Lighting downturn sparks bright response

Lighting downturn sparks bright response

The economic downturn has had a profound effect, throwing a wet rag on the creativity of lighting and furniture industries globally. They’ve become very subdued, says ECC’s Mike Thorburn. “World malaise has affected investment. The Milan Fair in April failed to produce the wow factor because people aren’t investing. It’s not just me who thought so. People aren’t prepared to take a punt to produce out of the ordinary stuff because it’s too risky. Many companies are playing it safe. So they’ve pared things back and are simply revitalising certain products and making things more comfortable.”

He notes the look in decorative pendants is erring towards more casual with a lot of colour creeping in. 

However, Mike confesses he’s never been known for playing it safe. “That’s terribly boring”, he says, and this year he’s has gone out of its way to source some “really wild, crazy, wonderful stuff - naked bodies, boobies and bums and some crazy contemporary light fittings” from Europe. They include some iconic, off the edge designs from Ingo Maurer from Germany, lighting from Amsterdam, Portugal and Italy.

Satyr High

He believes this is what the New Zealand market is looking for right now, though he adds, “I may be mad and it may be the end of the road. But you need to remain positive and keep on offering new stuff to excite people. You need entrepreneurs and risk takers because that’s what sets you apart. That’s what design is all about. You need to keep on moving so that’s what I’m doing. We’ve got more new designs coming in September than ever before.”

While decorative lighting is generally subdued, on the technology front, LED is forging ahead with improvements almost monthly that will see it replace halogen downlights in a couple of years.  It’s been around for a while with basic strip lighting, says Mike, but in two years LED will be the norm. “It’s all about creating light output, long life and low heat.”

Because it doesn’t have the sparkle of halogen as a light source, Mike is not a fan of LED lighting. But he says it’s something to keep an eye on in the future.  

left: Digital Dreams, right: Lamp Vintage

There may be a Recession happening, says Mike, but he’s still seeing continued demand for quality at the high end. And speed of delivery is another phenomenon.

“Customers may be taking longer to make up their minds about what they want. But when they decide, they want it now. We’ve also had to become very much more cost-conscious in the commercial fit-out side of the business.”

Tom Dixon Void Lights

left: Bird Bianco, right: Sinatra

Oh Man

Idealog has been covering the most interesting people, businesses and issues from the fields of innovation, design, technology and urban development for over 12 years. And we're asking for your support so we can keep telling those stories, inspire more entrepreneurs to start their own businesses and keep pushing New Zealand forward. Give over $5 a month and you will not only be supporting New Zealand innovation, but you’ll also receive a print subscription and a copy of the new book by David Downs and Dr. Michelle Dickinson, No. 8 Recharged (while stocks last).