In the first of a number of Run For The Hills interviews we plan for 2020, exploring the importance of us Designers doing our bit for planet earth, Anna caught up with Maker&Son (www.makerandson.com) Co-founder and product designer, Felix Conran (Grandson of the famous Terence Conran):
Anna Burles, Co-Founder of Run For The Hills:
“Maker&Son are a luxury family brand that we know and love and have specified in our Run For The Hills interior design projects. And we love them not just because they are the self-styled makers of “the most comfortable chairs in the world”, but because they also have a really inspiring, ethical approach to design. Which is one of our missions for 2020. To stop and think about what we do at every turn, looking into how we do it and the processes behind it And trying to opt for the most ethical way wherever possible. Maker and Son’s philosophy underpins everything about their business and we’d love to follow their lead.”
Anna RFTH: You create amazing all-natural products. What’s on the horizon for 2020?
Felix @ Maker & Son: We will be releasing a totally vegan, no animal product version of our Song range. We are incredibly excited about the opportunity to make something that has not been done before. We believe that this extension of our current range is going to be incredibly exciting because it will be a product that is both plastic and animal product FREE. And, like all of our products, made from 100% natural materials.
Anna RTFH: Tell us more about your take on integrity and sustainability…
Felix @ Maker & Son: I think ultimately what we want to do, what we crave, is to be doing something that we are incredibly proud of. That means not producing anything that isn’t 100% ‘us’. We need to be true to our brand ethics 100% of the time by adopting this as a fundamental in everything we do, from our product design to our suppliers and even our messaging, which we believe sets us apart. We like to wear our hearts on our sleeves and integrity is at the centre of those metaphorical hearts.
Anna RTFH: You’ve got a great record for sure and it seems to go beyond the norm, including cruelty-free feathers. Is that right?
Felix @ Maker & Son: The thing about feathers is that they’re wonderful and there is nothing more incredible to sit on than feathers, that’s just a fact. It doesn’t matter if it is in a pillow or in a duvet, or in a puffer jacket. Feathers are incredible really. The issue about feathers is that they come from animals, and it is absolutely of paramount importance that every single feather used in a Maker&Son product is traceable. They all come from Europe and the birds that the feathers are sourced from are a byproduct of the European meat industry, so we are using the excess as opposed to harvesting feathers in a cruel way. The welfare of the birds is something we take very seriously.
Anna RTFH: Do you think there’s a genuine movement towards kindness in the best corners of the industry, not just doing what’s right by the planet, but being caring too?
Felix @ Maker & Son: I do, I really hope so. This is something that Maker&Son is incredibly well placed to be at the front of. I really value the genuine emergence of small businesses that are connected and have a platform, as a result of the growth of the internet. Connecting people that want to do good things well. You can be a small business and have a global audience, just by doing the right thing. It’s an incredibly exciting time to be doing good things.
Anna RTFH: Are you consciously helping to change the face or the perception of eco design? In terms of the new wave of ‘eco-lux’ products rather than the utilitarian design so long associated with eco products?
Felix @ Maker & Son: Yes, I think that the industry has a tendency to become pretty inward looking, rather than looking at what’s happening globally. And, actually, the industry is more interested in the next eco festival than what real customers want and desire. We really want to empower people who invest in our pieces. We often say that sustainability and luxury don’t need to be mutually exclusive.
Anna RTFH: How do you think we designers should use our power to make a difference?
Felix @ Maker & Son: Through solving a genuine problem and not going out with the idea of making just another ‘nice thing’. The world is full of beauty and beautiful objects but it has got so much more room for things that carry a genuine story and are representative of the lives that we all want to live.
Anna RFTH: Who and what is at the beating heart at Maker&Son?
Felix @ Maker & Son: Everyone who is involved with Maker&Son becomes a member of the extended family. Everyone here, and who touches the business, believes in a future with sustainability at its heart and wants to change the perception of what furniture can be. Making things to last, not led by trends. We want people to buy things that they really believe in, feel proud to be part of and own. Things with a story, objects that you connect with, emotionally and we all believe that the apex of unsustainability is only needing something once.
Anna RFTH: How did Maker&Son come together?
Felix @ Maker & Son: It’s amazing how an idea can attract like minded people from all over the world. It’s been the most incredible process when people are coming to us rather than us reaching out. For instance, our new wonderful workshop in America, came to us and said, “Hey we love what this is about and we would like to meet you, and if it could work we’d love to be your partners”. Of course, we wouldn’t be where we are today without every single one of our customers. We love people to pick up the phone and talk to us so we can really get under the skin of who they are and what their wants and needs are from our pieces.
Anna RTFH: Your suppliers, How do you find them and how do you test their credentials and processes?
Felix @ Maker & Son: We don’t work with any suppliers that haven’t been in business for 25 years plus. There is an immense amount of trust between us and our suppliers, building that trust is incredibly important. I think more often that not, suppliers are attracted to what we are doing. In terms of their credentials, we don’t work with a company that hasn’t got an incredible track record for delivering the highest quality consistently. Our workshops cumulatively across the world have been producing high quality furniture for over 200 years.
Anna RFTH: Do you get requests from customers for things they’d love you to design?
Felix @ Maker & Son: We recently launched a new range of beds. And I know it sounds crazy, but we’ve been inundated with requests for a different kind of bed, and that’s a dog bed. We are seriously considering doing something like that as a bit of fun.
Final thought from Run For The Hills:
Thank you to Felix for kicking off 2020 with such a thoughtful chat. One of our New Year’s Resolutions here at Run For The Hills is to make a habit of stopping and thinking in our design work and to learn as much as we can about the processes behind the beautiful designs we create. It’s time for all of us to join the exciting groundswell of eco-sensibility within the design sector.
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