Such Craftsmanship

>>Quality and craftsmanship are two words often seen together yet for the past five years have been quite challenging to acquire simultaneously. During my thesis research I discovered how incredibly effortless it is to use such terms as throw away descriptions, just as easy as is it is to use the term ‘luxury’. A few months ago I attended the Such & Such pop-up launch – a brand which has honestly & intentionally encompassed both quality and craftsmanship into their product selection with purpose. What I find refreshing by both Ali and Nikki’s method of product selection is the determination they adopt to immerse themselves within the narrative, manufacturing methods and the people behind the products. As such (excuse the pun) I was intrigued to delve into the world of this brand and uncover not only how they select each designer they work with but also what challenges they face within the industry. 

Tell us a little bit about Al & Nikki?

I studied fine art at University and then worked in a number of galleries in London whilst also continuing to paint. I went on to study Interior Design at KLC School of Design and worked for a short time as a lighting designer before moving to Vietnam for a number of years. When I returned, Al and I started working on a business idea together which eventually developed into Such & Such.

— Nikki

Whilst I have always been interested in design, through school and university I studied more “traditional” subjects. After university I became a lawyer and spent a few years at a City law firm and then a couple working in-house for a large finance company. However, I was keen to start my own business and I wanted to do something that was more creative and that I was really passionate about…

— Ali

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How do you vet the designers you work with/ ensure that they match your ethos?

Working with the right designers and selecting the right products is paramount to what we are doing. We spend a lot of time looking for new designers that are passionate about original design and that are making things with care and skill. These things are part of our ethos but so is telling the story behind the products and the designers. We often see a product we like the look of but the very next thing we want to know is the story behind the product and/or designer. By hearing this story, we usually learn straight away whether or not the designer and the process by which it is made fits with our ethos. It may be that the designers we work with have different influences, approaches and put a different emphasis on particular parts of the their making or design process but this is all part of their story. So, hearing their story is a large part of how we vet the designers.

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Championing the handmade from great designers & makers seems to be at the forefront of your business. Have you found it challenging or surprisingly easy to find great designers to work with (particularly in the UK)?

Having an object that is truly one of a kind and that is made with care and skill is what being handmade is all about. To us it is a no-brainer to want something that is individual and that is why we try to champion the handmade wherever possible on our site. One of the reasons we set up Such & Such in the first place was because we felt that there are a lot of great designers and makers out there but that their work was not always getting in front of people or was not as easy to find as it should be. It was a bit daunting to begin with but once we got started we did not find it particularly challenging to find great designers and makers. We have now built up relationships with designers from all over the world and from a selfish point of view that has been really exciting and rewarding.

Now we have found and continue to find these great designers we want to promote their work, particularly British designs and designers, as this is something we feel very passionate about. We already have some great British designers we work with such as Reiko Kaneko, Sue Pryke, Tom Housden and smaller less well known British Designers such as Jade Rhone. Going forward we would love to add more British designers to the site.

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Where do you see the future of craft-making veering to in the next 5-10years? (Have you seen any trends or limitations due to government legislations etc).

More and more we feel things are coming full circle and traditional artisan skills are being brought back to the forefront. Designers and makers are using the skills that have been passed down from generations but they are using them in a new more modern context that fits with our lives today. Old industries are seeing a revival and little pockets of skilled artisans are reappearing or becoming better known as people are becoming more aware. As we have seen with food, there has been a bit of a revolution with the return to more local, organic and natural produce over cheap supermarket produce. I think the same is happening within design and craft. People are prepared to spend more for better quality products and they are interested in knowing how things are made and where. I think this trend will grow and grow and hopefully we will really start to see an even greater upturn in skilled craftsmen in different sectors.

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The power of stories really gives a strong sense of depth and meaning to a brands integrity. In keeping with this what is the Such & Such story and how does that seamlessly (if applicable) interplay with the brands you work with?

Great design can, without sounding too dramatic, improve peoples lives, it can inspire and excite. Great design should be about products that do what they were designed to do and do it well whilst being aesthetically pleasing at the same time. We knew we wanted Such & Such to be an advocate for great design and well made products. However, the idea behind Such & Such developed over a period of time whilst we were researching designers and products. We found time and time again that we loved to know how a product was made and to hear the stories behind a product or learn all about a designer or maker. We continually felt that we connected with a product and the designer more when we understood the provenance and the time, skill and care that had gone into making it. The story of Such & Such is therefore strongly intertwined with hearing the stories of designers and makers, feeling inspired by their stories and work and wanting to share them.

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How do you think the government or the industry could do more to assist craft and furniture makers & designers to enhance their professions?

British design and British designers are highly regarded around the world yet in schools, art and design is still often viewed as a less important subject. I think to enhance the profession you have to change people’s attitudes and I think that is easy to do if the history and importance of British design is taught.

Promoting apprenticeships and making it easier for businesses to take on apprentices also seems to be a good way to assist craft and furniture makers and designers. Plus, passing skills down from one generation to another has got to be an important part of keeping traditional skills alive. We were therefore pleased to hear about the National Insurance contribution break for employers employing apprentices under the age of 25.

Getting government and industry backing for initiatives like Equal Rights for Design would also greatly enhance the professions of craft and furniture makers & designers moving forward.


PHOTOGRAPHY: Such & Such | Decorum PR

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