Joanna Hauptman: The changing meaning of luxury

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As Managing Director of luxury furniture brand Hyde House, Joanna Hauptman is no stranger to the changing face of the luxury industry. After founding Hyde House nine years ago, Joanna has taken the brand from strength to strength, and is a well established member of the Decorex community. We caught up with Joanna ahead of this year's show to glean her views on the future of the industry, fashion influences on interiors and the importance of responsible luxury...

Firstly, can you tell us a little about the company?

Hyde House is a bespoke British  furniture manufacturer, supplying all designs of upholstery, joinery, and case goods to trade (designers, developers and architects) – we actually launched at Decorex over 9 years ago and we specialise in supplying in high end residential projects – and have recently evolved into a ‘one stop shop’ for all our clients’  bespoke furniture needs. We have also over the years introduced fret work as a design feature, a monogramming service and RESINATE ™

RESINATE ™ sounds interesting, can you tell us more?

RESINATE ™ is our patented furniture finishing system. RESINATE ™ allows our clients to choose a wallpaper of their choosing to be encased in our patented and trademarked resin and used as a finishing option to all case goods and fitted joinery. Its application can be used much like veneer is currently on tables, cabinetry, kitchens, wardrobes, in fact we rely on our talented design custom base to use RESINATE ™ to bring their bespoke designs to life, and bring in an incredibly distinctive flourish to otherwise generic finishes.

How is the luxury industry changing?

The market is definitely evolving. My background is in fashion, when I left that industry it was as luxury was starting to really come through in a sense of peoples’ spending power on fashion. At that time, people would think nothing of spending £1,200 on a hand bag, or £800 on a pair of shoes. The extraordinary thing is that you can walk into Selfridges or Harrods, and see that it’s not just the rarefied few who are purchasing at these levels, it has practically become the norm. It is interesting that people won’t spend comparable amounts of money on their home or furniture, which is not just one season wonder. There is a very skewed sense of value between fashion and interiors You can buy a beautiful console table and have it for 10 or 20 years, so I could never get my head round it. It has taken a while, but a more equal kind of spending ethos is now filtering through.

What do you think has influenced this shift?

In terms of trends in the media, lifestyle is a really hot word. Everyone has become more aware of their lifestyle, what they’re eating, what they’re wearing, where they are holidaying- everyone’s lifestyle is so front of mind, and so people are so much more educated and savvy about it. That has definitely affected the interiors world.

How has it affected interiors?

In the past, it was those that had money who would probably spend on their home, but now no matter where your financial position is in life, everyone is more aware of their environment. I also think that travel is a massive influence on the interiors industry. People are much more aware of hotels, and hotel groups, and the design of those hotels. A good example is a group like SoHo house. People are familiar with it, you may have had a drink there or gone for dinner, or just read about them in the press, you are seeing things all the time about it. The average Joe on the street is being inadvertently and subliminally educated about design by images in the media, buzz words on social media etc.

What does this say about the industry as a whole?

I think it’s really indicative of the fact that everyone is just far more savvy and knowledgeable about design. The emphasis on design in all these different areas that are represented to the public shows that the design of a space, be it retail, residential or hotel, is really key. For example, when a restaurant opens to the public and it is reviewed by the media, they now talk just as much about the decor as they do the food, so we have completely altered our approach. People appreciate and value design more than in the past, and so things are definitely changing.

What role does the digital world have to play in the changing interiors landscape?

One thing I have found extraordinary in terms of its digital influence is 1st Dibs. It’s basically an online auction house which sources and supplies the most extraordinary things across the whole world of luxury. It has had a massive influence at the top end, because there really are some very beautiful and unique pieces, be it jewellery, furniture, collectibles, or art, it’s just the most extraordinary website. I have a lot of clients sending me references of things they have found on there which they have been inspired by.

Is there now a higher demand for the unique or interesting?

From a design perspective people are looking for more and more unique pieces. The industry has become a bit formulaic, especially in terms of residential with the style in which show houses are being done. It has become a bit ubiquitous and a bit generic, although they are luxurious they have been done to death, so now the designer has to move to the next frontier and find something more interesting, more unique.

Has the definition of luxury design changed?

There are designers who were considered the epitome of luxury 10 or 15 years ago, who are now repackaging the same aesthetic, and it’s now the antitheses of luxury. We are now much more savvy than that. If people are going to pay the fees to have something designed for them, then they now want something more unique rather than a replica of the designer’s own style. The last thing you would want as a client is to know that the design concept has been rolled out time and time again. People are looking for a talking point, something unique. The other thing to bear in mind is the perception of what luxury actually is. When building a house now days, it is considered the norm to have a cinema room, a gym, a home office - these are the things which were a luxury before. It’s funny how things change in a sense that they have become just a given standard, rather than a luxury.

Is responsible luxury something which will be increasingly important in the future?

At one time, and still even to this day, a lot of manufactures were having their products made in the far east, India, china, or the Philippines, the environmental impact of that is high, have no doubt. We pride ourselves on being a British company with British made products, so we’re not having to ship things half way around the world. It’s a conversation which does crop up on several occasions with new clients, with them wanting to know that things are responsibly sourced in terms of materials etc. Responsibly sourced products will definitely have a relevance within the luxury market moving forward, because if you can afford to have something you don’t necessarily want to destroy the planet to have it. The term responsible luxury is becoming so important. The environment is very close to my heart, I feel we have woken up so late to a sense of responsibility, and it amazes me even now to see how little it is mentioned. It should be the first thing we’re talking about, because what can be more important than our environment?

What are your plans for this year’s Decorex?

We are doing our biggest stand to date at Decorex this year which is very exciting. We will be showcasing our more unique pieces. Decorex is such an incredible platform. Everyone knows it, everyone is familiar with it, and it is a trusted name. There is nothing else like it.

Join us at Decorex 2015 to see more from Hyde House on stand B36 at the show!