By Kenza van Lerberghe for IROCO Design.
We would like to have a bit more of a personalized blog this week through an interview with Ross Urwin who was the Creative Director driving the Lane Crawford Home & Lifestyle Department for more than 5 years; he now leads his own company, called Infrastructure, together with his business partner Darrell Best. Are you curious to find out more about his fascinating story? Read on then...
+ What is your background story?
I’m from the UK, spent my late teens working in the fashion industry. Was taken to Tokyo in the early eighties to work for some of the biggest brands in design such as Yohji Yamamoto, Issey Miyake etc. This experience introduced me to a completely new world of design, architecture and art. I fell in love with Japan and its unique aesthetics and returned to the UK eager to work more closely within the design industry.
I soon started travelling the world sourcing product, including fashion, antiques, furniture and lifestyle goods for a Japanese based design house. With this company I opened stores worldwide and became their creative director curating 40 lifestyle stores in Japan over a 12 year period.
I left in the mid 90’s to reposition the European lifestyle store Habitat. I sourced and redesigned their furniture and lighting ranges for the 140 stores worldwide.
I set up my own creative business in London sourcing merchandise globally for international interior designers, hotel’s and stores such as Harrods, Harvey Nichols, Heals and Liberty.
I later joined the heritage department store Liberty in 2003 as their Buying Director to reposition the lifestyle floors. I spent 4 years introducing new design brands, artists and contemporary and vintage mixes to their ranges, working with some of the world’s best international creatives.
In 2007, I joined Lane Crawford as Creative Director of Home/Lifestyle as well as Brand Creative, spending 6 years repositioning their lifestyle offer, introducing international contemporary brands and designers and changing the face of their home and lifestyle offer. During this period I was instrumental in their expansion into China.
+ How did you come about starting your own company?
After operating a successful business in London for approximately 6 years and returning to a full time position for over 10 year this seemed like a natural transition. Like so many things in life, it is all about the right timing and knowing when to act when opportunities present themselves.
I was looking for more involvement within the design scene both in HK and in mainland China as I knew this was developing at an incredible rate. For sometime before setting up Infrastructure, with Darrel Best my co-founder, I had been approached by numerous brands and businesses that requested direction and support. Darrel comes from an extensive interiors background and after brainstorming our options we knew that by combining our expertise we could offer a unique design service that really wasn't on offer in the market place.
+ Where do you draw your inspiration from? Can you tell us a little bit about your creative process?
I travel extensively and this is one of my greatest inspirational touch points. Through visiting different countries each with their own form of innovation and creativity, I am able to spot amazing architecture and design from the past and present. I also try to keep track of various design movements happening around the world. Whenever I curate or edit a design project I try to create a unique DNA within the process and generally avoid any generic international trends.
Film, music, art and the whole creative world is an inspiration for me and I would say that heritage brands, artisanal handicrafts and techniques are a huge influence for me at the moment.
+ What is the secret to responding to the client’s needs whilst always maintaining a recognizable style?
Since we started Infrastructure in October 2013 we have been approached by a number of international design brands, hotels and restaurateur’s asking for our services. We intuitively know when we meet a client whether or not our expertise can support them with their objectives in order to choose projects accordingly. There has to be a synergy between what we do, our beliefs and aesthetics and our clients needs. In saying this we recognize that each client has different needs to which we accommodate ourselves in flexibility, style and experience to meet their desired goals.
+ What was the last project you finalized?
Kanjian Creations. This is a social enterprise based out of Beijing. I am the Brand Director and the premise of the project is to support and keep alive heritage Chinese craftsmanship. We have introduced international designers including Michael Young, Tom Dixon and Rossana Hu to craft masters throughout China and asked them to use this inspiration on designing contemporary collections. We launched the first collections in Milan this year at the Trienale and will be exhibiting [last week] at Beijing Design Week. The aim is to make beautifully designed accessible objects and to donate a percentage of the sales to local masters for them to teach five young students the important dying traditional skills of the past.
+ What is the next big project you’re working on?
I am working with the Infrastructure team on the second Design Shanghai. This was a design event organized by Media Ten from the UK. Darrel and I were appointed the Creative Directors for the show which we launched last February. We were responsible for all the design elements of the show.
This was the first real design event to be held in China. Some of the worlds best International brands were exhibiting for the first time in the region to the architect, interior design and property development world. Over the 4 day event we attracted over 55,000 visitors.
We are travelling to Beijing this week to launch the show to the Beijing design world by organizing an event for over 400 guests.
Just this week we have also been commissioned by a heritage design brand to assist in their marketing re-positioning and business strategy within the region.
+ Who do you look up to in the design community?
I respect the fact that the majority of designers I've met or worked with who are down to earth and do not take themselves too seriously. Unlike some other industries there is definitely a tight design community with mutual respect for all. With many there is a passion for design and to give back and this translates in to their work. Lee Broom and Jaimie Hayon are two designers I have a great deal of respect for as both ultimately love what they do and are extremely talented.
+ What directions is interiors/design taking today, especially in Asia?
As mentioned above I believe there is an international movement towards craftsmanship, handmade, traditional techniques returning and a desire for quality merchandise. Being in Hong Kong now for over seven years I can see the demand has grown substantially and customers are looking for product with integrity and longevity not merely a designer brand name.
+ What changes would you like to see in the HK design community in the next 5 years?
More local support for the design community both existing and emerging. This has improved of late but still has a long way to go before being close to other cities in the region. I have worked extensively in mainland China and there appears to be more of a support system behind the local creative scene.
In HK there is a more conservative outlook from many who are in the position to help grow the design scene. There has been a real focus on art over the past few years often because of the fact it generates high returns for those involved and not necessarily because of the love of art.
Design in all its form is an expression and covers all aspects of life. It is time that ‘Design’ take the stage in HK. We in HK need to support the local young design scene and encourage youngsters to follow their creative goals rather than only the monetary rewards from what they do. If change doesn't happen, other cities in the region which are speeding ahead will leave HK behind as far as innovation is concerned.
In case you are interested to find out more about Infrastructure, their founders and the projects they carry, then send them an email to firstname.lastname@example.org