Since establishing his eponymous studio in 2002, Tom Dixon has been constantly honing his vision for a distinctly British design sensibility. His products are now sold in more than 60 countries around the world; this includes furniture and lighting that have become hallmarks of progressive, modern interiors from Beijing to Buenos Aires.
Recently, the designer launched Eclectic, a line of home accessories. In celebration of the collection's U.S. launch, Details sat down with Dixon to talk about how he chooses materials, the importance of knowing how things are made, and the smell of royalty.
DETAILS: The collection is described as being informed by British heritage. What are some of the cultural touchstones that you were trying to capture with the Eclectic collection?
Tom Dixon: For too long, Britain hasn't been manufacturing—we have to go back to find things that are authentically British, almost to the industrial revolution.
The candles are the clearest kind of storytelling vehicle for this idea of Britishness. There are three smells. One is called London—quite British, I'd say. It smells not of the city, but has a slightly urban and masculine feeling that is about bricks and parks. And then there's this obsession with the monarchy in the U.K. and a 1,000-year back history, which informs it. The candle, Royalty, is [inspired by] all the places I love—the royal castles, palaces, and the gardens.
The Orientalist is more about the explorer and the Victorian gentleman. The United Kingdom, despite being quite a homogenous culture, is actually historically a nation of immigrants, starting with the Vikings, the Celts, the Romans, and the French . . . I could go on. It's increasingly becoming that way again—a crossroads to the world. We're still the stepping stone to parts of the "Orient," and we have a long history not only with China but definitely India, where some of these things are made. We still make some things in England, but England's history has been one of a trading nation. I travel a lot and get things made all over the world—in Germany, India, China, and Slovenia.
DETAILS: So many of your presentations have been centered around showing people how things are made, whether an object is stamped by machine or hand-assembled. Why is that important to you?
Tom Dixon: It's the thing that fascinates me. I like to think if I find it interesting, maybe somebody else will, too. Too many people are divorced from where things comes from.
If you look at the restaurants, for a long time the kitchens have been hidden away. Food has become industrially produced, and now people really want to see the open kitchen, see what's going on, see what they're eating. And I don't see any distinction between that and objects that are made.
DETAILS: You also place an emphasis on materiality, the weight and the feel of materials. How do you decide what to use?
Tom Dixon: Most of the things are [made from] single materials, so there's a real weight. My origins are in metal work, and I was introduced to design through actually making things—also, my only qualification in high school was a pottery A-level.
I know quite a lot about how you make things, and the decisions about materials for the collection really come from an obsession. I've worked through quite a few of these obsessions. Copper was a big deal for a while. Cast iron is obviously the symbolic material for the industrial revolution.
I just started in ceramics, again, and I love marble because of its weight and the fact that it's got a unique character. I'm not against artificial materials and have used a lot of plastic. And I'm suddenly discovering textiles, mainly through this collaboration with Adidas, which is my new, exciting departure.
The Adidas collection is based on a low-cost airline suitcase the size of carry-on luggage and trying to find ways of making clothes that pack really flat and can be used in two ways—a lot reversibility, a lot of adaptability, and the rest of it for traveling.
DETAILS: Do you have any tips for people who travel?
Leave it till the last minute. I always do. I don't like to get stressed about travel. I deal with it when it comes. Arrive late to the airport to get the adrenaline flowing.
Eclectic by Tom Dixon can be found exclusively at ABC Home through early July and at select retailers around the country.
—LinYee Yuan. Follow her at @linyee.