The Fredrikson Stallard duo were ‘ones to watch’ from the moment they set up in 2005, and have stayed busy ever since. Henrietta Thompson talks to the designers who combine gothic fairytale with Scandinavian cool
When Patrick Fredrikson and Ian Stallard first started making ripples in the design press it was 2005, and they had just launched their new partnership. Although the pair had been working together for the past decade, they set out promoting their new official status with just a limited number of small products, one of which was a kite. It was black and bird-shaped, but at the time the design seemed utterly, and refreshingly, original. In a sea of dull-and-tasteful identikit wannabe Wallpaper Swiss misses, it was just a bit different and we loved it. Everyone loved it. It was a product that instantly marked out the designers as ‘ones to watch’.
Fredrikson Stallard might easily have been a one-hit-wonder, but in the months that followed, the duo conquered the difficult ‘second album’ phase with a number of similarly covetable accessories: the all-wax candle-holder, the crucifix scouring brush, and Table 1 and Table 2 – bundles of wood strapped together to form plain but elegant tables. Before long, Fredrikson Stallard was receiving an enviable number of commissions.
Three years on and the duo have Swarovski chandeliers to their names and are working on their second collection of furniture for David Gill Galleries. Fiat invited them to design a floral livery for the new Fiat 500 on display during the Milan Saloni this spring, and they are collaborating with Veuve Clicquot on an installation for the London Design Festival this autumn. They have received coverage in almost every magazine going, to the point where – they don’t know this yet -Wallpaper magazine (itself evolved from those Swiss misses of yesteryear) recently excluded them from a photoshoot of various international bright young creatives because it felt it had done quite enough on the pair.
With hindsight, it’s easy to see that Fredrikson Stallard was just one a new wave of stars that has been largely responsible for a renewed energy in the design field over the past couple of years. Other examples might include Paul Cocksedge, Jaime Hayón, Studio Job, Front, Maarten Baas, Barber Osgerby, and even Zaha Hadid and Thomas Heatherwick. All of them are pioneers injecting attitude and personality into their products rather than following established ideals of form and function. All are fearlessly experimenting with materials and technology to create new experiences and alien aesthetics, and, crucially, all of them are cross-fertilising with the art world.
Each of these designers has a clear signature style to their work, and for Fredrikson Stallard that is ‘brooding gothic fairytale meets cool Scandinavian minimal’. It’s a little dark and dangerous on the one hand, and a little purist on the other – if the combination of rock’n’roll bad and innocent integrity works for some of the biggest brands and celebrities in the world, from Virgin to Kate Moss, it can work for these guys, too. Based in a vast east London studio, the pair are supported by two full-time designers and various teams working on their designs in other production offices. They manage their ever-increasing workload by ‘learning to say no and being selective’, says Stallard. Something that, as they can now afford to do so, ultimately benefits both the designers and their clients.
They are working on a number of projects they are excited about. ‘We are launching a collection of chairs with David Gill Galleries in September, and we are producing our largest-scale work yet – Portrait – which has been commissioned by Veuve Clicquot to sit on the River Terrace during the London Design Festival,’ says Fredrikson. ‘Portrait is a monumental representation of wood in laser-cut Corten steel and light.’
Having been busy with interesting work since they founded their partnership is something the pair are especially proud of. Of their work so far, Table 1 and Table 2 are the products that have been the greatest commercial success – possibly because of their ecological connotations at a time when the environmental bandwagon desperately needed passengers.
It is not, however, a direction that Fredrikson Stallard is interested in pursuing. ‘We are always as considerate as we can be in choice of materials and processes. However, we feel it is the disposable culture that is more of a problem,’ says Stallard. ‘When making an edition piece, it will have a low impact on the environment whatever it is made of – it will generally be made to a much higher standard [than normal] and will therefore be longer-lasting. So much of the ‘eco-design’ we see makes us really angry – there is no benefit in an unnecessary and disposable piece of design, whatever it is made of.’
Over the next few years, as the design scene becomes increasingly competitive, Fredrikson Stallard hopes ‘to continue with producing interesting work, both in the mainstream sector and the avant-garde,’ says Fredrikson. ‘We have found that hard work is a well-tried recipe, and it still works. Self-criticism and hard work are what make a good designer. We are always most happy with our most recent work, which is as it should be.’