In early 2018 I was invited to the HQ of made.com to meet with design director Ruth Wassermann and begin the process of curating the fourth collection of TalentLAB, a brilliant initiative that puts the entire production facility of the company at the disposal of anyone with a great idea.
The concept is simple. TalentLAB is essentially a crowdfunding platform that brings to life the work of emerging designers, as well as providing the canny consumer with a chance to back a Future Classic. In short, anyone with an idea for something they feel deserves to be designed uploads a drawing to the site, and then the best are selected to be worked up into prototypes. At this point, you, the potential customer can pledge a small, risk-free deposit on any favourite designs but only the most popular are put into production and launched for official sale on made.com. So you get to steer what gets made. But if not enough people agree with you, although you get your deposit back, sadly the life of that design probably ends there.
And while all previous collections have been edited in-house, this time, made.com handed the curating reins over to me! “It’s an opportunity for designers to have access to our massive network of suppliers, and also to our pre-existing community of design-oriented customers — both things they wouldn’t have access to otherwise.” says made.com Design Director Ruth Wassermann. Best of all though, if you’re one of the early pledgers and you back a winning design, you get to buy your piece at a special lower design-lovers price, and to know that you contributed directly to the launch of a new designer’s career. Win/win!
Post updated in January 2020.
The bulleted products highlighted below are the ones that made it into final production!
• Funen stool in dark-stained oak (seen above) by Christian Hansen, a student at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen
• Enso flower holder in mangowood and brass (below), by Corinna Gohlich, a trainee carpenter at the Akademie für Gestaltung der Handwerkskammer Münster
• Mes Vases Petites, in brass (below) by Thomas Glorian, a product designer at Studio LWCP, France
• Blush occasional chair (below) in vintage pink velvet by Frederick Eksteen, a self-employed designer trained in South Africa. Shown with the Knotto cushion which sadly didn’t make it through.
• Slump lounge chair in grey, (below) designed by Liam Sholicar, a CAD technician at The Wood Works in Letchworth Garden City
• Schema Geometric Tinted Mirror, framed in brass, designed by Loukas & Vasso, design directors of Studio Lav
• Schema Geometric marble-effect mirror, large (below) framed in brass, designed by Loukas & Vasso, design directors of Studio Lav
• Stak Set Of 2 Ombre Plant Pots, in rose (above), by Natasha Duda, an alumnus of Gray’s School of Art, Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen
• Up Up wall lamp in black (below) by Florian Brillet, a director of Brillet Ltd
In terms of curation, the most important aspects to me were an overall sense of consideration in the designs; I was looking for pieces with an intrinsic sense of truth, honesty and authenticity. I’m often inspired by the work of Japanese designers precisely for this reason, and I believe you can see a similar sort of elegant simplicity in the pieces I’ve chosen to go through to the mock-up stage here. It meant that some pieces required a little subtle tweaking, with others we just switched up the colours or materials to inspire a sense of timelessness with a top note of fashionability. Think a foundation of wood and brass, and an inky blue or pale pink for the majority of the pieces.
As a result, I feel this collection is composed of pieces that capture the attention for being subtly different, while also being great forever buys that work now, tomorrow and onwards. Do I have any favourites? As hard as it is to pick, I AM a big stool fan as they are the ultimate pieces of multi-purpose furniture (seat, side table, even step stool!). And I think the Ox chair in teal blue is incredibly sculptural, as is the Bias teapot set. All the planters could happily find a permanent place in my home, but particularly the two in brass most especially the Enso flower holder inspired by Ikebana. And the Fold wall hanger — deceptively simple, which is always the mark of a great piece, and if you had quite a generous hallway this would be an incredibly striking way to display your coats, or perhaps just a signature dress in your bedroom.
Here’s a link to a Q&A with Ruth about the collection.
And you can view the entire collection and place a pledge here Just £5 secures you a Future Classic.
But remember, you only have until Tuesday 25 June 2019 to decide what gets made, and what doesn’t. Your pledges matter; they could make someone’s career!
The products that sadly didn’t make it through (particularly gutted about the teapot, Ox chair and cushion — loved those!)…
Knotto Knit cushion in pink designed by Gosia Rusek, former textile student at the University of Derby
La Latina shelving unit with mirror in pale blue and oak by Isabel Cambiella, a senior designer at 3ina Cosmetics
Timeless wall clock in black and white by Ivana Blascova, a Dutch freelance designer
Ox chair in blue, designed by Jon Christie, a graduate of the Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, University of Dundee
Clamshell Pendant Light, in black, by Marc Sicard, a designer based in France
Zzino Set of Two Coffee Tables, in black marble & mango wood, designed by Mihajlo Juric, Serbian graduate of Product Design at Istituto Europeo di Design in Milan
Fold Wall Hanger, in black-coated steel, by Phan Thao Dang, a US-based Central St Martin’s graduate
The Stick desk lamp in wood and brass designed by Samy Rio, currently a designer at Atelier Luma in Arles, France