Close
 

Designer Dan Gillingham on the trouble with furniture retailing

  • News
  • March 4, 2016
  • Idealog
Designer Dan Gillingham on the trouble with furniture retailing

With The Earnest Workshop going from strength to strength – and entering its fourth year of business – we decided to reconnect with Gillingham and find out just how a high-brow furniture maker reconciles his passion for quality the day-to-day compromises of the retail game.

Idealog: First things first. Didn’t you originally study technology? How does a techie end up in the furniture making game?

Gillingham: Yes. I studied the Bachelor of Technology at Massey University. I majored in product development and it was the design component of that that interested me the most. The final years of study were taught by lecturers with industrial design backgrounds. I spent my first year out of university as part of a product design consultancy made up of ex-students and staff from my faculty. It was an incredibly creative environment and a great intro to the “real world”. Since then, and up until creating The Earnest Workshop, I've worked within design teams for NZ furniture manufacturers.

Why is it called The Earnest Workshop?

Motivation for creating The Earnest workshop came from a lot of different places, but one that sticks in my mind is a comment made by a retailer to me a few years ago. She said that never had it been such a good time for a retailer selling furniture, because it was so cheap it enabled her customers to buy it on trend one year, and throw it away, and buy a new pieces the next. In my mind furniture shouldn't be fashionable – she was talking about in the context of it being part of fast fashion. The Earnest Workshop returns to thinking where furniture is values and a belief that the enjoyment of any good design is ongoing, not disposable. We thought the word ‘Earnest’ talks about some of these values.



Is that’s what’s wrong with furniture design today? 

Price is driving quality to a point where it ends up costing everyone a lot more; not just the cost to the unsuspecting buyer in replacing a furniture piece, but there’s too often environmental and ethical costs as well. If a price seems low, there’s usually a reason for it. The furniture industry has becoming a massive contributor to waste. Changing attitudes towards how people buy is key to the impact furniture will continue to have on the environment. For a long time New Zealand has designed and produced some great furniture. I think we’re finally seeing an awareness of issues associated with buying on price alone and a swing back to buying locally, and ethically. It's pretty pleasing to now see market leaders in commercial architecture in New Zealand taking a stand on these issues.

Have you got a particular philosophy of design?

Good design has to encompass a lot of things, and many of these, such as environmental considerations and ethical sourcing of materials and labour, should be taken as givens. These are imperative and for us, so it means we’re constantly looking at how are products can be better – at the moment we’re assessing our wood glues and finishes. Design thinking for The Earnest Workshop centres around creating pieces that are original, functional and enduring – these are core to our values. Depending on the application for the furniture piece, the focus may shift. Commercial designs we’re working on at the moment focus heavily on activity-based working and so the functional aspect is key. 

So there’s a tension between the day-to-day demands of being a retailer and the more lofty ideas of good design?

Yes and no. Good design is key to any business. I think most creatives enjoy time spent just creating for creativity’s sake, but ultimately design effort has to work towards an endpoint that is commercially successful. I think it’s also important to sometimes let the purely creative process take over. Peel (our free standing coat rack) was a long time in the conceptual, and then the production phases of development. It’s been a great success for us and had it not been for that randomness and freedom to experiment we wouldn’t have settled with the design, or the production process (steam bending) that we have.

Is there a piece you’ve created that’s your favourite?

I like Peel for the design challenge that it was developed around – to create a furniture piece from one piece of wood with little or no wastage...and then overcoming obstacles to get to where we are now. Flight (armchair) was the first Earnest Workshop piece designed specifically for the commercial market. It's been rewarding to see it so well received.



Do people in your line of work ever create their ‘masterpiece’, by the common definition of that term?

I’m not sure if many would claim to have created their masterpiece. For me it’s about taking learnings from previous projects and enjoying the challenge of continually improving design.

You talk a lot about the longevity of your pieces and the importance of things lasting. What are you hoping to leave behind ultimately?

We want to be seen as a company that walks the talk and designs and sells great products. Ultimately if we come to be seen as that, we'll be very happy.


This story was originally published on Idealog.

​ ​

This is a community discussion forum. Comment is free but please respect our rules:

  1. Don’t be abusive or use sweary type words
  2. Don’t break the law: libel, slander and defamatory comments are forbidden
  3. Don’t resort to name-calling, mean-spiritedness, or slagging off
  4. Don’t pretend to be someone else.

If we find you doing these things, your comments will be edited without recourse and you may be asked to go away and reconsider your actions.
We respect the right to free speech and anonymous comments. Don’t abuse the privilege.

