FK talks to Sydney based label &company, and their collective of designers.
Tell us about your label &company.
&company is a design studio for emerging designers. We host events and exhibitions showcasing new works, and also produce a homewares range. We give our designers a brief to work to, provide mentoring, facilitate manufacturing and look after the distribution of products – leaving the designers to do what they do best: design. Our very first range, Food&company, will be hitting the shops soon, so make sure you keep an eye out for it!
What is your background and how did this concept come about?
I have a Bachelor of Design (Product and Textiles), and have been lecturing in tertiary design courses for the last 5 years. I watched a lot of my peers and students who were exceptionally talented designers graduate, only to be faced with a difficult and often invisible industry; jobs are hard to find and not every designer wants to be an entrepreneur and open their own studio straight away! Perhaps this is particularly so for object/product graduates. Sadly, I’ve seen many designers take on soulless corporate-web-design work to pay the bills. It just didn’t seem right. I’ve always enjoyed working on the big picture, project managing and curating events, drawing on the philosophy that many hands make for exceptionally interesting work. &company has allowed me to build a platform for local talent, and to showcase this talent to a broader audience.
You have a number of designers under your label – where do you find these smaller designers and what qualities do you look for?
The first designers we worked with were students, friends, and other talented folk whose work we had seen, loved and wanted to work with. With each new event we host, our designer mailing list grows longer and longer. &company is interested in designs that can be loved and used everyday – an intermingling of the practical and the poetic – useful, thoughtful, responsible, beautiful. We look for designers who are passionate about what they do, and willing to work hard to see their designs come to life. &company is also committed to supporting local industry and designing with a responsible ethos – that means our designers need to be open minded and a little ingenious when faced with the challenges and opportunities of local production. We try not to be too prescriptive because we want designers to bring their own style to the range. Which is why we co-label all our designs ‘Designers Name &company’.
What do you enjoy the most about working as a collective?
Well, technically &company isn’t a collective. We like to think of ourselves more as a satellite network of designers and artists. Working this way allows for many, many people to come on board, and for collaborations to form at different levels, on the designers’ terms. Some designers get involved in exhibitions and markets, while others focus on designing for the range, or come in as guest curatorial assistants and speakers. &company welcomes all kinds of talented people within and beyond design. We also collaborate with other organisations – we just wrapped up a special Sydney Design project with Gaffa gallery and The Company We Keep, called See-Saw.
What inspires you about working with others?
There are so many young designers doing great work – to bring them together and share their talent with the community is just so exciting! Whilst big chunks of my time are spent at my desk in the studio, it is always inspiring to head out to meet designers, manufacturers, galleries, retailers (and all the other people who bring &company to life) – it’s such a rush to meet people who are really passionate about what they do, and a real privilege to be let into their world and their process of thinking and creating. A mentor once described &company as a boat with a captain. While I love this analogy, the collaborative focus of &company has highlighted another truth: The boat doesn’t leave shore without a crew. The designers we present are a fundamental part of who we are, they inspire us to keep doing what we do.
What’s the next stages for &company?
We’re pretty good at keeping busy! At the moment we’re manufacturing our first range, and will be shipping it to select stores soon. This Friday (September 17th), we are taking part in Object’s PARK(ing) Day (check out the link and come along!), with a fantastic installation by Marion Gelbart, Sarah Spackman and Harriet Watts – if you can’t get to the CBD on friday, it will be moved to Gaffa gallery for the following fortnight. Early next year we are guest curating a special show at Object: Australian Centre for Craft and Design. And, we’re about to start a series of New Designer Briefings, so if you know any talented designers who might like to get involved, please send them our way!