spring Issue 2013
fEaTuRE: MElbOuRnE DEsign nOw
Melbourne Design Now Melbourne now is The largesT ever exhibiTion presenTed by The naTional gallery of vicToria, and when The doors open in noveMber 2013 iT will Mark a significanT shifT in The ouTlook of The insTiTuTion, enunciaTed by The bold decision To open boTh gallery siTes (inTernaTional and ausTralia) up for a large-scale dynaMic and free exhibiTion prograM ThaT spans conTeMporary arT, archiTecTure, crafT and design. in This issue we exaMine one of The key exhibiTs wiThin The overall design prograM, Melbourne design now , we MeeT The curaTor siMone leaMon, and explore soMe uniQue insighTs inTo The sTaTe of play for ausTralian ManufacTurers. Interview Linda Cheng
spring Issue 2013
feature: Melbourne Design Now
Previous spread: The ‘Design Wall’, designed and curated by Simone LeAmon, featuring 40 different projects exemplifying Design and the Everday. (Photo: NGV Photo Services) Above: The Bionic Eye. Exemplary project for Design and the Human Body. The project was led by Mark Armstrong of Blue Sky Design and Monash University’s Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture (MADA) Right: Kate Rhodes’ Ornamental Crimes, part of a series of exemplary projects for Design and Visual Culture.
Spring Issue 2013
feature: Melbourne Design Now
Interview: Simone LeAmon, curator, melbourne design now. FI: What was your curatorial vision for this exhibit? SLA: The curatorial vision was to put together a suite of presentations that explored five themes – design and social culture, design and the economy, design and sustainability, design and the human body and design and visual culture. I’ve looked at these themes through the lens of design, and have specifically sought to identify projects that are groundbreaking in their intentions. The exhibit embraces the kind of design that some may consider too overtly commercial for the NGV, and also designed objects that we are more accustomed to seeing in a gallery. The five themes were a mechanism by which to sort, code and assemble the collection. In the three months of research for this exhibition, I’ve discovered considerable design activity out in industry, what is interesting is that we haven’t really been celebrating some exemplary work because it is so deeply embedded in business and is
easily bypassed by traditional design surveys or editorial coverage. Within the exhibit we have a central element called the Design Wall, which is populated with ubiquitous everyday products. The wall is 16m wide by 7m high. It represents 21 design studios, through 40 different projects. An intention of the wall is to communicate that there is a strong link between design and serial (mass) production. As such there are multiples of each item, which creates a vertical field of 670 objects. FI: What have you discovered about the design culture in Melbourne through the process of curating this exhibit? SLA: It’s quite clear that there are different conversations going on, there is an overall sense of pluralism, yet within this there is considerable individuality within the designer-maker culture. This is incredibly healthy because it means designers are not all subservient to dominant trends. For a long time, design hasn’t been correctly accepted as part of our cultural discourse. Architecture is strongly integrated into this arena, yet when we talk about product or industrial design, there really
feature: Melbourne Design Now
If the design sector and manufacturing sector could come together (as the design and manufacturing sector) rather than two different sectors, we would have a tremendous environment
Capacity: luxmy furniture
Forever Young Priyanka Rao, co-director of Luxmy Furniture, shows how an innovative, fresh and agile business strategy has helped the contract manufacturer grow even through tough times.
Left: Priyanka Rao on the factory floor.
