The Most Intriguing New Design Firms Are Keeping It in the Family

The most in demand design firms are all family run

12/4/2021 10:00:00 PM

The most in demand design firms are all family run

Brands like Konekt, Bettunika, Sirius Glassworks, Apparatu, and Rubble are proving that multigenerational collaboration makes for exciting results.

Photographed by Lelanie Foster.Hair by Song Isabel Hee for Oribe; makeup by Tracey Alfajora for Chanel at Bri Winters Inc. Retouching: Allison Richman at Chroma New York.KonektA longtime vintage design enthusiast, Helena Sultan was helping a neighbor in Philadelphia decorate her home when she realized she wanted to create pieces of her own. That prompted her to establish the furniture and lighting studio

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Konekt, in 2015. Soon after, she found herself turning constantly to her daughter Natasha—who was working in New York City for a jewelry brand at the time—for feedback and advice. “She was my right hand,” recalls Helena. Eventually, the pair decided to make their working relationship official, and, joined by Helena’s husband, Eric, they recast themselves as a family business in 2017, launching a series of velvet and horsehair-fringed stools that became an overnight success in the furniture world.

While Eric handles the business side, Helena and Natasha work as codesigners and co–creative directors in a collaboration that’s uncannily seamless, owing in part to their shared aesthetic inspiration: Helena’s mother is an artist whose oil paintings and stone sculptures utilize the kind of imperfect organic forms and rich textures that also define Konekt’s goatskin parchment, wood, and brass sideboards; asymmetrical bronze mirrors; and handblown glass pendant lights. Helena and Natasha describe their relationship almost as a creative mind meld. “When we’re out together, one of us will point out an interesting shape or object, and the other will almost always say she was eyeing the same thing,” Natasha says. “We add the missing pieces to each other’s ideas.” headtopics.com

Rubble’s Gillian Redman-Lloyd, Max Voss-Lloyd, and Jerrie-Joy Redman-Lloyd in Bondi Beach, Australia, wearing their own clothing and accessories.Photographed by Bob Broadfoot.RubbleDuring the lockdown of 2020, most designers turned inward; separated from their teams and workshops, they focused on whatever they could create at home. The Lloyd family, however, did the opposite: Quarantined over 800 miles apart—Jerrie-Joy Redman-Lloyd in Sydney, and her parents, Gillian Redman-Lloyd and Max Voss-Lloyd, in Adelaide, Australia—they began making lamps together as a way to stay connected. “We’d speak every day and send sketches back and forth,” says Jerrie-Joy. Eventually, the trio became “so addicted to the process that it just snowballed,” she says, morphing from a pandemic pastime into the up-and-coming brand

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Rubble. The company’s polished, aerated concrete lamps are codesigned by Jerrie-Joy and Max, who then hand-carves them. Everything is overseen by project manager Gillian.The lamps have a distinctive Stone Age vibe that reflects the project’s playful initial proposition—designing objects for Barney Rubble’s house—as well as the family’s quirky sense of humor. “I like to think of them as souvenirs brought home from a grand tour of Europe in the 1800s, works found in the ruins of an archaeological dig,” says Max, a former TV producer. For Jerrie-Joy, who is also a food stylist, the line’s reference points are more personal, ranging from the family’s shared love of Danish design, to the rock formations visited on family vacations to Joshua Tree, to the public Hanukkah celebrations in their hometown of Bondi Beach, which recently inspired them to create a limited-edition menorah in the same Flintstones vernacular. Sconces and furniture are also in the works.

Joan Mañosa, Aurora Ciria, and Xavier Mañosa of Apparatu, in their studio in Barcelona, wearing their own clothing and accessories.Photographed by Nacho Alegre.Grooming by Paca Navarro for Le Pure at Kasteel Artist Management; photo assistant: Mora Dorrego.

ApparatuXavier Mañosa grew up in his parents’ ceramics factory in Spain, spending weekends and summers loading kilns and helping to decorate the traditional, ornate vases they sold in housewares shops around the country. When he went off to study industrial design, and eventually moved to Berlin, he thought he’d left the family enterprise behind—until his mother called him with an ultimatum: Come home and run the company with us, or we’ll have to shut it down for good. Mañosa agreed to return, but only on the condition that the factory become his “dictatorship,” he jokes. His parents gave him creative control, and the business became headtopics.com

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Apparatu, a design-driven partnership where “we stopped looking at objects and started focusing on materials and process,” Mañosa says.Together, he and his parents shifted away from classical pottery, and began creating everything from ceramic lamps for the Spanish brand Marset, to experimental installations, to abstract sculptures exhibited in art galleries, to a new series of home goods launching this winter with the Finnish design house Artek. Mañosa’s mother, Aurora Ciria, is the pragmatic numbers person, while his father, Joan, now primarily oversees production. But Joan is also a creative engine, fueling his son’s ideas and experimenting at the wheel with new techniques that Mañosa can then incorporate into projects. “His curiosity drives all of us,” Mañosa says.

Peter Gudrunas and Iris Fraser-Gudrunas in the Sirius Glassworks glassblowing studio in Ontario, Canada, wearing their own clothing and accessories.Photographed by Luis Mora.Grooming by Claudine Baltazar for MAC Cosmetics at Plutino Group.Sirius Glassworks

Sirius Glassworks, in 1976, building his reputation until his work was selling in nearly 100 galleries across North America. But the financial crisis of 2008—combined with an aging fan base—wiped out his market, and “the future of Sirius looked pretty grim,” recalls his daughter Iris. While he was of retirement age at the time, she wanted to help maintain not only her father’s oeuvre but also the massive facilities he’d built, which were an important resource for a new generation of glassblowers. The two partnered in 2013, and, eight years later, with handblown glass suddenly in vogue, demand for their creations is skyrocketing. “I’m really surprised,” Peter says. “There’s this appreciation now for the artisan as an individual, of which I wasn’t aware.”

Read more: W magazine »

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