Entrepreneurs make quality design accessible to all

If one thing stood out at last week’s Milan Furniture Fair, it was that UK designers are maintaining the global standing they attained some five years ago.

If one thing stood out at last week’s Milan Furniture Fair, it was that UK designers are maintaining the global standing they attained some five years ago.

World-class players Ron Arad, Tom Dixon, Matthew Hilton and Jasper Morrison are calling the shots with manufacturers across the globe.

Meanwhile, a newer generation of Royal College of Art-trained internationals have made their mark – for example, Dutch designer Ineke Hans, London-based Shin Azumi, and London and Bologna-based Sebastian Bergne.

But it isn’t just the quality of design that sets British designers apart. It’s the creativity in the thinking behind design-related enterprises. Dixon is a natural entrepreneur, now with his eponymous company and Finnish giant Artek as the main outlets for his design talents. But the former Habitat creative head is not alone in his bold endeavors – two London furniture companies stand out as having devised new business models and harnessed top local talent.

SCP’s Sheridan Coakley is an old hand at this, but his joint venture with designer Paul Newman, formerly of Aero, takes top quality into the middle market. Case, as the venture is called, is already successful in the US with elegant pieces by Hilton, Terence Woodgate, Robin Day and Nazanin Kamali, and is seeking to close a deal with a UK mass retailer. To boost their commitment, Hilton, Woodgate and Kamali have each been given a 5 per cent share in the business.

Another company spreading its wares across markets is Established & Sons. Launched last year with a collection by Future Systems, Barber Osgerby, Zaha Hadid and others, it is rolling out three tiers of products/ the collection, the limited editions and now ‘affordable’ lines by top designers.

Terence Conran has long appreciated the mass market through Habitat and now through Content by Conran. But it is great to see other purveyors of ‘luxury’ lines, such as SCP and Established & Sons, following a similar path, but in their own way.

Lynda Relph-Knight, editor

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