riyanka Rao is a rare face in the Australian furniture manufacturing industry. This young businesswoman is an MBA graduate with a background in architecture, she has been named NSW Young Entrepreneur of the Year and is not yet even 30. In 2011, she joined her father Sudhindra Rao as co-director of Luxmy Furniture and it didn’t take long for her to make it her own. Luxmy was started in 1997 by Sudhindra, who’s been in manufacturing his whole professional life. Originally, he had a powdercoating factory and when he learned that a local furniture manufacturing factory was shutting down, he decided to diversify and took it over. Since then, Luxmy has positioned itself as a contract manufacturer specialising in worktops and joinery. Their clients include many of Australia’s most respected furniture brands including Herman Miller, Steelcase, Zenith, Stylecraft, Corporate Culture, Living Edge, and many of the major suppliers of workstations. Through this clientele Luxmy have developed a sophisticated approach to manufacturing and a fantastic foundation in design and R&D. After listening to her story, it seems an unusual move for Priyanka to enter into the manufacturing business. After completing her degrees in architecture and business,
she worked in the music recording industry, but didn’t have much optimism for her personal career progression due to illegal downloads eroding the market. “My father needed someone to come in and apply some good business strategy and get the business to a point of growth and I thought that was interesting to me,” says Priyanka. “I consider it a great challenge, that’s why I came into the business. To be in a position to shape business strategy and execute it, that opportunity for a young person is gold.” In the last couple of years, Luxmy has developed new business channels, finding ways to innovate; they launched an online venture, Evolvex, a design-your-own flat-pack furniture brand, which Priyanka has instigated herself. Most significant, their latest acquisition of renowned Australian manufacturer Woodmark has now expanded their capabilities into upholstery and woodcraft as well as high-end, mass manufacturing. “Now we’ve got a very deep skillset under the one 6,500 square metre factory roof. Luxmy is investing now to diversify our markets so that we’re not caught out relying on one market alone. This diversification is designed to enable our longevity and fuel the next phase of growth,” says Priyanka. Her astute business mind has brought a level of resilience to the company that is
Capacity: Meet the makers
Dessein Michele Chow is part of a new breed of young Australian design entrepreneurs, looking locally but thinking globally. A synthesis of good design, a niche market and sustainable innovation. Portrait: Change Creative (Ty Layton) Text & Art Direction: Linda Cheng
Spring Issue 2013
talking business: DESSEIN furniture
Left: Michele Chow with Dessein’s inaugural TAP range. Top right: Flow dining, coffee and side tables designed by Justin Hutchinson and Para chair designed by Adam Goodrum. (Photo: Scottie Cameron) Bottom right: Plank stools and bench designed by Jon Goulder. (Photo: Scottie Cameron)
ormer interior designer Michele Chow launched a new Australian furniture brand, Dessein Furniture, with its inaugural collection in August this year. The journey from initial concept to having product on the floor took just over 12 months, and took Chow across South East Asia in her search for the right production location. In the end she has discovered a unique setup in Thailand. Having practiced interior design in Australia and internationally, Chow has always kept a keen eye on the furniture market. While in London, she made frequent trips to Milan Furniture Fair, which germinated the idea to one day create her own furniture brand. After returning to Melbourne, she identified a gap in the market for affordable, well-designed furniture with a distinct Australian flavour. With some encouragement
from her former employer at Hecker Guthrie, she took the plunge and thus, Dessein Furniture was born. “I wanted to contribute a new shape and value to Australia’s furniture design and the retail industry,” says Chow. “I wanted to embrace Australian vibrancy and culture and provide a platform for emerging as well as established designers.” A chance meeting with industrial designer Justin Hutchinson led to deep consideration about the need for sustainable production right across the product development cycle. Hutchinson’s insights guided her towards sustainable timber sourcing as both an ethical and aesthetic point of difference for her first collection called TAP. Establishing ethical supply and manufacture can be complex. For Chow it has been a process of intensive research. She eventually identified Rubberwood, a common
plantation hardwood grown sustainably throughout South East Asia. Rubberwood is a by-product of latex production. Plantation trees are sapped, similar to the process used to gather Maple syrup. After 25 years, the trees are felled, and the timber goes into furniture production. “A lot of people in South East Asia have the idea of Rubberwood as cheap or poor quality timber, but it’s actually the most misunderstood species of timber in the furniture industry,” says Chow. “Rubberwood is very similar to Oak and it has all the characteristics to make it truly successful material for furniture production.” “The fact that rubberwood is traditionally used for low-end applications such as children’s toys and chopping blocks actually adds value to the narrative of introducing this new timber species to the Australian furniture market,” says Hutchinson. “It’s not something
TalkIng BusInEss: Clu living
CLU Living Text: Linda Cheng
spring Issue 2013
talking business: CLU Living
Previous page: CLU Living’s managing director, Christopher Lu. Below: CLU Living’s Swan Street showroom in Richmond, Melbourne.
