Simon James talks to I Love Ugly

As you know we're interested in all types of design, particularly furniture design. Our Creative Director caught up with one of New Zealand's top furniture designers, Simon James. Enjoy.

Could you please tell our readers a little about who you are, what you do and a little about your brand?

I am a furniture designer by trade and involved with two brands, the first Simon James Design was set up around 2001 as a vehicle to sell and distribute my own furniture as well as introduce international furniture and lighting to the New Zealand market. The second is Resident which I co-founded with Scott Bridgens in 2011, we collaborate with local and international designers to create furniture and lighting that is export focused.

At what point of time did you decide to become a furniture designer?

During my third year studying Spatial Design at AUT I had to undertake a practicum as part of the course. This involved a kind of three week work experience at a studio of your choice.
I worked for New Zealand designer Matthew von Strumer and it was during this time I knew I wanted to pursue this further.

Whats the biggest challenge been in your career thus far? and is there any one particular moment when you thought to yourself you should go and get a 'job’?

The biggest challenge I find now is the time to put pencil to paper with no distractions - to find true time out and to work on new ideas can be difficult.

With so many designer knock offs and cheap replicas around these days (particularly in furniture) , how do you plan to stay ahead of the curve, and what do you instil in your product that can't be replicated or found elsewhere?
This is a challenge for us everyday as it happens both locally and internationally. We try and stay innovative in what we design and produce, and being open to new materials or manufacturing techniques helps. We are now investing more heavily in complex tooling to try and prevent this happening.

As a designer living in New Zealand. What are the biggest challenges for you being so isolated from the rest of the world, and whats the positive side of it?
I quite enjoy the isolation, it means we can be head down and focus on what we do, and do it well.

Whats the end goal for Resident as a brand and company?

Resident is an international export brand and the goal is for it to be synonymous with contemporary design on a global stage.

How about important is brand ethos and ideologies for a furniture company?

It is essential. Both brands have slightly different ambitions and our aim is to be sure we are always communicating these to our audience in a language that represents us well. We have recently been working with Brogen Averill on a complete revision of Resident as a brand and what it stands for, we hope to start introducing this over the next few weeks.

How often do you design and release products?

We are continually developing ideas; at Simon James Design we normally release 4 - 6 products throughout the year, and at Resident we release a similar amount but these are mostly released around exhibitions in Milan, New York and London.

How do you keep yourself inspired?

Travel. I feel energized from a big city, or being up north at the bach.

What advice would you give to your 20 year old self?

I’m not sure my 20 year old self would listen….

Who are your favourite fashion designers or brands and do they inspire your own work in any way?

I’ve always been a fan of Acne, their retail spaces are great and their simple branding is timeless.

If you could change your career tomorrow, would you? and what would it be?

No I wouldn’t.

Are you a procrastinator or an executor?


Images below of Simon James furniture. Photos courtesy of Simon James.




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