I have heard through a colleague about the shenanigans at the National Furniture Forum event last week.
It is all very well for the design contingent on the rostrum to slam the British furniture industry for its lack of concern about design quality, as you report (DW 3 March). They have an extremely valid point.
But you also have to listen to the manufacturers out there who say they are coining in the cash without the benefit of design. If, as they claim, traditional reproduction or cheap-and-cheerful flat-packs have a healthy market here, why should they change?
This stalemate between the two factions could have been foreseen by anyone with the slightest insight into the furniture industry here. If the conference organisers were hoping a single voice would emerge to satisfy President of the Board of Trade Michael Heseltine’s demand for a unified lobby they were doomed from the start.
I’m not alone in the view that we have to take a step back from that and look at what causes such a wide difference of opinion. Education is the solution generally bandied about and, yes, it is a vital though long-term answer. the more people are aware of the benefits of good design the better, and schoolchildren have to be the starting point.
But in a culture where cash dominates, why not use a more immediate commercial argument? Repro tat might sell in Britain, but what about those lucrative markets overseas?
It’s surely not without sound reason that design-led UK furniture firms such as SCP and Aero have recently set up proper agencies in Germany, despite the hassle that entails. That is where they perceive the punters to be. And this is only one example of a Continental country with a thirst for furniture products and a taste for good design.
If more UK firms looked towards healthy exports instead of just satisfying themselves with the local market, we might all be better off – not least the British public, which might at last benefit from a choice of well-designed goods at competitive prices.