Monday, 27 September 2010


M&I was lucky enough to attend a fascinating talk on manufacturing and its future on Friday afternoon at The Tramshed.

First up was Luis de Oliveira, principal of Portugese company De La Espada who talked about ‘decentralised companies’; using local production, small runs and frequent innovation. Oliveira believes this business model to be ‘a decade away.’

Furniture designer Matthew Hilton then told a story about one of his early products - a candlestick made in Charlton, packaged in felt bags from Hackney, sold through the UK retailer Joseph. (If anyone would like to give us one of these, do feel free.)

Hilton now works for Habitat and has a global perspective on manufacturing. He illustrated his experience with a video of some Sri Lankans making a chair to his specfications. Being versed in more traditional methods, the Sri Lankans couldn’t quite create the modern style required. ‘Older manufacturing is more forgiving than new methods’ concluded Hilton.

Theo Williams, creative director of Habitat gave a compelling talk on bridging the gap between design and development, stating that it is ‘essential.’ Williams suggests that we need to move closer to the Italian design model - quicker reaction times, locally produced products.

‘Communications need to get stronger and more focused. We need to understand better what the consumer wants,’ Williams said, warning of giving over too much power to the consumer, ‘There needs to be a parameter for consumers to work within.’

‘Customisation to customerisation’ is taking hold and this is partly due to design, development and manufacturing moving closer together. Williams also gave examples of Habitat making certain products in the UK. Sadly there were no illustrations of this but he referred to a ‘small guy in Cornwall.’ He rounded off his section mentioning that Robin Day can get on a train to his supplier - ‘a big thing.’

Thanks to the parties behind London Design Festival for bringing such a good group of speakers together.