EXPRESS FROM THE US Rachael Fry, creative director of Melbourne’s Criteria Collection, has infused the Australian design scene with an exuberant, artisanal New York attitude
Rachael Fry, creative director of Melbourne’s Criteria Collection, has infused the Australian design scene with an exuberant, artisanal New York attitude.
CUTTING- EDGE AMERICAN DESIGN. This is what New York creative director Rachael Fry decided Australia needed more of when she first opened the doors to Criteria Collection, her furniture and lighting showroom in the inner Melbourne suburb of Cremorne, in 2012. “It struck me that everyone was doing European pieces here, and no one was exploring any other designers,” says the retailer, who relocated to Melbourne six years ago. Today, Fry’s visionary warehouse space has become the go-to for all things unique and artisanal, with an expanding stable of brands that currently includes New York design duo Apparatus Studio; Brooklyn’s Fort Standard; and the bold, sculptural lighting of Manhattan-based Bec Brittain. “Essentially, people come here to be inspired,” says Fry, matter-of-factly. “It’s my job to entertain them and to introduce them to really interesting pieces.” In keeping with the gallery-like aesthetic of the store, Fry favours a curatorial approach, opting for biannual themed installations that quietly evolve every few months as she discovers new designs. She then makes her selection using a checklist founded on integrity, impressive materiality and original ideas. “Choosing a new design usually starts with the way it makes me feel,” says Fry. “The really exciting pieces make me feel a bit uneasy. They’re almost a little bit ugly or a bit strange.” This focus on the extraordinary mirrors the demands of Criteria Collection’s design-savvy clientele. It’s an approach the visionary creative director looks forward to introducing to Sydney, where she is planning to open a second store. “Australians are demanding more tactile and craft-driven pieces, perhaps with a bit of an edge,” says ››
‹‹ Fry. “They don’t want their home looking like an ad. They want it injected with their personality.” Criteria Collection’s latest installation pairs the playful and progressive style of New York’s Matter Made with the quirky sensibility and high-end craft of Italian luxury furniture maker Baxter. Fry grabbed inspiration from Matter Made’s 2017 Milan collection, which mined the concept of the oversize form. “I was really excited about how the brand plays with size and form in a completely different way, such as Faye Toogood’s Puffball lighting collection, which features a room divider that’s also a light,” says Fry. “It’s a complete anomaly. I love how she’s exploring things that are a bit uncanny, or anthropomorphic.” Fry also features pieces in the installation from Italy’s Pietro Russo, Portugal’s De La Espada, Melbourne’s Fred Ganim and Denmark’s Gubi. And as for Baxter? “Baxter works in this context, as their designs are about choosing comfort over a formal aesthetic,” says Fry. “People want that oversize feel, almost like an animal, to envelop them. I think all those things are really interesting. They’re thinking about furniture in a completely different way.”
Baxter Tactile armchair in Nabuck Saffron by Vincenzo de Cotiis; Summer Arms chair in Kashmir Terre; Rio Alta armchair in Nabuck Light Grey; Housse Giano sofa in Kashmir Emeraude, all by Paola Navone; Matter Made Discus pendants and Discus Vine chandelier, both by Jamie Gray.
from top: Criteria Collection’s Rachael Fry with (clockwise from left) Baxter Casablanca sofa; Matter Made Discus pendants; Arca chandelier; Slon coffee table; Discus Vine chandelier; Apparatus Studio Lantern 2 pendant; Pietro Russo’s Piuma dining table. Faye Toogood Puffball sconces and room divider for Matter Made.