Behind The Scenes: A Creative Director’s Trip To The Far East

A huge part of Habitat’s collections are produced in the Far East. But before that product exists, designers and buyers spend time visiting our producers to design and develop the range. We bent our Creative Director, Polly Dickens’ ear about her most recent trip to the Far East to find out what she got up to and give us a few tidbits on what we can expect from future Habitat collections.

Why did you go to the Far East on this occasion?

The trip was for new product for spring/summer ‘17 so it was mostly for decorative accessories, apart from a bit of furniture in India. The good thing about all that ‘small stuff’ is that they really give a flavour of the season; because they’re not such a huge commitment we can be a bit bolder in our use of colour and pattern. We can really pull those strands out; different from doing huge pieces of furniture which are much more expensive and carry more financial responsibility. It’s small things that make a big statement.

Where did you go?

We went to our favourite places: Vietnam, Thailand and India. We were in Vietnam for 5 days, Thailand for 3 days and India for 3 days.

Girl in traditional Vietnamese hat working with clay pots wearing yellow T shirt and pink apron

What specifically were you working on?

We were looking for garden pots, vases, tabletop and all kinds of accessories related to outdoor in woven, plastic and natural materials. We’ve been quite successful in mixing materials for outdoor so we don’t just want a matching melamine set and we don’t even want a matching melamine and bamboo set anymore; we’re taking it further than that. So we mix a lot of finishes and textures by developing things that have got a slightly hand crafted, handmade and ethnic look to create something visually more exciting, all anchored by our colour palette.

Woman in blue top and traditional Vietnamese hat pushing trolley or clay and paints

It was a bit of a revisit to India. We’ve always done loads of textiles out of India, almost our entire textiles collection. Apart from Orrico, very little furniture and hard goods come from India so the trip provided the opportunity to do more in this area. We did a quick top up for Christmas 2016 for tabletop but we also did a load of plain and painted metal accessories, like candle holders, lanterns, platters and vases for spring/summer 2017. Thailand is mostly ceramic, Vietnam is ceramic and woven product, but India, especially at the moment, is mostly metal.

Black metal circular design on grey and terracotta tiling

We then concentrated on a big push to increase our furniture collection from India. We have done an Orrico follow-up, designed by Laure Grezard and then tweaked whilst we were on the ground. It has the same handwriting but is different enough to sit side-by-side with Orrico, Chrome patterned metal plate

Anything that got you really excited?

We found some fantastic stained bamboo storage boxes which I felt were very new; very crisp, nesting, storage boxes with a wash of colour over the top. Often when you stain something it doesn’t have that vibrancy so these were a really great find. We also found some very complex woven plastics from a new supplier, with up to 10 different colours, which got us really excited. It was something that had been reinvented by doing it in a much more complicated way. Sometimes when you visit a supplier, they are not well prepared for the meeting and it’s hard to develop product, but this new source was uber organised, with every size and width of plastic tape so you could create on the spot. However, this was an example of a supplier really showing her expertise and we felt she was able to progress with the design based on our direction and colour palettes. We hope that some picnicware, bathroom and kids storage will come out of it. It’ll be very exciting to see.

Black and cream geometric tiled pattern table top on terracotta and black floor tiling

In India, we saw a technique where they were screen printing pattern onto tabletops and then putting a resin lacquer on top of that to protect it. So we took some of Martha Coate’s designs and put them onto an occasional table; it’ll be a move on for Kilo. That will be a great development as it means we can use pattern to tie furniture back into the collection.

Thanks Polly, seems like SS17 is already looking good. Now we just need to concentrate on developing our patience…!


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