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Tom Dixon Welcomes ECC to LDF.

22 September 2020

Last week ECC and invited guests joined Tom Dixon in a virtual tour of their installation called Octagon for this year's London Design Festival that just wrapped up. After the tour Tom chatted with Mike Thorburn live and answered our questions in this exclusive session.

If you missed the session you can catch the recorded tour in the video below. Then read about what Tom had to say to us about the unexpected benefits of lockdown, how they have adapted to the cancellation of the Milan Fair and what future projects are in the works.

TD: Hi Mike, hi New Zealand. How are things down there?

ECC: We are just coming out of our second lockdown, but we are doing ok. How about you? As a designer how has the Covid-19 pandemic impacted you and your creative process?

TD: Firstly, we had to pack up the studio and make sure that everyone was set up at home. We also had the restaurant to close. Once that had all been taken care of, I was fortunate to have access to a greenhouse. That became my studio. I found what the shutdown did for me as a designer was to give me back time. There was less pressure to produce something to a schedule, which I found really liberating.

ECC: Of all the ways you have adapted what has been the most surprising?

TD: I think initially people were quite frozen by the whole lockdown experience. However, we found that if someone wants to do something there is a lot of enthusiasm for it. The willingness of people to cooperate on new projects has been the most surprising thing for me.

ECC: What new collaborations do you have in the works?

TD: They are top secret! We are doing some architectural ironmongering I can say and we are doing a big architectural ceramics project as well. They will be all coming through in the early part of next year. We currently manufacture lighting, furniture and accessories and do interior design, but we also specify a lot of materials and architectural ironmongery so those are the things we are looking at. We haven’t done a great deal of electronics, however electronics rule the modern world, so we will be looking at doing some of that as well.

ECC: You have been approaching the Milan Fair differently over the last few years, with The Manzoni last year for example. How has the absence of the Milan Fair this year impacted your future thinking around Milan?

TD: Well it hasn’t just been Milan. We had four or five shows lined up, including New York, and we had decided to go to Euroluce in Frankfurt for the first time. So the absence of the fairs have had a big impact on us. I miss the scale of the shows, the ability to show large chandeliers for example.

Our response to this has been the Octagon that we are showing here at London Design Festival. It’s a portable smaller scale exhibition we manufactured in Shanghai that we can take on the road. We just took it to Denmark for 24 hours recently. It gets us closer to our customers. A lot of people can’t come to Milan in a normal year anyway, so we are taking our show to them. It’s a bit like being in a touring band.

ECC: There is a lot of commentary around the opportunity for an environmental reset. How has this influenced your thinking at Tom Dixon?

TD: The environment should be top of mind for every designer. Longevity of what you are producing is important, make things to measure or manufacture on demand when it is needed. And currently there is less air travel so that is good for the planet too.

ECC: Here's a question from one of our guests - what is the scent of the new swirl candle? Are the candles organic?

It’s called the Botanist. We have seven or eight scents now but we didn’t have anything green and fresh. It’s the smell of fresh cut grass. It’s a very cleansing aroma. No it’s not organic. The nature of the candle business is it is quite difficult to use only organic ingredients, and some of the ingredients are not from plants so you can’t call them organic anyway. It’s a complicated subject. I could send you a fact sheet!

ECC: We have time for one final question. If there was one designer (from any industry) in history who you would have liked to have met and/or meet, who would it be? Why?

TD: What kind of question is that? There’s too many!

ECC: That’s a New Zealand one! 

TD: I was really fortunate to meet the ones I really wanted to meet. I did this project when I was at Habitat called Living Legends, where I put several designers back into production. Unfortunately they all started dying during the project, so they were that old. So I’ve met Verner Panton and Castiglioni which was fantastic. But ones I really admire that would have been extraordinary to meet would be Buckminster Fuller, who probably counts more as an engineer, but he was definitely a designer as well. If I’m looking for inspiration I’m more often looking at sculptors. I would love to meet Brancusi and Noguchi. The list would be long and endless. I’ll send you another fact sheet!

ECC: Thanks Tom. It was a pleasure to see you.

TD: You’re welcome. If we keep getting locked down let’s have more phone calls.