Emma, this is the second year you’ve produced Local Milan, taking Australian designers to the world’s most prestigious – and frantic – furniture fair. Which designers have you decided to show this year?
I’ve gone with eleven established designers. Tom Fereday, Anna Varendorf, Kate Banazi and Ryan McGoldrick, Tom Skeehan, Ross Gardam, Adam Goodrum, Christopher Boots, Dowel Jones, Charles Wilson, Jon Goulder and myself.
How did you arrive at that selection?
Last year the lineup was pretty much on the cusp of high and low, and this year I really wanted that more developed feel across a wide spectrum of lighting, soft furnishings and furnishing. But also one of the things I find really hard is to locate and represent women. Kate Banazi and Anna Varendorf are on that edge of design and art, which I feel is the way the furniture world is going anyway. So they’re not so established in the furniture world but their work lends itself to that kind of platform.
Do you think that Australian design going more to the fine arts end, or perhaps towards the bespoke?
Yes, perhaps it’s more about the bespoke. I feel that in the face of so much mass production, people are really wanting to understand the story about the designer. It’s not just, ‘Hey, look at my chair’. It’s got the backup, the knowledge behind it to be able to speak to people who come to one’s home, or who come to a commercial project. People really want to buy into the person, the designer, the story behind a piece, much more than just ‘Oh here’s my pretty chair I bought at some store somewhere’.
Why and how are you getting that feeling?
I think people are just bored and over it. It may be more of an investment to purchase a quality piece by an acknowledged designer, but at the end of the day it’s about longevity. By investing in a quality piece you’re getting something that speaks about you as a person, and reflects your taste and understanding of the whole industry. People do that in the art world, and to a lesser extent in the fashion world, but I think that just because it’s so much about mass production there’s a real rejection of that now.
What’s happening with Local Design?
We’re chugging along very nicely. We’re in a new studio in Camperdown, [Sydney], it’s the old studio of the Anaesthetic lighting guys. After moving around a bit these past years we’re planning to stay here for a while. What we’re finding now is that we’re getting a lot of the commercial guys, be they builders, specifiers or interior designers, because they’re being pressured to specify Australian design but they’re a little bit time poor. So they come to us to get X, Y and Z from local designers. So in that respect it’s quite interesting. And we’re also finding that we’ve become seen as a really viable platform for commercial collaborations. For instance, we’re working with Kvadrat Maharam and Denfair in June which is really exciting. It’s an installation of their product, but also a celebration of Australian design, which is awesome.
Brava on this year’s installation, let’s check back in once the fair is over to see how things progressed.
Emma Elizabeth was In Conversation With… Stephen Todd at the Milan Furniture Fair.