CRAIG BASSAM and SCOTT FELLOWS of BassamFellows talk about the inspiration behind their idiosyncratic blend of craftsmanship and luxury branding.
The combination of Australian architect, Craig Bassam and American creative director, Scott Fellows appears to be perfectly balanced. Their furniture brand, BassamFellows, which launched recently in Australia at Living Edge, is an idiosyncratic blend of craftsmanship and luxury branding that owes much to the diverse experiences of its partners.
“I think everything is born from your experiences,” says Fellows. “The luxury craft hand comes from the experience we’ve both had living and working in Europe, and then there’s the simplicity and honesty that comes from Craig’s Australian perspective.”
That perspective was shaped by the “white, pure, modern” buildings of Canberra in the 1970s, where Bassam grew up. He went on to study architecture at the University of Sydney and worked with architect, Bruce Eeles before taking off to Europe to get “the European experience”.
Fellows’ background, meanwhile, lies in the creative direction of luxury brands. In 2002, The Harvard MBA and New York native was brought in as the Creative Director of Bally to re-brand the 150-year-old company entirely – “in everything from product to advertising, communications and the three-dimensional elements,” Fellows says. He got Bassam on board to work on the store and headquarters design. The two enjoyed working together and when Fellows’ contract with Bally finished, they saw an opportunity to take their understanding of luxury brands into creating products for the home. “We didn’t want it to be fashion for the home, though,” says Fellows. “It’s more design-driven.”
The BassamFellows brand functions under the idea of ‘craftsman-modern’ and was borne of a desire for a return to traditional quality and craftsmanship.
“When we launched BassamFellows in 2003, our whole thing was oiled Teak and oxidised brass, but we were surrounded by bright plastics,” says Bassam. “We were this odd thing, this very natural thing. Craft wasn’t a word used much back then.” Fellows agrees. “Craft was like a dirty word.”
The BassamFellows range comprises elegant pieces with simple, clean lines and an honest use of materials. Timber grain, for example, is still visible through softly hued aniline dyes in some pieces, and solid pieces of Teak, Ash and Walnut are contrasted in other pieces. Every piece is designed by Bassam for residential projects, and arises from a particular need.
Recently, the pair applied their eye for beautifully crafted details and brand awareness to a different context at Herman Miller, where they act as consulting Creative Directors to its specialty brand, Geiger. It’s a different world to that of BassamFellows, but one they both find interesting.
“We can teach each other new things,” says Fellows. “We are learning a lot about industrial production at a large scale, and they are learning from us that hand or touch, the little details that make all the difference.”
The first piece to be released through Geiger is the ‘Tuxedo’ lounge range, which launched at NeoCon 2011. Like the BassamFellows collection, each piece bears the mark of the craftsman modern.
Ultimately, what unites the work of Bassam and Fellows, under BassamFellows or with Geiger, are everyday pieces imbued with good design and a classic timelessness. As Bassam says, “Good design should be all around us”.