Habitat have a record of producing some wonderful product designers. Tom Dixon and Bethan Gray cut their teeth at Habitat; not to mention the founding father (design demi-god?) Sir Terrence Conran. Today, under the Creative Director Polly Dickens they have a new designer to watch; Naoko Kanehira.
A graduate of Bucks New University and former winner of the 2008 New Designers Habitat Award its great to see how a designer has progressed especially in a week that the New Designers show is on again! (report to follow) Obviously her prize of a 3 month placement turned into something a little more permanent! Above is the Drawn Line collection featuring Naoko’s gorgeous Sura Chair (from £300)
The Naoko Sofa comes from the piece she originally won the prize for; its really inspirational to see a young designer’s work put into full production.
The AW13 presentation was themed around the Black Lines. (see my Black Line post in 2011)With the Elico and Emerson furniture ranges both based on a structure built from a simple black line. Below is the Elico wardrobe and lounger.
As well as nurturing their in house design talent Habitat have also gone back to sourcing closer to home. Where possible furniture is now being produced in Wales which is great that they’re supporting UK manufacturing but also it helps to bring the lead times down to what people actually want. You’re not waiting 12+ weeks its now 4-6 weeks – a huge difference.
The collections have also gone back to Habitats roots of mixing handcrafted with the affordability of mass production. The Blot and Zulpo collections come from painterly artworks created in the Habitat design studio. The Blot textile collection above has been reproduced digitally as well as screen printed but still retains the sense of spontaneity of an original piece. In the tableware the glazes have been hand applied to replicate the inky blots.
The team have also worked on bringing colour and texture back to the collections – I love the orange in the bedding and the table lamp on this simple Emerson bed.
Habitat may have gone through some tough times and only have 3 stand alone stores; but they feel like they’re back on track. They’ve opened up the range to a wider audience with concessions in Homebase and more importantly they will have a Click and Collect network to rival John Lewis. In the future you will be able to collect your Habitat online purchase from an Argos. (for those not in the UK: no town or city is without an Argos!) Smart!
Next year Habitat will be 50 and I’m sure they’ll have something up their sleeve. Re-issues by some of the great designers they’ve worked with over the half century? I hope so. One thing that they brought back, and thankfully a little earlier is their original core vison; remarkable design that is enduring, inventive and affordable.