If you appreciate exceptional design, live in New Zealand and don’t know Simon James’ work — are you even living? We talk with the eponymous designer on his past, present and future.
Interviewed by Sara Black
Tell us what you do and why you do it.
I design furniture for the home and office, as well as being the creative director at Resident. After nearly 20 years, I still do this because I truly enjoy it and get to work with a team of like-minded individuals.
Tell us about the creation of Simon James and the concept behind your brand.
It originally started as a vehicle to design and produce my own work. This then expanded into working with other brands across further design disciplines such as homewares, fashion and jewellery, whilst keeping true to an aesthetic we have felt strongly connected to since day one. We then aim to create unique retail environments to showcase these products.
What is Resident and how has it changed your business on an international scale, since inception?
Resident was co-founded by Scott Bridgens and myself in 2011 with the idea of setting up an export-focused furniture and lighting company based in New Zealand. It gives us the opportunity to collaborate with designers from around the globe that relate to Resident’s design DNA. Working internationally has allowed us to scale up our manufacturing, which means we can afford to invest more into product development and tooling. This, in turn, means we are now producing items we would have struggled to make in the past.
What are your thoughts on sustainability in the design industry and what do you see changing within the next decade?
Sustainability already plays a huge part in everything we all do, but it’s not only about what we design or the materials we select, but how companies bring a product to market and the resources used to get the item from factory to showroom floor. Then aftercare and what happens to the product at the end of its lifecycle. This is starting to lead to the idea of a more circular economy which I can see playing a larger part in what we design moving forward.
Has the pandemic affected your business and did you implement any changes that you kept post-lockdown?
Having to close the doors for eight weeks, with so many unknowns, is going to impact all businesses that had to go through this. We used the time to upskill and improve some of our systems and processes to put us in a better place when we were able to operate again. With Resident, it has completely changed the way we launch new products to market, we were set to release our 2020 collection in Milan, when Covid hit there. Now, we are focusing on a series of smaller, more-focused product releases with selected partners around the world throughout the year. This feels like a more tailored approach for the future, though we all miss the buzz of the fairs.
What’s on the cards for Simon James? Any new pieces in the works?