Susie Rumbold on the Future of Luxury


As President Elect of the BIID, interior designer Susie Rumbold is soon to be following in the footsteps of fellow renowned designers Daniel Hopwood and Diana Yakeley as the face and voice of the esteemed industry committee.

With the successful Tessuto Interiors practice and years of experience in the industry behind her, Susie is the perfect candidate for the much sought after role, and will be joining us as part of the BIID panel in this year’s Decorex Seminar theatre.

With this in mind, we thought it only apt to catch up with Susie to explore her views on design, interiors, and the future of the luxury industry. Having experienced the fashion industry and with a strong passion for fabrics, Susie has a wealth of opinion on this ever-increasingly debated topic.

Can you tell us a little about your role and your involvement with the luxury interior design market?

I am the Creative Director of Tessuto Interiors, a multi-disciplinary, boutique design practice based in central London. We create luxury interiors for private clients, and increasingly residential developers targeting luxury consumers who need that elusive designer cachet to differentiate their offering in the market. I am also the president elect of the BIID.

The BIID have a full agenda of industry initiatives, so my role as President Elect is really is to support the current President Daniel Hopwood, and the rest of the BIID council in any way I can. As we celebrate our 50th anniversary year the BIID is going from strength to strength and continuing to grow into its role as the preeminent voice for our industry.

Contemporary apartments, Chelsea, by Tessuto Interiors

How did you first get into the industry?

I got into the industry almost by accident. I had been working in fashion buying for years, had been made redundant and was casting around wondering what to do next when a friend suggested interior design. It was a way that I could continue to use my technical drawing and knowledge of fabrics so I just started. I was lucky enough to work for some great architects and clients in the early years and it just grew from there. I adore fabrics, and have a passion for anything that is cunningly made. I am constantly inspired and intruiged by the deceptive effortlessness of good design.

Listed Georgian townhouse, Marble Arch, by Tessuto Interiors

How would you define luxury?

Consumers of luxury are able to indulge their aesthetic preferences and satisfy their desire for great comfort. Luxury items use rare or scarce materials, and take time and skill to produce. Anything truly luxurious will combine all three of these attributes in varying degrees.

How is the interior design industry influencing the luxury market? What roles does it play?

I think the influence between the design industry and the market is two way and mutually reinforcing. In an era of growing global wealth inequality, it is now perceived as a little crass if not downright dangerous in some places to be seen to be too conspicuously consuming. Over time, this will tend to turn the consumption of luxury into a very private affair, as luxury consumers increasingly look for alternative ways to indulge themselves and subtly advertise their status.

The interior design industry is already rising to meet these new needs with a proliferation of bespoke artisanal products.   

Pied-a-Terre, Knightsbridge, by Tessuto Interiors

Sum up your vision of the future of luxury using only 5 words...

Personalised, private, rare, virtuosic, experiential.

How do you think perceptions of luxury will change in both the short and long term future?

In the short term there will be a move away from “the more you pay the more it’s worth” model of overtly branded goods towards skilfully handcrafted items that are available to only a fortunate few. The luxury brands that have dominated consumer spending over the last two decades, with their culture of built-in obsolescence, are declining in the face of a desire for unique and personalised goods with longevity and less environmental impact.   

In the long term, a global lack of natural resources (beautiful marble for example) will add extra cachet to luxury goods that use increasingly fine and rare materials.

Bayswater development by Tessuto Interiors

With this in mind, what do you think will have the biggest influence on the definition of luxury in the next 50 years?

We are seeing the beginnings of an increased mindfulness in the way people are consuming luxury goods, plus a move towards the consumption of luxury experiences. Over the next 50 years, the luxury ingredients of scarcity, skill and time will be increasingly applied to the creation of unique, bespoke events shared with friends and family to confer status and create unique luxury memories.

Skip ahead to the year 2115. Which materials, items and aspects of day to day life will be perceived as luxury?

A century from now, assuming the current rate of development, the world will be a very crowded and frantic place. Any aspect of day to day life that can be imbued with the space and time to enjoy it will be perceived as luxury.

Private Residence, Nottinghill, by Tessuto Interiors

Which products or designers have recently inspired you to think about the future of luxury?

Earlier this year I visited Morton Young and Borland in Scotland, the last surviving manufacturer of Nottingham lace in the world, and was told the most sobering story about their near demise. Global demand had fallen to an all time low and the last thing the company was worried about was the recruitment and of training new staff. It takes over 10 years to train a lace maker, and the average age of the staff had risen to 50, so the situation was urgent.

Thankfully in 2000 their visionary MD Scott Davidson realised that these skills were about to be lost to the world forever and implemented a package of measures to save the company with an emphasis on training for succession.

Today they are successfully exporting their luxury products all over the world and looking towards a bright future.

Contemporary apartments, Chelsea, by Tessuto Interiors

How can the design industry respond to issues around responsible luxury and is this something that will become increasingly important in the future?

To make luxury more responsible, designers must focus on the skill and the time elements involved in producing their products, and less on the consumption of rare materials. Skill and time are in a sense renewable, physical natural resources are not.

I think this will become increasingly important in the future. There is often a tension between consumer and designer, but luxury designers must use all their skill and imagination to steer the market in a sustainable direction.

Pied-a-terre, Knightsbridge, by Tessuto Interiors

How much do you feel that the luxury design industry is prepared for the challenges the future may present?

One of the main challenges facing the industry will be to produce the next generation of designers with  the skills and experience required to create tomorrow’s luxury goods. Some of these skills will be traditional ones, but exciting developments in digital design will see new technologies contributing to production in the luxury market as well.

A new breed of designer will also arise to provide those unique, bespoke, luxury experiences that will become an essential part of the luxury lifestyle of the future.

Listed Georgian townhouse, Marble Arch, by Tessuto Interiors

Is the meaning of luxury directly related to cost and why?

If luxury entails the consumption of rare materials, rare skills and human time, all of these precious ingredients come with a hefty pricetag, so yes, I believe true luxury will always be costly.

Lastly, can you tell us a little abot what we can expect from this year’s Decroex seminars?

The Decorex seminar line-up for this year is stronger that ever, and will be exploring some of the most challenging issues that the industry currently faces. People can expect thought provoking discussions on everything from digital artisanship and the future of craft to bespoke british luxury brands and staying relevant in a global marketplace. It will be compelling and informative.   

Susie will be joining Staffan Tollgard, Dan Hopwood, and Nia Morris for a panel on the pains and pleasures of interior design in the Decorex Seminar Programme.

Join us at Decorex to hear more from Susie at the show!