Tony Russell, Brand Director, Stylecraft and 2017 AFDA Judge
How does AFDA differ from other Awards in furniture design?
AFDA has a critical point of difference compared to some other awards programs, in that the winner collaborates with Stylecraft and JamFactory to develop a furniture collection that is then distributed by us throughout Australia and Singapore. As well as having a range in Stylecraft’s portfolio, there is the practical benefit of working towards a brief and exposure to different manufacturers. During the collaborative process in developing a new collection, we work through the type of product that is required, suitable manufacturing partners and ensuring the product is developed to a commercial value within the market. It is this experience that I trust provides ongoing knowledge for the winning designer when they are working on future projects. The cash prize and ongoing royalty also provide a great incentive to develop a remarkable piece!
With local design and manufacture on a continuous rise, why do you think Australian designed and manufactured furniture is so appealing to consumers?
Australian designed and manufactured furniture is now so appealing, as consumers now appreciate that our local design talent truly holds its own when compared with international design. As we are now so exposed to design that is happening globally, a benefit is that it allows us to make considered judgements as to the quality of the work of our own community and cast aside any perceptions that we may have had with regards to local design. There is an obvious sentiment in supporting Australian designed and manufactured products but the standard of innovation, aesthetic and functionality of our furniture is now equivalent to anything you can find overseas.
How instrumental is the manufacturing support of an organisation like Stylecraft in helping to define a designer’s career?
As I touched on earlier, one of the benfits of winning AFDA is the practical experience that is offered. In winning the award, you are exposed to Stylecraft’s manufacturing partners and then what is involved in taking a concept through to commercial production and distribution. This can include adding to components of the overall design or refining the materials and finishes. Once the design process is complete there is access to marketing, legal and intellectual property advice.
On the back of Seaton’s exciting collection – what will you be looking for in this year’s winning design?
Seaton’s winning design of The Sun, The Moon and Me for the inaugural AFDA was exciting for me as I loved the back story behind the design and the product itself was unexpected. In selecting Seaton as the winner in 2015, the judges believed it was important to encourage future applicants to stretch their imagination when developing a concept. This year I’m looking to be challenged and surprised again with an innovative design or an interesting take on the functionality of a design. I also found the applicants previous work history invaluable when it came to selecting a winner, as it provided an overview as to whether the applicant had a design aesthetic that fits the commercial marketplace or Stylecraft’s design portfolio.