TIMELESS DESIGNS MAY COST MORE, BUT THEY WILL SERVE YOU FOR LIFE
It pays to invest in timeless classics, argues Neale Whitaker.
Buy once and buy well” was an adage drummed into me many years ago when I worked in the fashion world. It was usually an excuse to splurge on a four-ply cashmere sweater or a wincingly expensive pair of loafers, but it’s advice that has served me well. As a sentiment, however, it seems curiously at odds with our consumer-crazy (“buy, buy, BUY”) times. But oddly enough, the more throwaway society becomes, the more we seem to value quality – and longevity.
I recently invested in an ingenious shelving system designed in 1960. The design has never changed and it looks as modern now as it did the year The Beatles performed their first concert. The designer of my Vitsoe shelves, Dieter Rams, believed “truly satisfied customers are those who buy less, of a better quality, and use it for longer”. For sure they weren’t cheap, but I’ve got my shelves for life. And they look fantastic.
We’re currently editing Vogue Living’s 50th birthday issue and one of our features celebrates design with staying power. Design that looks as good today as it did when it was young – something we all aspire to. Whether it’s Pierre Jeanneret’s rattan-backed chairs or Gubi’s sinuous Grasshopper lamp, current interiors still routinely reference the classics. Good design transcends fashion and, yes, it is worth the investment.
David Harrison, editor of Design Daily (designdaily.com.au), says: “A true classic has proportions and form that remain fresh for decades, even centuries. Sometimes it’s the pure perfection of a shape, while other times it’s the innovative use of materials – doing something no one else has ever done.”
The director of Sydney’s Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, Dolla Merrillees, says, “The most successful designs are the most simple,” adding that classics don’t always have to be historical. She nominates Australian designer Charles Wilson’s 1993 SW1 chair as a modern classic. “It has a geometry that’s absolutely timeless.”
And what’s on my classic playlist? I have an enduring love for the Togo chair (furniture’s Shar-pei), the Atollo lamp (the shape of the ’70s), bona fide Thonet chairs (replicas, be gone!) and Bubble lamps (think George Nelson, not Austin Powers). And, of course, my shelves.