This Asian expat and British designer has a tremendous ability for masterminding past-meets-present creations that have garnered his firm a worldwide following
Alexander Lamont was a global citizen long before that phrase became fashionable. Growing up in Kenya, India and England, the Brit also traveled with his father, who had a business called Global Village Crafts, on trips to Mexico, China, Italy, Thailand, and the Philippines. Those trips provided his schooling in business, sharpened his eye for beauty and bolstered his knowledge of both rustic crafts and cutting-edge arts.
The culmination of all those long, hard miles and learning experiences is the design firm Alexander Lamont. Boasting a total of 150 staff members worldwide, the firm’s management, sales team and customer support team is in different parts of Europe and Asia. Its production base, however, is in Thailand, because he wanted to live in a “place that inspired me with different languages, traditions, smells and tastes.”
The firm has amassed an A-list of customers from luxury brands like Chanel and Cartier to hoteliers like the Mandarin Oriental and Four Seasons, while collaborating with leading interior decorators such as Bill Bensley, David Collins and Yabu Pushelberg. The company sells both online and through their shops.
For this email interview with the founder, we discussed everything from his most recent collection to his collaborators and how his work is a synthesis of both the past and the present that imbues it with a timeless grace and understated panache.
As an outspoken and passionate advocate of handcrafted items and homespun wisdom, Alexander’s opinions may well jangle some designer’s nerves or provide inspiration for others. “I think most people would rather master the skills of an artisan and make wonderful things with their days than spend years welding parts onto circuit boards that will soon be made by machines anyway,” he said.
You mentioned that you do not sit down to design products but that ideas emerge from the merging of your experiences. Can you give us a few examples of such designs that you are most proud and have also been successful?
One example is the “Ripple Bowl”: a design that started as a basket made in the Shan state of northern Burma where the bowl is used in the house and has a simple shape. When I applied lacquer clay and black lacquer to it, the undulating basket shape took on a totally new appearance. I love the story, the people who made it and the sidestep I took that made for a very different item that could not have come from a computer design program.
Another example is the Cupola lamp series from Sirena collection 2020. This group took more than two years to develop. I wanted to accentuate the shape of the egg, which might be my favorite shape in the world, by using smooth polished plains of lacquered eggshell and bronze. The wiring is hidden inside the structure and the eggs are held by a bronze loop. These are designs that seemed to me to have both an ancient and contemporary sense to them.
How does the digital world effect interior design?
Young interior designers learn what they do at a computer rather than in textile mills and workshops and great houses. The homes where we live are intimate spaces; places where we need to find peace and delight in the company of things that we love. If designers approach these hallowed spaces through a virtual world and without real knowledge of how things are made and how they should feel and how light works, then I believe that these spaces are going to become darker and more distant in all sorts of ways. Interior design companies should train their young staff to become connoisseurs of good living so these skills can be developed and passed down.
Is the art of making crafts thriving or dying?
Certainly in Asia where I live, more so during the Covid era, this fragile sector is having a terrible time. Copying and mass production have been at the heart of most Asian furniture production for decades and it is now extremely rare to see new, great craftsmanship and quality anywhere on the continent. If Asian governments would make design and craftsmanship skills an important part of growing their economies, they would be doing a great service to their people and the value of the work being done.
Please tell us about your collaboration with the Japanese designer Ryosuke Harashima?
Ryosuke is a quiet and elegant gentleman who was introduced to me by his teacher in Parson’s. He lives in one of the loveliest cities, beside the Sea of Japan, and we work together in his studio in Kanazawa, looking for fresh ways to use the skills of local craftspeople or in my own workshop. He has a very different sense of scale and aesthetic to me, and thinks in a much more considered way. I would never want to be the only designer in my company. Collaborations bring wonderful shared experiences, humor and more layers to the process and results.
How often do you introduce new collections?
We launch a new COUTURE collection (our lighting and furniture) every spring. Then we launch Le Mur (wall panels) and EDITIONS (accessories) in alternate autumn/fall seasons. Smaller retail items and gifts and other goods are introduced all the time in our stores and online.
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