anadian-born Christopher Lu is one furniture retailer who is bucking the trend against the reported retail slump. Now based in Melbourne, Lu opened his showroom, CLU Living, on Swan Street, Richmond in May 2013, in the depths of low market sentiment in the retail sector. “I read somewhere that adversity breeds innovation and the most innovative companies of our time have all started in recessionary times,” Lu says. “They learn how to be leaner, smarter and faster and they have to do things differently. They’re hungrier.” And Lu is hungry for his own slice of the pie and set himself the challenge of starting his own business. Originally from a marketing background, Lu worked in advertising for Ogilvy and then for a builder in interior design before moving to Australian in 2011. While searching for furniture for his own apartment, he realised there was a gap in the market for well-designed furniture suitable for compact spaces. This was, as he says, his lightbulb moment. “I’ve always wanted to start my own business,” he explains, “so I thought, why not do a furniture store that caters to a whole new market segment of small, compact living.” “My biggest goal with CLU is to illustrate to people that they can have a great lifestyle in smaller spaces,” he continues. “One of the key reasons people want to live in the inner city is for lifestyle. But they’re punished by the high prices of living there. That’s why they have to sacrifice certain things like living in a smaller apartment. I want CLU to be the brand that shows people how to live in smaller spaces with great furniture, but without a big price-point.”
Branding is one of the key factors behind CLU’s success. With his astute business background, Lu has an in-depth understanding of his clientele and conducted four months of market research before opening the showroom. “Being in this retail climate, I had to have really strong products that people are looking for,” he says. “They had to be really relevant stuff to make people spend money.” This strong brand identity has helped CLU Living differentiate itself from the mass market, the likes of IKEA and other national brands. As well, Lu designs and retails many of his own pieces, made locally by Australian manufacturers. “I would say about 65% of the furniture is locally made. It would be good to have everything 100% local but, in my mind, the designs are not innovative enough,” says Lu. “So I have to supplement with international pieces that are different to catch people’s attention, that stays with my brand. I carefully pick pieces or design pieces that would work with my clientele.” Recently, Lu was recognised by the Australian Furniture Association as a finalist for Victorian Retailer of the Year as well as a national award for Furniture of the Year (occasional furniture category) for his own design, the Compass wine bar, made in collaboration with Victorian manufacturer Newton Furniture. “I believe in my proposition to the market,” Lu says. “For me, there’s an opportunity to be a new kind of retailer that is fresh and caters more to the lifestyle. It’s a challenge that I’m going to give myself, see how I do.” cluliving.com.au
THE rOuSEABOuT BEAN BAG Custom tanned leather and recycled polystyrene beads. WALL HOOK SHELVES Available in black steel and powdercoat finish. Both designed by Justin Lamont. (Photo: Armelle Habib) LifeSpaceJourney, lifespacejourney.com
spring Issue 2013
IrO TABLES by Jo Nagasaka for Established & Sons launched at London Design Festival. Made from resin and wood. Established & Sons, establishedandsons.com
KISS PENDANT Designed by Stephen Johnson for Artecnica. Made from pressed, blown glass with mirrorising finish. Artecnica, artecnicainc.com
rEN CHAIr, Designed by Lisa Vincitorio and Laelie Berzon. Made from European Beech wood. Available in a range of lacquered colours. Something Beginning With, somethingbeginningwith.com.au
International Alliance of Furnishing Publications
11 SEPTEMBEr 2013
he International Alliance of Furnishing Publications (of which Furnishing International is a member) met in Shanghai, China to elect a new executive committee for 2013-2015 period. Dr Casey Loo, editor-inchief and publisher of Furniture & Furnishing International, Singapore, was elected as the new chairman. The Alliance also welcomed two new members, Meubihome from Belgium and MD magazine from Bulgaria. iafpalliance.com
Furniture China 11-15 SEPTEMBEr, 2013
ombining a highly attended trade event with two major conferences and eight international display pavilions, Furniture China 2013 hosted over 85,000 visitors recently. Held at the Shanghai World Expo Exhibition & Convention Centre (SWEECC), the renowned five-day furniture exhibition will return for its 20th anniversary in 2014.
