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.

 

Three weeks until Christmas! How can retailers maximise sales?

  • News
  • December 6, 2019
  • Rachel Helyer Donaldson
Three weeks until Christmas! How can retailers maximise sales?

Read more
 
 

Maggie Marilyn launches a new affordable basics line

  • News
  • December 6, 2019
  • Carolyn Enting
Maggie Marilyn launches a new affordable basics line

Introducing New Zealand label Maggie Marilyn's basics line, Somewhere by Maggie Marilyn.

Read more
 
 

Gem Retail Hotlist: LookDepot stands out

  • News
  • December 6, 2019
  • Sarah Dunn
Gem Retail Hotlist: LookDepot stands out

In the Gem Retail Hotlist, LookDepot scored the 'Hottest service provider' award. We looked into what makes it stand apart from the competition.

Read more
 

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
2020 vision
What does the next decade have in store ...
Concept to closet
Business coverage of New Zealand Fashion Week.
Regional rollercoaster
What does retail look like in 2019 for ...
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 ...
The future is bright
We spoke with four retailers in their twenties ...
Hospitality enhancing retail
Some think food and integrated hospitality offerings will ...
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 ...
All things to all people
Kiwi retailers share their omnichannel strategies.
How to open a store
Sarah Dunn considers what it would take to ...
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 ...
Loyalty in the digital age
How are retailers maintaining loyalty? Sarah Dunn, Elly ...
Window shopping: A spotlight on social media
Sarah Dunn and Elly Strang look at how ...
The Innovators | In partnership with Spark Business
Technology is rapidly changing the retail industry as ...
 

Online platform Joyable brings the joy back to gifting

  • News
  • December 5, 2019
  • Elly Strang
Online platform Joyable brings the joy back to gifting

Rochelle Sheldon introduces her start-up Joyable, an online platform which allows people to contribute as a group to bigger, more meaningful gifts or experiences. It eliminates the unnecessary waste and spending that comes with present shopping.

Read more
 
 

Krispy Kreme invited Kris Kringle to the party

  • News
  • December 5, 2019
  • Makayla Wallace-Tidd
Krispy Kreme invited Kris Kringle to the party

Krispy Kreme has done it again with their themed donuts. The 2019 Christmas range, named Krispymas, brings designs of a reindeer, snowman, Christmas tree and a steamed pudding.

Read more
 

Gem Retail Hotlist: Container Door opens up the possibilities

  • News
  • December 5, 2019
  • Catherine Murray
Gem Retail Hotlist: Container Door opens up the possibilities

Ecommerce retailer Container Door earned an award for 'Hottest ecommerce concept' at the Gem Retail Hotlist. Here's more on how they're innovating.

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

}