He won’t be in Milan this April. Instead, Tom Dixon is travelling the world for three months to visit the most interesting points in his network. We chatted with him at Xtra’s Singapore showroom.
15 March, 2018
After his enormous Multiplex show within a cinema and galleria on Milan’s via Manzoni last year, Tom Dixon is taking it quietly this year. But in Tom Dixon terms, ‘quietly’ means a three-month trailblazing adventure around the world.
After launching a flexible sofa with Ikea recently, he’s now travelling to the reaches of his network with a new black version of his Melt light (which appears black when turned off and transparent when turned on) and other novelties in his suitcase. “It’s a sort of anti-Milan, which is about all the people who’ve been supporting us in all those other points in the world,” he told Indesignlive.sg at the Xtra showroom during his Singapore stopover.
“I was plotting the more interesting points in our network – from Dakar to Tehran to Auckland to Vancouver – and thinking, isn’t it interesting how it’s not always the most obvious places that are either the most enthusiastic or the most long lasting?” he said with reference to his partners and supporters around the world.
Sitting out Milan also gives Dixon and his team the time to focus on some pressing developments – including moving his London studio to King’s Cross and relocating his New York store. He is currently marketing a range of textiles and accessories – a product category that grew into his portfolio of furniture and lighting through a desire to make his London showroom feel more like a shop.
“[The accessories] open up [the brand] to a fresher, broader clientele and give you a much faster read on what people are interested in or not,” Dixon explained. “I like that things are more accessible and dynamic in terms of our ability to try out new techniques and have adventures in different settings, like food. It dovetails into my restaurant ambitions as well. It makes the whole thing come alive, rather than having a dusty old chandelier shop.”
Dixon’s world tour highlights the unusual condition he has established for himself: more in line with the fashion industry than the furniture and product world, he is at once a designer with his own personal image and personality, and a brand with its own persona.
“The evolution right now is about going from being mainly a wholesaler to being an effective retailer. That’s what the London, New York and Hong Kong shops are about, where we’re able to present our stuff in a more complete way in our own spaces,” he says.
Dixon’s current obsession, however, is an unusual underwater project he’s been trialling in the Bahamas for the last four years. “I’m trying to grow furniture underwater. You can pass a current through a metal framework and it will grow a natural concrete from the calcium in the water,” he explained. “The first test was eight chairs and two tables. But in principle you should be able to put in permanent structures – to protect from beach erosion and to graft on corals that have been knocked off by shipping.”
The process, he clarified, comes from the non-profit Global Coral Reef Alliance. “There are a few test projects in Indonesia, mainly concentrating on regenerating coral. But I reckon there’s a bigger context, which is creating jobs for local coastal communities, protecting from erosion, and encouraging marine life to cluster in these places. You could create a sustainable model for eco tourism. But it’s in its infancy. Four years has just proved I can grow the damn stuff, and that it makes interesting objects.”
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