Last week as part of the London Design Festival The LuxPad attended Global Design Forum’s Masterclass with Tom Dixon. Held at the V&A museum, Friday’s talk let design fans get up close and personal with the internationally renowned British Designer and hear his thoughts on the topic of Industry.
‘I am notorious for poor prep,’ Tom explains as he comes on stage to a packed lecture theater. He tells the crowd that he put the images for his presentation together just that afternoon, and as the LDF were quite vague about what they meant by Industry he has decided to focus on what it means in terms of London. He talks us through a brief history, telling us that the city has always been well placed in terms of transport links and industry here goes back around 2000 years.
‘London has a great capacity to reinvent itself.’
He talks of the design mecca Chelsea Harbour being nothing but a scrap yard back when he first arrived in London as a small child. Showing the lecture hall an image of one of his first ever pieces, a chair made entirely from scrap and reclaimed material; ‘this chair was literally made from rubbish.’
‘There is an element of alchemy in the design industry – taking rubbish & turning it into gold.’
Moving on from an industry history lesson, Tom goes on to talk more about how is career began and how this fits in with the whole idea of industry in London. Bauhaus and post-modernism were ruling the design world as he was making his first moves, he credits learning to weld with helping him display ‘a sort of London attitude’ in his designs. ‘Back then it was much easier to be anti-establishment.’
Factories and designers were situated across the UK but none were near each other, linking back to industry Tom explains how hard it was to get anything manufactured back then if you were at the start of your career. Cappellini picked up on his chair design, and travelling to Italy opened his eyes to how the industry can work. In Italy there was, and still is, a small cluster of family run manufacturing firms all situated closely to each other around Milan and Como, creating a great industry center for creatives.
‘That’s when I started to understand what being a designer was really about – adding value to products.’
Tom then went on to work at Habitat, which was owned by Ikea, as their Creative Director. He dropped designing and turned to schooling himself in global design and retail. Providing him with a good knowledge of that side of the industry ready for when he later went on to create his eponymous brand. He explains that for many fashion designers it is quite the norm to go onto creating you own label, but is very unusual for product designers to do the same.
Talking about industry today, Tom shows the audience the price of a return train to Newcastle and a return flight to Vilnius, with the return flight being significantly cheaper and quicker. Illustrating his point that it is ‘virtually impossible to make a product in the UK in a flexible way for a price people want to pay.’ The cost of transport is ‘something that gets in the way of British & London manufacturing.’
Showing a picture of several toy robots, Tom talks about how ‘the robots are coming.’ Explaining that industry is going in the direction of becoming a heavily robotinized market. The internet is also leading the way for industry to become more digitalized, and with platforms such as Kickstarter helping designers become ‘Liberated from the crushing inflexibility of a previous industry.’
Tom finishes his lecture with an unashamed plug about his latest project, Multiplex. Taking over 20,000 square foot of a derelict hotel above Selfridges he has created a department store of the future ‘we are trying to be more like an adventure playground for the client.’
Tom Dixon’s ability to constantly push forward with his designs and ideas are ultimately what has helped lead to his success. From writing and self-publishing a book, Industry, to completing his first ever hotel project Mondrian London at Sea Containers, his creativity and flare for design seems endless, and will only continue to enthral consumers and the design community for decades to come.
Discover Tom Dixon’s range of striking home accessories and lighting, including his hugely popular Copper range.