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Can attainable furniture stop the big furniture brand takeover?

Amid a flood of replicated designs and cheaply made products with short lifespans creeping their way into shopping trolleys and homes, there's a need to bring back quality to furniture while still making it affordable, says James McNab.

According to Stats NZ, furniture imports have nearly doubled over the last decade, soaring to become an eye-watering $1.079 billion-dollar industry as of January 2017. This has meant a significant increase in replicated designs and cheaply made products with short lifespans creeping their way into our shopping trolleys and homes.

To fight back against this and put the emphasis on design-led, attainable furniture, we’ve been working on a range of designs focusing on two things: craftsmanship and ethics.

There is a need for local design to be accessible to businesses and homes across Aotearoa. By going direct to consumers with considered design, we aim to offer a unique opportunity to right the imbalance of cheap, offshore imports swaying customers to choose some unethical, overseas-made products over New Zealand made.

We as designers are on a mission to support local manufacturing. By staying in New Zealand, many of us have chosen to support local business, hit ethical manufacturing standards control lead times, and maintain a high level of craftsmanship.

Our new online storefront, on our recently refreshed website, has launched with just a handful of items available for purchase to begin with. Each design in the range is ethical, local and put quality first.

Keeping in line with what we believe is important we’ve ensured each detail throughout the range is traceable by using a Child Labour Free accredited manufacturer, meaning every element of the manufacturing process is guaranteed to be free of child exploitation. This is an important endorsement to have as a part of the Think + Shift ethos.

Our world is beginning to have an increased emphasis on sustainability and the environmental impact, so it only makes sense to focus on this in our designs. All of our furniture uses FSC timber and New Zealand metal. We’ve paired either American Ash or Birch timber with NZ metal to create a piece of furniture that champions sustainability and reliability while remaining aesthetically strong.

Each of our designs are geared towards both businesses and consumers, presenting a way for designers to source accessible furniture while still guaranteeing local businesses are supported throughout the design and manufacturing process.

As a team, we’ve undergone a meticulous design process to keep our customers at the forefront. Allowing research to steer us to the finished product, we’ve spoken with architects, designers and consumers to inform a series of core offerings with a considered design approach.

In order to compete with the imports, the products coming from local designers needs to look good, function well and be affordable for what they are. This is why we work so closely with our manufacturers to fine-tune details and engage them in our manufacturing process.

I also wanted to keep our store offerings flexible, recognising that one-size doesn’t necessarily fit all, and allow our customers to work with us on customised sizes to suit their needs. From the feedback we received, we’ve found it’s also important to offer options for shipping; either flat-pack for international sales or offer welded version on request for longevity and ease of install.

I think it’s time for New Zealand to have accessible furniture; we can reclaim the retail space from the cheap imports and put ethics, quality and the needs of Kiwis first.

This story first appeared atThe Register.