Compèred by Founder & Director of Elicyon, Charu Gandhi, a panel of four experts in the design industry came together to discuss designing for the future, celebrating craftsmanship, talented makers in our industry and the rise of rental in fashion, accessories and interiors. Here, our speakers share their insights on designing for longevity, the appreciation of provenance and the beauty of repair and restore.
Charu Gandhi headshot
Panellists: Henrietta Thompson, Founder, Harth – a new, more sustainable approach to interior design, Harth is the world’s first furniture, accessories and art rental platform. Making it possible to borrow new, nearly new, pre-loved and vintage pieces directly from brands, makers, galleries and dealers, as well as rent out your own items to others.
Yelena Ford, Managing Director, The New Craftsmen – The New Craftsmen curates, commissions and sells unique contemporary objects that are rooted in craftsmanship and narrative. Spanning furniture, lighting, textiles, gifts, ceramics and artworks, the range is made by a growing network of makers from across the British Isles.
The New Craftsmen – YelenaFord
Cecilia Halling, Creative Director, Elicyon – a London based luxury interior design studio, Elicyon designs for private clients and developers across London and internationally. The studio works closely with every client to take them on a journey; a discovery of design.
Thaís Cipolletta, Co-Founder and Head of Atelier, The Restory – Founded by three women and with an in-house team of expert craftspeople, The Restory are the leading innovators in luxury aftercare, offering on-demand repair and restoration services for shoes, bags, leather goods and accessories – Defining longevity in the luxury space Emotion plays a huge part in defining both longevity and luxury for The Restory’s clients. Items bought in and delivered to the atelier often have great emotional and sentimental significance; they may be contemporary pieces that will become future heirlooms or have already been passed down through generations. The meticulous repairs made by the expert team within the atelier ensures that these pieces continue to be enjoyed and worn for decades to come. ‘Ownership is a commitment’, comments The New Craftsmen. Their master craftsmen and women are highly skilled in designing to last; creating pieces that are to be used, treasured and preserved for future owners. Longevity shouldn’t be defined purely as the durability of a specific object or artwork, it is also about ensuring the continuation of the skill behind that piece, championing the maker as well as the design.
House of Harth
The Harth platform meanwhile, is a celebration of ‘owning less’ and altering the perception that a rental piece is any less valuable than something fully owned. Harth’s collection places importance on provenance and the story behind a previously owned and loved piece. ‘Luxury is not about newness; the freedom of choice and the option of change become more valuable than actually owning something outright.’ Longevity for Harth is about making the best use of things that already exist. Futureproofing is now a key tenet of Elicyon’s design process. ‘Ensuring that a home remains flexible for the evolving needs of a client is key’. Through clever use of extendable and flexible furniture to adaptable interior layouts and even cable planning – these are all considered throughout Elicyon’s project to ensure that the design will stand the test of time. –
Balancing luxury and longevity with good design Each of the four panellists and brands agree in celebrating the imperfections, nuances and histories of a design. For Harth, which defines itself as a design-led, rather than a luxury brand, the story behind each pre-owned piece contributes heavily to its aesthetic appeal. The result is an eclectic, fun and bold collection of furniture, accessories and art.
The Restory, through its expert and sensitive repair process, celebrates and respects the original design of an item, as well as the journey it has been on with its owner, but without hindering evolution. ‘In some cases, the damage to an item is quite severe, so rather than trying to conceal a bad tear or imperfection, we celebrate it by turning it into a beautiful new focal point of the item.’ By adapting the piece, the team gives it a new lease of life for the future. A successful interior design for Elicyon is formed in part by the narrative of the space. ‘The backstory is key to the experience of the final design—the why and the how playing a distinct role in the present’. The studio spends a large amount of time researching the location and history of a site before embarking on the design process, ensuring that the detailing and pieces selected feel relevant and part of the wider context of the space; they won’t need to be refreshed or updated for a long time. ‘Functionality is as important as form’ for The New Craftsmen. The way in which a piece works is hardwired into their makers’ designs, which are created to be treasured, used and reused, rather than remaining static. As each bespoke piece is crafted by hand, imperfections are inevitable, but each ‘flaw’ demonstrates the humanity and truly bespoke nature of the piece. –
The role of new materials and techniques At The Restory, the team is constantly working with new, innovative materials that are advancing the results of aftercare and the longevity of the items they look after, including new ecological leathers and recycled rubber for example, now used for repairing the soles of shoes. ‘Restoration is the future, so we need to be at the forefront of new materials and techniques.’ From self-healing wood resin to the latest techniques in upcycling, as a studio Elicyon is also working with innovative, durable materials that add to the richness of their designs. While ‘by-products’ have become a buzz word across the design industry, The New Craftsmen highlights that secondary or ‘waste’ products have been used in craft for centuries – ‘By-products shouldn’t be seen as a novel idea, but a mainstay of our culture where we have sought to resolve a problem by being resourceful, such as using driftwood washed up onto a beach and indigenous straw to create the iconic Orkney chair in Scotland.
Our goal now is to see the wider potential in these products and expand their use across the craft industry so that we are rooted in innovation, rather than nostalgia.’ Innovation in design extends beyond materials, with three of the brands commenting on the importance and necessity of e-commerce technology in their businesses. Whilst tech allows their platform, craftspeople and pieces to reach a much wider audience, both Harth and The New Craftsmen also comment on the importance of balancing their online environments with real life experiences. Harth’s pop-up showroom in Islington Square and The New Craftsmen’s’ gallery in Mayfair ensure that their clients can have a true, tangible interaction with a collection or their chosen piece. Elicyon has also seen a rise in the number of clients visiting their extensive sample library in their new Kensington Village studio. ‘Clients want to see, feel and really appreciate the materials that will be going into their homes.’ –
Looking to the future The New Craftsmen has seen a noticeable rise in the number of both interior designers and end clients who actively want to incorporate traditional craft into their homes; they want to gain a full understanding of the process and see the maker in action. Elicyon has also noted a greater openness and appreciation of antiques; ‘10 years ago, clients weren’t interested in mixing old and new pieces, but now they have a real desire to incorporate vintage and antique finds into their home. They appreciate their story and provenance so much more.’ An important topic across the panel was the amount of waste across the interiors and fashion industry, and the importance in the rise in reuse and rental. Elicyon comments on the ‘sense of duty that interior designers feel to educate clients – as they become increasingly conscious of their impact on the environment – on how luxury design can be achieved more ethically and sustainably, with the minimum of waste’. There is still a lot of work to be done, but Elicyon goes to great lengths to reuse and repurpose when refitting a home. Old furniture, kitchen appliances and bathrooms units are salvaged and either offered to auction houses, given to charity or used by a member of the studio team in their own home. ‘When we build, we should build to last.’