“The thing is, furniture is not like clothing. You can’t just wear it for a season. I want my stuff to become part of people’s lives,” says Nathan Goldsworthy. It’s a bold statement from the softly spoken furniture designer, but as a glance at his new products show, his brand has been quietly evolving as he made plans to leave his former base of Wellington for Auckland.
“On a professional level, I felt I’d done everything I could do there,” says Goldsworthy. The move comes as he relaunches his brand, formerly Conscious Design, under his own name and with a greater focus on the international market.
“My clients want a clear idea of what they’re buying, and I was finding that, with the old name, it wasn’t giving a clear message—the word ‘conscious’ is so loaded with associations with the green movement, and when you try to export that from New Zealand it’s got a whole lot more baggage. I don’t want to sell myself on that as I don’t think it’s an honest position for me to take. As a designer, you’re creating and using materials—by your actions you’re having an impact. There are designers who really struggle with that.
“The general idea is that I wanted to create a stronger brand—one that is centred around me.”
Goldsworthy first arrived on the design scene with the Tio chair in 2006. It won the Best Award for sustainable design that year, and has removable slipcovers so it can be adapted to its surroundings. Collaborations with World, Zambesi and Andrea Moore followed, demonstrating the Tio’s chameleon-like versatility by lending the simple pine frame a range of disguises using their textile designs.
Since then, says Goldsworthy, the challenges of running a small creative business have remained consistent: “The standard of production is difficult to achieve because of the lack of competition. We also tend to be self-sufficient. If you want a new table, you get a mate to help you build one—that’s not something that happens with places with an established design pedigree. However, it’s easier to be flexible in this country.”
The Adjutant desk is the first piece off the line in his new collection. It can also be customised, and is based on military campaign furniture, the great-granddaddy of today’s ubiquitous flatpacks.
“The IKEA model is a great one,” says Goldsworthy, “But IKEA designs things the way they’ve always been—that the end user puts it together doesn’t inform the design. I’ve considered that experience in the actual structure of the product.” The Adjutant’s assembly does not require an Allen key, glue or screws. Its legs just screw in and lie flush with the reversible tabletop, which comes in a range of veneers. The PVC edge provides a bold but minimal line of colour. So far the response from overseas has been positive. Following exhibitions in London and Milan, this March the Australian furniture showroom Corporate Culture starts stocking the new Goldsworthy Design brand.
“It’s extremely hard to get products from here to the other side of the world, not just logistically but in terms of marketing and distribution,” says the designer. “To overcome the cost of transport, you need a very strong offering and brand, especially if you’re not there to represent it.”
He’s currently negotiating with a large brand in northern Europe, which has stores in five countries. “You need to plug into a network that’s big enough to invest in a container or two, plus marketing.”
However, he forecasts a tipping point approaching that may change the terrain. “We’re all looking at China. The costs of production are rising, and the value of Chinese currency can’t continue being controlled like it is. Northern European companies are shifting products from China, but it’s the same distance to New Zealand. When the currency is realigned there will be big changes.”
Originally published inIdealog magazine #32, page 18.