British manufacturers should take more note of UK talent

Remember the Cool Britannia of ten years ago when Tony Blair was in the ascendancy as Prime Minister and all eyes were on London as a global centre for design?

You will be pleased to know that the seeds sown then have taken root and, if last week’s Milan furniture fair is anything to go by, British designers are well established on the international circuit.

London-based Ron Arad has long been a star in Milan – and his stunningly innovative chairs and sculptures once more set a high standard on the fringe. The same is true of Ross Lovegrove, whose name continued to crop up around the fair, but whose biggest showing was a non-furniture product this year – the Muon speakers for Kef. Meanwhile, Jasper Morrison continues apace with projects for Italy’s Cappellini, among others.

They are joined now by others, Barber Osgerby and Pearson Lloyd being particularly strong. The prolific duo Barber Osgerby had designed an elegant wall-hanging system for Magis and lighting for Flos, sofas for Established & Sons, a table for Cappellini, a Classicon coatstand and a sideboard for Quodes. Pearson Lloyd, meanwhile, created the whole stand for Spanish company Martinez Otero and a cabinet range for Modus.

It is great to see our talent gaining recognition with overseas manufacturers. But how much more satisfying it would be if more UK manufacturers had the nerve of Kef , Established & Sons and SCP – now with its off-shoot Case , in which designers Matthew Hilton, Terence Woodgate and Nazanin Kamali each have a 5 per cent stake.

The jury is still out as to how Established & Sons will fare as a business, given its focus on high-end design and ‘collector’s pieces’ from the likes of Zaha Hadid and Future Systems. But the year-old Case is thriving and SCP’s ‘contemporary English’ lines are internationally popular.

It would be good to see more companies taking inspiration from their UK peers, backing design and being proud to show it in the global arena.

Lynda Relph-Knight, Editor

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