This week for our #fabfivequestionsfriday we chat to British Designer Alex Swain - Founder and Designer of furniture and interiors brand ByAlex. Based on the North Downs in Surrey, Alex designs and creates pure and minimal products for the home and workplace. Alex combines form and function with clean aesthetics, to create designs made to last and that are available at affordable prices. We regularly use Alex's furniture in our Florrie + Bill photoshoots and in our own home.
HOW DO YOU MOTIVATE YOURSELF TO KEEP YOUR BUSINESS RUNNING SMOOTHLY?
My general motivation levels fluctuate. Running your own business and building a brand is hard work and emotional at times, ha! I stay focused by believing the designs I make have a strong reason for being - my furniture is well made and sold at affordable prices compared to the bigger brands (many manufacture in China). Self believe doesn’t come easy though, and doubting yourself has a positive affect, as it pushes you harder! I find regular exercise is the best way to switch off from work and brings a fresh, energised perspective to life and this iron’s out the awkward periods. And the longer you stay in business, the more you understand about what it needs now and in the future… the best advice I’ve ever had, is ‘just keep going Alex’.
WHAT WOULD YOUR IDEAL WORKING ENVIRONMENT OR STUDIO SPACE LOOK LIKE?
I adore natural light and find my mood and productivity levels are affected by the environment I work in. My current studio is on the North Downs in Surrey and resembles a barn, with windows on two aspects. There is a large open space for desks in the middle and we can comfortably seat four, all working on our large Kingshaw Tables that we made in Scotland… perks of the job! I’ve always been interested in books and reference material, since running a brand consultancy in Clerkenwell for years. Surrounding your workplace with interesting visual stuff is important to me and I have eclectic objects like records, metal letters and artwork on a high shelf. I do dream of building my own studio in the garden though which would be an A frame chalet style space… it’s all about the A!
WHO ARE YOUR FAVOURITE BLOGGERS AND WHY DO YOU FOLLOW THEM?
I’m quite new to the blogging world and there are so many out there but I have some favourites who consistently inspire me: Helen Powell, Hannah Tricket, Gabriella Palumbo, Tiffany Grant-Riley and Mike Ahern… they all share my passion for a more restrained approach to design, softer colours, a touch of old style glamour and more expressive products - designs with a strong character. I’m not looking for the ‘new’ every time, just the better.
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR PROUDEST ACHIEVEMENT AND WHAT DID IT MEAN TO YOU?
Talking directly with customers is a great way to learn what they like in design. When we worked with John Lewis it was very hard to connect with the end customers, so I spent a few Saturday afternoons in the Oxford Street store meeting customers and talking to them. It was very rewarding and many of them were young families who were looking for something a bit different, furniture to invest in for their children to grow up with. I was proud to have furniture included in the John Lewis collection but knowing your designs end up in homes across the country means much more to me. The best accolade I’ve ever had was by the Guardian newspaper who called the A Stool a ‘Contemporary Classic’, that felt great as there are so many stools on the market.
DID YOU EVER HAVE A NICKNAME AT SCHOOL AND DO PEOPLE STILL USE IT?
I had a few nicknames at school but they are too rude to repeat! I met my wife in 2009, Alexandra, so there have been many laughs about Alex & Alex Swain and this has lead to new nick names like 'Double A' and ‘AA’… so I really am brand A in all senses just don’t call me Al, sorry Paul Simon it just doesn’t feel right to me.