 

Global recognition for instore innovation

  • Design
  • June 20, 2019
  • Courtney Devereux
Global recognition for instore innovation

The Global Innovation Awards (GIA) program was created by the IHA and International Home + Housewares Show to foster innovation and excellence in home and housewares retailing throughout the world. This year saw 30 national winners from 29 countries. The competition is structured on a two-tier level, evaluating national and global retailers across the following metrics: Overall mission statement, vision and strategy, store design and layout, visual merchandising, displays and window displays, marketing, advertising and promotions, customer service and staff training, innovation.

Read more
 
 
News

Trends analysed at Chicago's International Home + Housewares Show

Each new year for retailers is another question mark in guessing what to present to consumers. Luckily in the world of retail, trade shows can ...

 
 
News

Shoptalk 2019: The city of lights delivers

Juanita Neville-Te Rito shares a sprinkle of retail magic from Las Vegas retail conference Shoptalk.

 

Social scoreboard

Zavy and The Register have worked together to create a scoreboard that compares how the top 25 traditional media advertising spenders in New Zealand have performed on social media over the past 30 days, updated in real time.

 
topics
Regional rollercoaster
What does retail look like in 2019 for ...
Concept to closet
Business coverage of New Zealand Fashion Week.
Town centres
A positive retail environment over the past 12 ...
Amazon Arrival
Keeping up with all things Amazon as it ...
The Retail Yearbook 2017
As we battle our way through the busiest ...
Hospitality enhancing retail
Some think food and integrated hospitality offerings will ...
The future is bright
We spoke with four retailers in their twenties ...
Spotlight on signage
At first glance, the humble in-store sign might ...
Red Awards 2016
The Red Awards for retail interior design celebrate ...
Auckland Unitary Plan
Auckland is changing. The Unitary Plan will decide ...
How to open a store
Sarah Dunn considers what it would take to ...
All things to all people
Kiwi retailers share their omnichannel strategies.
Rising stars
Retail's top young achievers.
Delivering on your promises
The sale isn't over until your item is ...
Retail in heartland New Zealand
Retailers keep the regions pumping, but how strong ...
Sisterhood
Women in retail help one another. We spoke ...
The changing face of retail
Shifting demographics are creating big changes in New ...
The retail yearbook
With the help of experts in the retail ...
Retail rogues
We put the spotlight on staff training. Jai ...
Here come the giants
Topshop has arrived in Auckland’s CBD, David Jones ...
From retail to e-tail
Ecommerce has become part of the way mainstream ...
Window shopping: A spotlight on social media
Sarah Dunn and Elly Strang look at how ...
Loyalty in the digital age
How are retailers maintaining loyalty? Sarah Dunn, Elly ...
The Innovators | In partnership with Spark Business
Technology is rapidly changing the retail industry as ...
 

Consumer confidence falls again, but still optimistic

  • News
  • June 20, 2019
  • Radio New Zealand
Consumer confidence falls again, but still optimistic

Consumers remain downbeat about the future of the economy, but are more upbeat about their own financial situations.

Read more
 
 

Automation will help retailers focus on customers

  • News
  • June 19, 2019
  • The Register team
Automation will help retailers focus on customers

More than 100 retailers have gathered at Freedom Furniture’s new Newmarket flagship to consider what the upcoming wave of automation technology offers for the industry. Speakers included Pier Smulders from Alibaba Group and Soul Machines’ Hilary O’Connor.

Read more
 

A guide to the four favourite business f***-ups I've made

  • Opinion
  • June 18, 2019
  • Wendy Thompson
A guide to the four favourite business f***-ups I've made

Wendy Thompson is the founder and CEO of the successful social media marketing agency Socialites, and has 16 years digital marketing experience in some of New Zealand's top advertising agencies. However. that doesn't mean she hasn't made her fair share of mistakes in her career. Here, in her typically colourful way, she shares four mistakes she's learnt from all her years in business – and the important lessons she learnt from them.

Read more
 
Next page
Results for
Topics
Jobs
About us.

The Register provides essential industry news and intelligence, updated daily. And the digital newsletter delivers the latest news to your inbox twice a week — for free!

©2009–2015 Tangible Media. All rights reserved.
Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our Privacy policy.

Advertise
The Register

editor@theregister.co.nz

Content marketing/advertising? Email anita.hayhoe@icg.co.nz or call 022 639 3004

View Media Kit

}