Milan 2014: new design brand TOG's furniture can be customised using an app and makes choice "the only trend that is acceptable", according to Philippe Starck who has created a range of products for the company (+ slideshow).
French designer Starck told Dezeen that he wants to do away with trends in favour of allowing consumers to create bespoke pieces, but still at an affordable price.
"The only way to see life is no more trends," Starck said at the TOG launch in Milan last night. "The only trend that is acceptable is freedom, freedom to be different, freedom to choose what you want."
"Everyone wants and needs mass production, because only mass production can raise the quality, raise the engineering and lower the price," said Starck. "But the problem with mass production is that there are millions of pieces. People said 'I am happy', but millions of people have the same."
His solution is to design and produce furniture that uses low-cost mass production but gives consumers the option to chose various elements, finishes and even produce add-ons for the furniture themselves.
"We have 15-20 custom options, in six months it will be 500, and 5000 next year," explained Starck. "Mrs Jones in Australia can say 'I want this chair' but Mr Budu in Africa covers it in pearls. They make a deal, how much is it, $50? When they agree, we send the piece of furniture to Mr Budu who does his work and sends it back. It's win win win. We make the best furniture, I hope. Mrs Jones has what she wants, she creates her own thing. And Mr Budu uses his creativity and makes a business, we don't take any profit from that."
"Like that you have the best of two worlds," said Starck, who explained that there are four ways to order pieces from the collection – choosing from a panel of pre-made pieces, buying a "naked" product to customise at home, ordering direct from the factory or accessing a network of creatives for bespoke commissions via the TOG app.
"You have some sort of panel here to do it. Or you buy the product naked, in the flagship [store]. TOG will have the first one in São Paulo in four months. Or you can order it on the internet from the factory and say 'I want this colour, and this colour, and this shape.' We can also print images on so you can customise. You can also go to the flagship and do the same."
Along with Starck, the brand has enlisted established designers including Sebastian Bergne, who has created a range of outdoor furniture, and Industrial Facility founders Sam Hecht and Kim Colin to design the first pieces in the range.
"TOG is the first company that has solved the paradox between the brain, the computer, the theory, the engineering, the high technology, the mass market, the mass production and the hand, the talent, the craftsmanship, the small artists, and you can make both," said Starck.
Starck became involved with the TOG project through his friendship with the owners of Brazilian footwear company Grendene, who are behind the new brand.
"We are partners because the owners are huge industrial company in Brazil and I've helped them make shoes," said the French designer. "There is no art director here, everything is about the freedom. That is why today we have started with some designers, because you have to start. After, people will arrive and chose the designer. It's really a company of freedom."
"My next collection for them will be even more designed for customisation," he added.
TOG's range is on show at Torre B, Piazza Gae Aulenti, in Milan until 13 April.
Here some information from TOG about the collection:
In occasion of Milan Design Week, on the 7th of April, a new design player comes to life. TOG is an innovative furniture brand and a creative community, combining the best of industry with its highest technology and the best of humanity with craftsmanship.
For TOG - ALLCREATORSTOGETHER - anyone can be creative: blending a bold and innovative approach to design and its imaginative process. TOG is an open source platform, a collaborative yet individualistic, irreverent and yet respective project able to adapt itself at everyone's likings. TOG offers an already high quality product - design wise and production wise - together with a wide array of customisation options should the client wishes to make the item unique. TOG is creating a virtuous unique system where creators, clients, artists, artisans and industrials share the same values and the same goals, in the direction of an exceptional design made of dream and reality.
TOG is an oblique network where customers are asked to be involved if they wish, to take the leadership and become part of the practical, cheerful process of making and sharing new ideas for new customised objects. It is a collective escalation: TOG creative-team designs the piece of furniture; the company produces it. At this stage the client has the freedom to enjoy the distinguished design piece naked - as proposed by the company - or has a large range of choices, in house, in store or online to create their own personal mix of forms and colours through a large and various platform of possibilities. TOG enables its clientele to create a one off object according to their desires through photos printed on or through interventions of a wide range of selected artists and artisans.
TOG pulls together the best of humanity with craftsmanship, along with the best industry development with its highest technology: TOG tries to solve a strong paradox that is to offer all the advantages of democratised production - that grants high quality and service - with the best of human craftsmanship that grants the uniqueness. TOG guarantees the quality of its products in terms of design and manufacturing also creating a support for other people's creations. It means giving profit to the customisers without TOG taking any profit. TOG is social conscious: for example various communities and local Yawanawa and Varzea Queimada Brazilian tribes, are involved in the creative customising process - for example developing decorated slip covers in straw or pearl chains for a chair by translating their traditional patterns and techniques in contemporary design elements.
At TOG, there is no style but freedom, therefore customisers are from all areas, ethnics and diverse backgrounds. TOG suits everyone's taste.
TOG is not just a brand on the market: TOG sets up a global system, a web community of customers, enthusiasts and professionals sharing ideas via a user-friendly brand new app. TOG, that will allow cheerful exchanges with various medias including video, and that soon will also lead to a community award. TOG is communicative and interactive, is industrial yet crafty, traditional and ground-breaking, and its visual campaigns are fresh and surprising. TOG is a new approach to the design industry at large.
TOG maximises logistics and transports with less volume, but also reconciles the advantages of mass production with individual and distinct acknowledgement, it's eco-responsible.
At the Torre B in Milan, TOG will introduce 21 families of products. The first collection includes a creative rooster of high quality designers, such as Sebastian Bergne, Jonathan Bui Quang Da, Sam Hech + Kim Colin, Ambroise Maggiar, Nicola Rapetti, Dai Sugasawa and Philippe Starck.
The main shareholder of TOG is the brazilian industrial group Grendene, already the world's largest footwear producer using mostly plastic as its field of expertise. With the launch of TOG, Alexandre Grendene, a visionary in the sector, enlarges the circle of activities of the GROUP. It was logical for TOG to develop its entire production in Italy: the worldwide centre of design with the best engineers and best manufacturers. The Grendene brothers Alexandre & Pedro are very proud to invest in Italy, their home country of 3 generations ago. Their grandfather had left Padova, Veneto, in order to set up vineyards in Brazil. Coming back to invest in Italy is also a natural personal and cultural choice for them.
TOG's high ambition is to bring back together dream and reality, volume and uniqueness, theory and practice through high quality designed furniture that can be customised by everybody.
TOG believes that anybody can be creative. Its goal is to create a virtuous collaborative system where designers, clients, artisans and industrials share the same values and goal.