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Designed to be Different

Interview

The New Faces of British Design

Emerging talent means everything to us. That’s why we've sponsored an award at the New Designers event for the past two years. Belmond’s Art and Design Director Joe Ferry, himself a New Designers winner, speaks to previous winners about their past, inspirations and future.






Belmond joined a number of big-name brands in sponsoring an award, aiming to find fresh designers who can create items that capture our spirit of timeless luxury with contemporary flair.

The first is Antonia (Toni) Packham. Her forward-thinking, environmentally conscious approach saw her take discarded plastic waste from UK beaches to make unique, beautiful and intricate items, including kitchenware. Then there’s Mac Collins, a masterful woodworker, who created a chair named ‘Iklwa’. This stunning, thought-provoking statement piece celebrates his heritage and culture. Our latest awardee, Laila Laurel, designs contemporary furniture that identifies and challenges social problems while remaining humorous and interactive. Her eye-catching ‘anti-manspreading’ chair perfectly sums up this idea of wit and innovation.

By Joe Ferry

Laila Laurel (2019 Winner)

What were your top highlights of exhibiting?
I feel like the highlight of every New Designers must be the incredible opportunity it provides to meet other recent graduates that are passionate about the same things as you are. There is always such a broad and amazing range of work, I came away so humbled and inspired. Most of all it is just really exciting, it really affirmed I was in the right place.

We have seen lots of designers share their processes and approaches during lockdown, what is your creative process?
Truthfully, I really don’t think I have a certain approach or process. I think because I come from more of a fine art background, I am maybe a little less conventional when it comes to the design process. I don’t always do technical drawings or make maquettes, instead, I tend to roll with the process in a more fluid way, and while this does often lead to a lot of problems down the line, I find it leads to more fun, interesting objects in my case. I think I always felt a little left out not having a full sketch book but in reality, everything inspires your creative practice. I have been doing a lot of sewing in lock down, and making patchwork which has translated into other ideas etc. I love taking pictures and reading for 3D projects, and so this is always part of my making process. I have recently discovered for myself that any kind of creativity makes me feel more creative in other areas of my life.

What or who is your biggest inspiration?
Naturally there are so many makers, designers and artists that have influenced me in my work, but I’m going to have to be very cheesy and pick my friends. I have so many incredibly fun, creative and motivated people around me that are endlessly inspiring and that is something so special and that I really value. This maybe sounds a little trite but really, I think creating something with people you love and respect is simply so fun and a bit magical.

What’s the next step? Can you share with us your ideas for the year ahead?
Well, the obvious limitations of this year have postponed my work with Belmond, however we are now starting the process of this commencing and I am very excited about it! I have also got commissions and collaborative work coming up, but I want to make sure I set aside enough time and energy to explore and develop my own practice.

Get to know

Laila Laurel

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Toni Packham (2018 Winner)

What was the inspiration behind your work? The project was sparked by my research into plastiglomerate, a plastic stone that has been discovered on the shorelines of Hawaii. Natural materials such as wood, shells and sand are joined together with melted plastic to form a stone-like material. I was motivated to create something similar from the abundance of plastic waste along the East Sussex coast. It embodies the conflict between the natural and man-made. I wanted to address the negative effects of plastic waste in a positive, accessible way.

Which creatives do you most admire?
Most of the designers I like have a strong sense of material and process within their work. Ariane Prin is a designer/maker that has done a lot with waste material. Her series, ‘From Here For Here’ uses waste materials from a site and re-invigorates them into functional products to be used at the same site. That positive creative direction is something that I aspire to work towards.

Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
I’d like to be in a position where I can continue to collaborate with other designers, whether having my own established studio or working for another great creative. I hope that this opportunity with Belmond will provide a strong starting point, and give me the experience to push my practice forward.

What does the award mean to you?
It’s given me the confidence and motivation to pursue my passion and drive my practice. Working with Belmond is such an amazing opportunity for any young designer, so I’m really excited about the future prospects it could lead to.

Get to know

Toni Packham

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Mac Collins (2018 Winner)

What was the inspiration behind your work?
My work stemmed from a personal exploration into my own African heritage. I wanted to see how my identity could inform the aesthetic, form and function of a piece of furniture. Researching the African Diaspora, the forced migration of African people during the slave trade, I create a visually intense and empowering throne entitled Iklwa. The shapes were inspired by African weaponry and artefacts. I also drew aesthetic inspiration from the intensity and drama seen in Afrofuturism and Afrocentrism art.

What are you most excited about working on in the future?
I am excited to explore my identity further, bringing narratives of my heritage into my design practice. I want to tie together the influences from my European upbringing with my Caribbean and African lineage to create new and expressive pieces.

Which creatives do you most admire?
I’ve been influenced by a lot of people. Someone I particularly admire is photographer Namsa Leuba. I feel the richness in colour, life and culture she captures has had a massive influence on my own work. Another creative I admire is painter Lina Iris Viktor, whose vivid and detailed paintings empower and elevate their human subjects. In terms of furniture design and woodworking, I cannot deny my admiration for renowned Danish designers such as Finn Juhl and Hans J Wegner.

What does the award mean to you?
This award means so much. Stepping straight out of university, this opportunity has really set my career into motion. The award has given me a certain sense of confidence; the fact that such a reputable company has recognised my work has made me feel even more excited and compelled to pursue my ideas. The opportunity has also allowed me to meet and work alongside seasoned professionals. That’s helped me develop my skills which will, no doubt, help me in the future.

Get to know

Mac Collins

Play the audio described video

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