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TOM DIXON AT THE LONDON DESIGN FESTIVAL

At this year’s London Design Festival, Tom Dixon explores the world of British members’ clubs. Words by Alexander Larman

The British members’ club is a well-known bastion of style and sophistication, and so it comes as little surprise that its uniquely English mixture of innovation and heritage has inspired many artists and designers. Now, the legendary Tom Dixon will be showcasing a themed collection of products to tie in with this year’s London Design Festival, all of which are inspired by the clubs in which the well-heeled and glamorous work, rest and play.

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Tom Dixon has drawn on his club scene background for his new collection

As a veteran of London’s lively club scene for many years, Dixon knows what he’s talking about, having claimed in a recent interview that his new collection is his contemporary take on what’s sometimes regarded as old-school.
This clubland vision has its roots in ‘a misspent youth in the London warehouse club scene and a series of experimental private club interiors’, all of which have inspired him ‘to reinvigorate the fabled British members’ club into a futuristic social environment.’ This ‘misspent youth’ – which included stints owning nightclubs and playing bass in the band Funkapolitan in the 1980s – soon smoothly segued into a more steady career as head of design at Habitat, where he remained until 2008, but the desire to cause a stir remains.

When Dixon speaks about his early life and career in design and clubs, he describes it as an important time. As he says, ‘working in the early 1980s could have been a dispiriting experience if I had known any better, but I was blissfully unaware and tried a variety of means of getting my work to market, driven mainly by necessity or naïve optimism.

‘If I knew as much as I do now, I almost certainly would not have bothered. I explored a variety of affordable techniques for self-production and usually designed to fit a new machine tool I had bought, a new stock of cheap available raw material, or to fit with a local subcontractor’s skills.’

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Plum cocktail shaker

Now the founder of an eponymous brand that is sold in 65 countries worldwide, he claims that the constant factor in his work, not least his new PLANE chandelier that’s part of the collection, is geometry – as he says, ‘I have been minimal and geometric for many years now, starting with the jack lamp in 1997. Or maximal and geometric, as with my Pylon Chair in 1990. The flat and the round, the shiny and the matt, the reflective and the translucent are just part of the exploration of opposites that we started a couple of years ago.’

While he claims not to be a specialist, he says that lighting is a great favourite of his because ‘it is a field where there is constant technical innovation in new bulbs and light sources, and it seems to be a place where people feel happy to experiment and bring modernity into their homes.’

Even the most inventive designers are not without their limitations, so we have to ask, what would be a fantasy Dixon project? He replies, ‘my dream project would be a motorcycle, a bridge, an airship or an underwater City.’ Certainly, the sky’s the limit as far as this year’s LDF is concerned.

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The PLANE chandelier

Tom Dixon Presents The Club will launch at the Tom Dixon shop this September as part of the London Design Festival. Wharf Building, Portobello Dock, 344 Ladbroke Grove W10 5BU; tomdixon.net

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