Interview: Tom Dixon Reveals adidas Collaboration

Tom Dixon portrait
Although Tom Dixon has his finger in more pies than most people would know what to do with – from lighting and furniture design to his own restaurant and a repurposed water tower in his home town of London – the designer shows no signs of stalling. During his recent tour of Australia, Dixon sat down at Dedece with Vogue Living’s Dijana Kumurdian to discuss design in the digital age, his second instalment of MOST at Milan Design Week, and to reveal a new collection with sportswear giant, adidas.

Vogue Living: Do you think it’s important to be democratic about design?

Tom Dixon: I’ve always been interested in the idea that people can actually access the stuff that I do. But I think that if you’re innovating, or doing new things, it’s not always going to start off very democratic. Things are changing rapidly, and there will definitely be more access for people to create design themselves and make things locally. For a long time, we really believed all products would be made in low-cost economies and that we might design them but never produce them. With the digitalisation of particularly machinery, and industry, we’ll find that there is more flexibility and more production closer to the consumer. Which is something that I have been experimenting with.

VL: Like your ‘Stamp’ lamps? Where were they produced?

TD: They were actually produced in front of the consumer, if you like, in Milan [at Design Week 2012]. We made 500, got sponsored by a robot sheet metal working company, and we were able to give away the results right there – make them and give them away immediately.

VL: You’ve talked about a ‘digital design revolution’ in the past. What do you think the future of production holds?

TD: It’s an exciting time for designers and people who want to distribute things. When I started, if you wanted to launch something, you had to buy stamps and send invitations to people. Now that there’s this accessibility to the whole world at the click of a button, it’s really exciting for people who are more remote, like those of you in Australia. It’s a really exciting time – not so much for new materials or new styles but definitely for new means of producing.

VL: The internet has been great in terms of publicising ‘good’ or impressive design and encouraging its appreciation. How do you think the internet will affect design?

TD: You can already see what’s going on. The speed at which people expect newness is quite taxing; it’s turned it into almost a fashion cycle – or even faster. People want novelties so often. There isn’t really time for new styles to emerge and mature and take roots, really. It is a great tool for accessibility, but not a particularly great one for allowing things to develop and enrich. There’s such a universal visibility of everything now, so although it does make it a lot easier for people to have an idea, and to diffuse that idea, those ideas burn out like fireworks, almost.

VL: Do you think it calls for an ability to discern the ‘good’ from the ‘bad’?

TD: The whole thing is completely uncharted waters. I mean, we’re only just seeing the beginning of an explosion of monumental scale, and nobody really knows where it’s going. It can be seen as quite terrifying, as well. But it does open up a lot of opportunity for people who were previously remote, so it can only be a tool that is used for all kinds of interesting new developments. It’s an amazing opportunity, right?

VL: You like to try out different materials. What are you excited about right now?

TD: Textile, possibly. I do get obsessed with specific material groups. I’ve been doing a small collaboration with adidas recently, so that’s opened my eyes, too. So, we’re working on a little capsule collection, which we’ll show in Milan. It’s been a real eye opener to work in a completely new field for me – which is really performance textiles. Its departure point is luggage, but it goes into apparel and shoes – it’s a capsule. I don’t know if it’s public yet – maybe I should keep my mouth closed! We’re sort of previewing it in Milan.

VL: That’s exciting! And you have MOST [at Milan Design Week] coming up again. Can you tell us a bit about how last year went, and any details about this year?

TD: It was kind of ludicrously over-ambitious: a reckless move to take over the whole museum. We’re talking about half a million square feet of museum with submarines and all the Leonardo Da Vinci things… a 17th-century chapel. It’s an amazing place, which was also my secret spot in Milan that I’d go to get away from design. I’ve wrecked that by making it visible to everybody, but on the plus side, it allowed us to get away from this idea of doing a trade stand in a furniture fair and to do something more about ideas. This year, we’ve taken it again, with slightly different partners. We’re working, for instance, with, a monster e-commerce website for design. They’re American-based, moving into Europe, and they’re moving really quickly – a bit like Etsy but more design-focused. They’re putting producers in touch with the consumers, acting as an intermediary and constantly promoting new things in design. So are a sponsor and we’ll be showing the Adidas thing there, as well. It’s really nice to be in a place that talks about human innovation. The museum is an amazing statement about technology and human progress because it goes right through 500 years worth of innovation through materials and science and technology – all as a backdrop to what we’re doing.

VL: I can imagine the disparity between these brand-new products and historical design would be pretty incredible to see.

TD: It’s almost not a disparity. It’s all part of what really interests me in terms of the fuel for new designers, new materials, new techniques in manufacturing, new technologies, generally. For us at the moment, the bit that’s exciting isn’t so much working with new materials, but working in lighting, actually, because it’s lighting that’s powered by new sources of light that people are discovering – partly because of government legislation forcing people to have lower energy consumption. It’s a really exciting field right now and we’re able to do new, interesting designs because of new technology.

VL: You have a restaurant at your headquarters in London, and you’ve been cooking in the restaurant, apparently. What’s the best dish you know how to cook?

TD: Everybody likes to think they can cook, you know, and cookbooks are a big business and all the rest of it. When you get into a professional kitchen, you realise how little you know, and you have to start from zero. Cooking in a restaurant is a different business to making your favourite dish. I get to do the most basic section, because I’m the new boy in the kitchen, and there is something quite nice about being completely untutored again. So, I do cold starters and desserts, which is like the ghetto in the kitchen, really. The chef in that restaurant has travelled a lot, all around the world, and there are quite a lot of Asian influences, and he’s big on spices – so I do quite a good dhal. We do quite a lot of Indian food, so I can do dhal and flatbread. We’ve got a tandoor oven, so I’ve learnt how to do tandoor cooking. And I can chop now. I can chop like the chefs do – really quickly.

VL: It’s interesting that you can be so accomplished in these other areas of your life and then go back to ‘starting from scratch’.

TD: I think it’s important to maintain a degree of naivety and learn something from zero again. It’s dangerous to be too expert, I’ve decided.

Photography by Hugh Stewart. (Photographs originally appeared in Vogue Living January/February 2013.)
One Response to “Interview: Tom Dixon Reveals adidas Collaboration”
  1. sabinaeklund says:

    Reblogged this on SABINA EKLUND and commented:
    “There’s such a universal visibility of everything now, so although it does make it a lot easier for people to have an idea, and to diffuse that idea, those ideas burn out like fireworks, almost.”

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