Design is (was) EVERYWHERE! LONDON DESIGN FESTIVAL 14-22 SEPTEMBEr 2013
hen the London Design Festival (LDF) was conceived by Sir John Sorrell and Ben Evans in 2003 their concept was simple: create an annual event promoting the city’s imagination, engage the country’s greatest thinkers and deliver an unmissable celebration of London design. However, for all of the design nerds out there, it has quickly become a place of DOI - Design Over Indulgence. The Festival has become a design mecca of sorts, with excited locals and internationals making the annual pilgrimage to the design
spring Issue 2013
Malaysian International Furniture Fair
holy land. Attempting to attend all of the calendar activities is impossible, with the always evolving and ever refreshed program hosting over 300 events this year. Claiming that “Design is Everywhere” the 2013 LDF organisers delivered on their statement, collaborating with over 200 partner destinations across the city to host events including the annual Design Destinations, Landmark Projects and the superbly organised Design Precincts. The 2013 program had everything… except you maybe? So start planning your 2014 Design pilgrimage now!
4-8 MArCH, 2014 he Malaysian International Furniture Fair (MIFF) celebrates its milestone 20th anniversary in Malaysia in 2014. The export-oriented trade show held annually in Kuala Lumpur since 1995. MIFF 2014 will include the highly popular Buyers Night and the anticipated MIFF Furniture Design Competition for Young Talent.
Link Festival 25–26 November, 2013 Melbourne, Australia
The inaugural Link Festival of Design, Technology and Social Change will be held at Deakin University and Australian Centre for the Moving Image. Guest speakers include social activist and founder of Barefoot College, Sanjit Bunker Roy, and Father Bob McGuire. Organisers hope to attract 400 delegates who will collaborate in interactive workshops on how design and technology can influence social innovation in the future. linkfestival.com.au
Business of Design Week 2–7 December, 2013 Hong Kong, China
2 November, 2013 – 9 February, 2014 California Design 1930-1965: Living in a Modern Way Brisbane, Australia
California and Queensland share not only the Pacific Ocean, but a love for all things outdoor that their sunny climates engender, thus it is only fitting that Brisbane’s Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) is celebrating their summer season by playing host to the global touring exhibition California Design: 1930–1965: Living in a Modern Way. Featuring more than 250 defining objects of the 20th Century and originating from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), the exhibition examines California’s role in shaping the design culture of the United States
Digital Fabrication Master class 5–8, 12–15 November, 2013 Adelaide, Australia
Fab Lab Adelaide is a not-for-profit community workshop supporting individuals and businesses through the provision of free and low cost access
spring Issue 2013
and it’s snowball effect on the rest of the world. Tracing the origins of a distinct modernism in the 1930s, the exhibition curated by Wendy Kaplan and Bobbye Tigerman explores the collective imagination of the Californian ‘designercraftsman’ through major innovations in materials and mass production. The touring exhibition featuring The first Barbie Doll, classic Levi Strauss 501 Jeans and iconic Charles and Ray Eames furniture will be accompanied by GOMA’s hugely successful UP Late program with live music and DJ sets on Friday nights. More laid back gallery visitors can relax on GOMA’s grassy knoll and experience a balmy afternoon not too dissimilar to that our Californian counterparts.
Partnering with a different country each year, Business of Design Week (BODW) is an annual conference featuring international speakers on design, branding and business. The conference focuses strongly on design culture in Asia and this year’s partner country is Belgium, a nation of immense creativity and innovation. Speakers from Belgium will talk about their processes in design-led solutions and innovative products and services. bodw.com
MAISON&OBJET Asia 10–13 March, 2014 Marina Bay Sands, Singapore
to digital fabrication technologies. In conjunction with Australian Network for Art and Technology (ANAT) and in partnership with TAFE SA, Fab Lab will present ‘How to make almost anything: Fabrication in the digital age’ from digital fabrication expert, Dr Zoz Brooks.
The popular French furniture and homewares event will debut in Asia next year at the Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre. Over 180 exhibitors are expected to present a range of interior design and decoration products. MAISON&OBJET Asia will also present Designer of the Year Asia edition.
10-13 MARCH 2014 SINGAPORE
MARINA BAY SANDS EXPO AND CONVENTION CENTER www.maison-objet-asia.com Visitors: Promosalons AUSTRALIA PTY LTD Tel. +61 (0) 2 9261 3322 - firstname.lastname@example.org
preview, © Cyril Lagel, GraphicObsession. SAFI organisation, a subsidiary of Ateliers d’Art de France and Reed Expositions France
YOUR NEW DESTINATION IN ASIA