Tom Dixon was recently asked to speak at the Business of Fashion's Voices event. The conference aimed to bring together the "movers, shakers and trailblazers of the fashion industry" and unite them with the "big thinkers, entrepreneurs and inspiring people who are shaping the wider world."
Held over two and a half days, at Soho Farmhouse in Oxfordshire, Voices aimed to explore new frontiers and challenge conventional wisdom about the fashion and luxury business.
Part of the Big Thinkers section of the conference, Tom gave his talk on "Immediacy: Should We Embrace or Resist Instant Gratification?"
"I learnt from the music business that it's possible to create your own destiny."
Tom Dixon on his early work:
"It's really quite ugly, it's quite dangerous, it's very rusty. But what it is is made with my own hands, with no investment no money no tools and no new materials, it's all scrap found on the streets."
Tom Dixon on developing the BEAT lighting range:
“The way I develop product is not conventional either […] It came from a not-for-profit trip to India where we were looking at retaining metalwork skills in Jaipur. Historically these metal pots have been made for generations by skilled metalworkers in the, and they’re rapidly vanishing as tourism comes in and spaces are re-allocated to boutique hotels and such. Also the pots themselves are being replaced very quickly by these much cheaper industrialised equivalents. The project was really to work out if we could transfer the skills to a different functionality.”
Introducing the Google model to the furniture world:
“I had this idea that maybe I could disrupt the business and get instant gratification as a designer (it takes so long to get a chair out and selling in the world) but also for the consumer. I thought the cleverest thing to do was to try and be like Google and give away my core service for free and on the side pay for it another way, in this case by advertising.”
“I made in the UK one thousand chairs, delivered then to Trafalgar Square and I became very popular very quickly. Instead of this two-year cycle of investing heavily in Asia and then shipping things across the world, I shipped from Huddersfield to Trafalgar Square, one container, and sold the load of it in six minutes.”
The perfect unit of furnishing?
“A bed is the perfect unit of furnishing in as much as everybody needs a bed, it doesn’t matter if you’re in prison, you’re camping, you’re in the army, you’re on your death bed … Everybody needs a bed. It’s pretty much the only furniture you need.”
“I can get IKEA to do a bed for me and I can sell bits on the side. My idea here is to be a bit more like Hewlett Packard. [..] I’m going to sell a sheepskin cover, a marble headboard… It’s going to be pimp my IKEA bed. More importantly we’ve added to that an ecosystem where we actively encourage people to add to it [students of the Royal College, Parsons and in Tokyo]. The bed becomes a sofa with my additions and it becomes even more with a network of sub-suppliers that are feeding onto this platform.”
On modern manufacturing methods:
“Everybody is obsessed with rapid prototyping, which is a very flexible and modern way of making very expensive plastic things. I’m much more interested in the slightly more underlying techniques that exist which are now digitalised.”
“This very efficient robot makes all the components that you see, for the undercarriages of cars or the back of washing machines. […] I took the robot to where the consumer was, which was the Milan furniture fair, and I designed a chair to suit the capabilities of the machine. […] It showed the potential for deconstructing manufacturing and also very flexible manufacturing.”
Tom Dixon on his Accretion chair project:
“Can we continue to be even faster, to consumer and make things faster? I’ve come up with an opposite plan, which is a little bit like slow food in Italy: my underwater furniture factory.”