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Three questions for the ever-mindful 19 Greek Street


Trends in Conscious Consuming

By Anna Carnick

While there are, thankfully, several exciting design studios and galleries hard at work today, London’s 19 Greek Street stands out for its uncompromising, ethically driven approach. Sustainability, soulfulness, and great design are the gallery team’s core values, and their always delightful collection—a special blend of beautiful vintage and joyful, often cutting-edge contemporary pieces—keeps them at the top of the design world’s “don’t-miss” lists.

We recently visited with Rachael Moloney, 19 Greek Street's associate director, to catch up. Read on for highlights from our conversation:

Anna Carnick: One of the things we especially love about 19 Greek Street is the gallery's ability to beautifully blend the worlds of vintage and contemporary design. From where we sit, it feels like this is the direction the larger global design conversation is heading; these arenas are coming together more and more, which is very exciting. But there's also been a divide for a while. Many people, particularly those new to design, are somewhat intimidated by contemporary design. In your opinion, how do you get people who like vintage design to embrace contemporary pieces? What are the obstacles to doing so, and are there certain elements the two kinds of design share?

Rachael Moloney: I think consumers’ and collectors’ perception of vintage objects taps into a nostalgia that can be seductive for all of us. Older designs that have been validated by critics and the market as “important” historically (in the case of much modernist design, for example) will always perhaps trump those created more recently in people’s imaginations. Much experimental contemporary design is largely untested still, in a “mass opinion” sense.

The key to encouraging people to look at a variety of design eras is, for me, a matter of encouraging more conscious consumption, generally. As a consumer (with choice), how much do you want to align your personal taste with pressing issues of sustainability and ethical production? Choosing vintage design is arguably the most sustainable choice of all (as you’re not supporting the production of more “stuff”), but in purchasing cutting-edge contemporary work, you may be supporting a pioneering new technology or innovation, such as bio-mimicry, which is aiming at very sustainable design goals for the future.

Let’s take a more values-driven approach to selecting the objects we surround ourselves with. In terms of elements that vintage and contemporary design share, I think this is more difficult to pin down—given the aesthetics of much contemporary design and its conceptual nature, often based on process rather than more traditional forms. When it comes to choosing objects for our personal environments, modernist ideas about “form following function” and what constitutes “good design” are perhaps more deeply engrained in all of us than we know. And objects that fall into the niche “is it art/is it design?” have perhaps been too dominant in the representation of what contemporary design is, which puts off some design consumers. But when styling our personal interior environments, mixing the functional and the decorative, the poetic and the practical has always been done.

AC: From a big picture, strategic approach, how do you convince people that ethical design—and in particular contemporary, ethical design—is collectable?  

RM: Breaking away from defined trends of collecting or buying can be a challenge for all of us. But if, as consumers, we are all encouraged to think in terms of sustainability with the everyday objects we choose to buy, as well as more conceptually-led pieces deemed “collectables,” it’s entirely possible—and sparks a trend of thinking. Presenting more holistic visions of an “ethical lifestyle environment” (which was also the idea behind 19 Greek Street’s 2015 Art of Progress exhibition) encourages this wider perspective I think.

For our most recent show, we took design objects from our collection in isolation, but integrated them with artworks to get [across a] point about taking time to reflect on our environment and our relationship with it. The message remained the same: let’s take a more values-driven approach to selecting the objects we surround ourselves with.

AC: From your perspective, who are three of the most exciting, ethically driven, contemporary design studios working today—and why?

RM: Personally I’m very interested in the concepts that Noam Dover and Michal Cedarbaum explore in their work—different maker cultures and processes, challenging deep-rooted systems and boundaries—and believe they translate them into especially beautiful and aesthetically interesting work. Regarding its form, I think their Hacking the Mould Vase (also shown as part of our recent Collector's Club show) conveys a key message about subversion versus convention, constriction versus freedom, and natural flow. Focusing on their location and heritage [the designers are from Tel Aviv and recently relocated to Stockholm], they also tackle pressing issues concerning regional politics in their work, which personally I find admirable.

Hacking the Mould Vases by Noam Dover & Michal Cederbaum Image courtesy Noam Dover & Michal Cederbaum

Then there are Jacob Douenias and Ethan Frier. These two designers showed a project called Living Things at the Mattress Factory in Pittsburgh in 2015, exploring the use of renewable resources (algae, in this case) in design. As an emerging technology, bioengineering and biophotovoltaics [or BPV, essentially “sun + plants + energy”] is incredibly exciting.  [In this same vein], a few years earlier, there was the Moss Table, developed by researchers at the Universities of Cambridge and Bath in the UK. I believe it’s still at the concept stage.

Finally: Encouraging young people, and girls especially, to participate in project-based design initiatives and community-building, Emma Pilloton’s Project H is a very inspiring, as an initiative focused on the next generations, the future of design education and how we build communities, quite literally.

 

Thanks so much, Rachael! To learn more about 19 Greek Street and its gorgeous and ethically mindful collection, click here.

  • Interview by

    • Anna Carnick

      Anna Carnick

      Anna is Pamono’s Managing Editor. Her writing has appeared in several arts and culture publications, and she's edited over 20 books. Anna loves celebrating great artists, and seriously enjoys a good picnic.
  • Photos by

    • Marco Lehmbeck

      Marco Lehmbeck

      Born and raised between forests and lakes near Berlin, Marco studied creative writing in Hildesheim and photography in Berlin. He’s also part of the organizational team behind Immergut indie music festival. He loves backpacking, Club-Mate, and avocados, and he always wears a hat.

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