We love working with the passionate team at Cult and were excited to have the opportunity to talk to them about Australian design, the creation of NAU Design and what not to miss at Denfair this year.
Designer Q&A: Richard Munao & Adam Goodrum
The creation of NAU Design
Driven by the ambition to bring premium European design to Australia, Richard Munao established Cult in 1997 with a humble showroom in the backstreets of Chippendale. Since then, Cult has grown into the leading purveyor of the best international design in Australia and New Zealand. Cult has evolved from showroom destination to full-service design house; diversifying into the production, manufacture and retail of Australian design, together with the education and advocacy for authentic design.
JDT: Australian design continues to grow from strength to strength, what are the principles and values you see behind Australian design and how do you reflect those in the designs and finished pieces you create?
AG: We have limited production in Australia we have to be very clever and resourceful the way go about manufacturing, unlike Europe where they have access to technology and a manufacturing history we just don’t have. This resourcefulness means production is tighter, more hands on. There is a ‘hand-made’ quality, a more linear process of design development through production process. A high end hand crafted result – high craft I suppose. We utilize local timbers which have particular qualities that can inform the design process or enhance the aesthetic or performance attributes. We also have excellent relationships with the makers, an inter-woven relationship far exceeding just supplier/client. There is so much trust and loyalty developed through the process of developing the final work. This then helps to inform the product and allows decisions to be made much more quickly and intuitively.
As a creative community, we have youth and energy on our side, without the historical baggage that may be felt in places like Scandinavia where the heritage carries a lot of meaning and influence over subsequent generations of creatives. We are freer, with more of a blank canvas to express ourselves on.
There is definitely an increased appetite for Australian design at the moment. There are many talented Australian designers doing great things and a number of organizations embracing and supporting the local industry, such as Cult, Tait and Local Design.
JDT: How does Australian design stand out from the work you see from International designers and brands at the big international trade shows such as Milan, ICFF, Neocon etc?
RM: With no design ancestry with which to adhere, our industry has historically looked to the European giants that surrounded us at furniture fairs such as Milan. Events such as Local Milan, though, make it clear that Australia, too, has a design aesthetic to be inspired by, one that has been carved out from a resourceful, hands on and open-minded design culture that was born out of necessity, and will endure for the same reason.
AG: The Italians and Scandinavians have a long standing design culture, but we are in the middle of creating it ourselves, which feels far more exciting. There is a desire from overseas clientele actively seeking out Australian design for inspiration and its unique perspective. The successes of Australian design can be witnessed on social media and much of what is found there is encouraging and exciting. The product is good, really good, as we are designing it for the particularly demanding qualities of our environment and how we live in this part of the world. The net result is that as well as having its own voice, the quality and performance is incredibly high.
JDT: What is the future of Australian design, where is it heading and are there new directions we should look out for?
AG: It is heading in the right direction! Residential has a growing sense of pride in and enthusiasm for local design. Commercial markets seek to engage with and incorporate Australian design, with projects and clients demanding an authentic, local contribution to what they are doing here and off-shore. We’re hitting a point of critical mass. Growing success and validation gained from the recognition Australian design is beginning to receive in other markets continues to help encourage the local market to engage and support local brands. The passion and support of people like Richard Munao, the Taits and the NGV in their ongoing support of Australian design is invaluable in maintaining and growing a healthy and active community.
JDT: How does NAU Design fit into your direction and fuel your business purpose?
RM: Cult’s driving purpose is to bring the best design in the world to Australia, to lead the way with Australian design and take the best of Australian Design to the world.
The NAU brand is the vehicle to create and take the best of Australian design to the world, working with established and emerging to designers to help foster an Australian Design Culture.
JDT: Where do you find your inspiration and how do you source the insights behind your design direction?
RM: I would have to say through travel both personal and work. Work travel ensures I know what is available and what the gaps in the market are. My personal travel gives me the opportunity to be inspired by my surroundings and to allow myself some time to dream about what’s next for NAU and Cult.
Some projects have been driven by Richard and the sales team, identifying gaps they see in the collection. Other pieces have come about via a brief from a designer. Our Bower collection was a response to a brief from Future Space for their PWC job. – Break out furniture with special attention to acoustics and a design language that was not rigid and “institutional”
Molloy with armrests for the Sydney Opera House was a response to making the Molloy chair easier for elderly people to get in and out of.
JDT: You contributed to and sponsored the Local Milan NO.4, the largest independent showcase of Australasian design- held within the 2019 Milan Design Week. What are your thoughts and reflections on the importance and impact of this event?
RM: Sponsoring Local Milan No 4 supports our vision to help develop an Australian design culture and whilst this was our first year as a sponsor, we supported the Australian designers that are part of NAU in previous Local Milan editions. It was a fabulous event and the reality of have the products and designers there opened up European eyes to the depth and breadth of exciting Design talent we have.
JDT: Visiting Denfair this year what is an unmissable design experience?
RM: I think meeting the designers who create the amazing products that we see at Denfair is always one of my favourite parts of the tradeshow. This year we have a few opportunities for Denfair visitor to meet the NAU collective at the NAU stand and find out about their newest designs.
You can meet and mingle with the NAU collective designers on their stand at Denfair Melbourne, Thursday 20 June from 3pm-5pm and again on Saturday from 10-2pm).