American design brand Lerival breaks into London

Breaking into London

Friday, June 8th, 2012

By Gem Barton

The only American presence in the exhibitor stalls at Clerkenwell Design Week 2012 in May came from the “retro-futuristic” brand Lerival. Design Bureau spoke with Lerival's Dominique Gonfard about her three-year journey from her home in NYC to opening a new studio in Islington, London (via Issey Miyake’s office, of course.)

American design brand and manufacturer Lerival bridges the worlds of contemporary furniture and architecture, presenting products based on the exploration of innovative geometries. Lerival champions contemporary architecture's advanced graphic sensibility, inspired by versatile modularity, personality-driven forms and high performance. 

How long have you been trading?
Three years —we launched in May of 2009 at ICFF in NYC and immediately were 'picked up' by Issey Miyake's team in New York, recruited to partner with their retail headquarters (in Tribeca) for a year-long retail collaboration, during which we explored the crossover between architecture, furniture and fashion.  We hosted a series of talks/events and created site-specific installations in their store using our furniture—our first 'showroom.'  

What is your best selling product?
Hex Series—it is straightforward, punchy, fun and clever, and has appeal to a number of varying audiences: residential, contract, hospitality.  At its core is a simple modular form and graphic, two elements that are key in defining what our products are about. 

How would you describe your style?
Quite unique amidst the current offering of emerging brands, especially in Europe, where 'trend' is so central.  Our style is kind of 'retro futuristic', touching on a nearly intangible nostalgia we have found is rooted in the geometric explorations of architectural modernism. Exploration of materials, colors and production processes is important to us, and I think this comes across in the range we offer: from upholstery or sheet metal based, to cast metal or moulded ply or plastic, yet all pushing strong geometric/formal ideals.  

How long have you been in London?
One year. We are in the process of opening a 'working showroom,' a small base in Islington. 

Do the English have different taste to the Americans?
The English are very sophisticated when it comes to design and furniture manufacturing (high quality), and also very proud.  Their sophistication comes through in products that are undeniably sensible, but that don't take themselves too seriously.  And they are proud in the sense that they are inherently skeptical about a non-European (i.e. American) brand that appears out of nowhere—not sure how to categorize us yet!  Americans are very open and welcoming when it comes to new design and new product ideas (as they are generally reputed to be in any area), but this can sometimes translate to allowing for too much to be going on, which in the end threatens weakening their position.  This is inevitable—it is such a large country—but what comes through no matter what is a spirit, energy and excitement for design, and this is its saving grace.  And this is especially true at present I find—design is everywhere now in America and designers are producing more exciting work than ever. 

Were you the only American company present at Clerkenwell Design Week?
Yes. Sadly the US government doesn't support design exportation at all.

How did you enjoy exhibiting at Clerkenwell Design Week?
Great show, and we were well received and have high hopes for the UK overall.  I feel Lerival is in a good place as a new brand in the UK because we have both a strong graphic and aesthetic, high quality products for the contract market, and also a manufacturing base both in the UK and Europe, allowing for us (and our clients) to avoid the shipping costs and headache typically associated with importing from the US. 

Dominique represented the USA well, her stall looked sleek and inviting, where the products spoke for themselves. London will surely keep an eye on Lerival.


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