Taylor Made

Alexander Taylor’s latest design for Established & Sons is a culmination of techniques in economical design and a functional ideology.

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Alex Taylor and Established & Sons have been partners since the very early days. And in fact the designer sees his relationship with Established as a turning point in his career. It all started with his Fold Light (a lamp whose character is derived from a simple folded metal construction) which has since blossomed into an extended family of pieces.

‘Through my experiences with sheet metal, I developed the Fold Light to a point where I could self-produce and supply. At the same time, Established & Sons formed and they took the light on from there. I think it was Established’s first signing actually. I’m pleased that I’ve been with them from the start.’

Taylor has been lauded by the press since he set up on his own in 2002 (he was Elle Decoration’s Young Designer of the Year in 2005). He has also caught the eye of discerning manufacturers like Classicon and Zanotta whom he has produced designs for. Taylor can already boast a handful of signature pieces — the Butterfly table, family of Fold lights and the Antlers coat hook are all pivotal pieces — but he is in no rush to churn out designs without good reason.

Although it’s always tempting to team up with new manufacturers, Taylor is quite particular; ‘I’m only interested in those that produce work that has a level of substance and quality that isn’t just for the moment. I’m quite realistic about what sells and what doesn’t sell. I want to be confident that every piece of work I do will be around for a number of years.’ And while most of his time is still spent magicking new pieces, Taylor believes his career is at some sort of transition point. To this end, he has moved his studio out of his Kent seaside home in Deal and back into London.

A graduate of Nottingham Trent University’s furniture and product design course, Taylor loves seeing things roll off the production line. ‘That’s the drive of getting things made in volume.’ For Taylor, its about the minimum amount of material with the maximum effect. And he has high praise for British production skills. ‘We have the capabilities here, and if we can tap into the qualities that exist within British industry I don’t see why we can’t produce to a high spec.’ Unlike some designers, Taylor is happy to acknowledge that his work does share a single aesthetic; ‘There’s an honest industrial appeal’ he says. Heroes include British mid-century exponent Ernest Race and Frenchman Jean Prouvé; ‘you can see the thought process, and why their pieces are the way that they are.’

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Taylor finds himself transfixed by the manufacturing process; ‘I like to go to the factories and talk to the experts, then you can really work efficiently with them,’ he says, citing his Uniform Chair for Established & Sons as a prime example.

It all started with an old stacking school chair in a junk shop and the method of manufacture with folded metal that has come to characterise Taylor’s production with Established & Sons; ‘I worked with sheet metal to achieve this aesthetic. The challenge came in creating the strength in such a light gauge of material.’ Nothing is there that doesn’t need to be there in Taylor’s designs. So if there are fixings that are exposed, that’s OK because they tell of the construction. This is the mantra that is behind the design of Taylor’s newest collection for Established & Sons: Punch. This series of compact and functional storage makes maximum use of its elemental materials; a wooden carcass provides a strong and durable outer layer whilst doors are made from thin gauge aluminium. The impressions into these were devised to add maximum strength to the simple material. They also, incidentally, give the design its unique character and becomes something of an applied decoration that unites each of the four different types of Punch cabinet. Inspiration for Punch came firstly from the ambition to do a lot with a little. And secondly, from unobtrusive but familiar domestic objects (such as sound system speakers like those by Dieter Rams and cleverly referenced in the circular indentatins on these cabinet doors). The Punch cabinets ‘play to the strengths of their chosen materials’ says Taylor, and are ‘domestic, subtle, compact.’

So don’t expect hands-off perfection from Taylor. He’s designing for the real world, and he wants his creations to stick around.

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Words by Clare Dowdy
Photography by
John Short

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