INTERVIEWED BY Michaela Stehr PHOTOS Supplied, Micky Hoyle
With Business of Design happening in Cape Town this week and in Johannesburg next week, we decided to chat to renowned furniture and interior designer Haldane Martin about where he thinks design is heading, both locally and internationally.
How do you balance your personal creative needs with the demands of the public?
After years of finding my own creative voice and expressing our new South African identity through furniture designs, I am actually enjoying putting my clients needs first and expressing their unique identities through iconic interior spaces. I am lucky to attract amazing clients who have strong brands and great products. Last year I “pivoted” my business away from being a furniture designer maker, to being a design studio that designs furniture for established manufacturers and also undertakes commercial interior design projects. This has been a more profitable expression of my passion and skill in 3D design. I am also finding that the furniture designs that emerge out of interior projects are far more commercially successful, as they have evolved out of real life contexts. The joy of designing self-indulgent pieces that don’t make it in the world turns to depression after a while. Perhaps I have grown too old to play the role of the starving artist anymore.
What projects or ideas are you currently working on?
We are busy with world renowned brand Environ’s headquarters. We designed and furnished the reception with some incredible bespoke items last year and have just installed their offices with the new Soft office desking system that we designed for Environ that Ergoform will continue to manufacture and sell under licence. We also designed a new Pebble Sofa for Environ that our sales and manufacturing partner Leon at 219 will continue to produce under licence. We are busy designing the boardroom and training facility at the moment.
What do you think we need in SA to grow more design and art brands into international success stories?
An uninterrupted supply of electricity and a better government would be a good start! I also believe that the soundest strategy is for us to focus and continuously adapt to our local market. We must strive to find ways to do what we love, do what we are good at, do what there is demand for and do what makes profit in the here and now.
Where do you see design going locally and internationally?
The general macro trend of pluralism (multiple design philosophies, styles and trends running concurrently) as well as the ever shortening of trend and product life cycles continues to dominate contemporary culture. The neo Memphis revival seemed to be in full swing at this year’s Milan Furniture Fair, but it’s a much more tasteful expression of Memphis than the one we all studied in design history at design school. The materials, textures and patterns are more honest and refined.
Locally, I think the design industry is growing up and maturing, as can be seen through the emergence and success of Business of Design. I think we are also getting over our naïve ideas of “exceptionalism” as a nation. Thanks Zuma! I also think that the mediocre results of the World Design Capital has also been sobering for us design professionals. Perhaps design can’t save the world, but it can create more employment – at least for a handful of designers and the artisans who produce their work.
Are there any specific local creatives whose work has grabbed your attention recently?
I recently took myself on an artist’s date and visited all the contemporary art galleries in Cape Town. The artist whose work affected me the most was Mawanda Ka Zenzile’s Statecraft exhibition at the Stevenson. It captures the darkness that pervades our nation at this time. It’s time for designers to get real and make a difference to the economy of South Africa.
To view more of Haldane’s work, visit haldanemartin.co.za.
Cape Town tickets are sold out for Business Of Design, but you can still buy tickets for the Johannesburg instalment at businessofdesign.co.za. Tickets cost R3 950.