Behind The Brand / R+D.LAB
BEHIND THE BRAND / R+D.LAB
R+D.Lab - or to give the design studio its full title - Research and Design Laboratorio – was founded in Milan in 2006 by Jay Vosoghi and Sara Mostofi with a desire to create beautiful utility, bringing functionality and purpose, alongside colour and emotion, to everyday product. A passionate focus on detail is combined with a deep understanding of how colour resonates to enrich daily rituals.
Living and working in Milan, the cultural context is never far away, with an appreciation of the work, and strategic approach, of architect and designer Gianfranco Frattini who remained consistently relevant while avoiding falling into the ‘trendy trap’. Collectors of Italian rationalist and industrial designs they have gathered many pieces in their home, from glassware, furniture and art, to create a space that reflects their personalities and interests – as J says – “you are what you surround yourself with”.
“Understanding the threads that connect modern architecture, art, design and fashion inform our process, and in turn, our products.” This is a wonderful position to take – to be informed across the creative spectrum and to then distil it into your own vision and products. What were your respective careers prior to this and how did R+D. LAB come together?
JV- I studied architecture but after college found work in fashion, and after many years this led to the creation of our studio with an initial focus on fashion. Eventually as we saw the worlds of fashion and design crossing it was natural for us to also change our focus and direction. Now our studio is working 100% in the world of design incorporating all the learned experience from fashion into our work. The seed of the collection was always the need to create products that we loved and reflected our taste and needs. I think this has always been at the core of our work driving our decisions.
SM- I studied accounting and worked for the most part of life in finance, when we started the studio together it was natural that I would be looking after the business side although from time-to-time I find myself also involved in some creative things. Strategy is always something that we do together whether it is creative or business.
Sara wears the Lambert Kaftan Dress.
There is something intrinsically pleasing in beautiful utility; that your pieces are used for drinking, sharing food – elemental human activities. Is this important in your own lives?
One of the core elements of our design philosophy has been one of empathy for the human experience; a good product is designed to be a tool for bettering life experience.
The connection to the artisan – to slow production and embracing imperfection – is at the core of your process. Do you think that aspect comes through when a customer engages with your products?
I think so, in fact I feel that our customer seeks out this sort of product and places a greater value on it. Today in the world of fast fashion, food and now even design there is a great division between values. The customer often makes a decision based on the importance of shared values with a brand.
There is a sense that you develop product in an unhurried way and yet the pieces feel incredibly en pointe in terms of fashion – the muted tones in ochres, plums and greys. What influences these colour choices that are so key to the brand?
Rightly said; colour choices are very important to us as we come from a fashion background, and colour is part of our DNA. Colour always evokes an emotional response and no-one is really indifferent to it. They either love or hate it, but for sure they react and for this reason colour is a key element for connecting design with the end user. I feel in this moment we need to express our emotions and what better way with a palette of decisive colours.
It is lovely to see the pieces used on your dining table – they look even better with food in them - so do you consider the broader environment of how they feel and look in a home?
Good design is design that makes products useful, as Dieter Rams said. Product is made to be used and should have a purpose - and for us this has been a key element of our projects. We always think about the end when we start to design something. How will it work? What will it do? Is it fulfilling its purpose?
Your own home has some great classic design pieces in both furniture and lighting. What matters to you most when you add a piece to your collection? And do you have a favourite piece?
We are both big fans of beautifully designed things and as they say you are what you surround yourself with. I think we are so much influenced by our surrounding of living and working in Milan and this has been a big part of the influence in our work. We both love the rationalist and industrial design of Italy and we collect many things that are a part of our everyday life from glassware, furniture and art. At the moment we have been very much influenced by the work Gianfranco Frattini - an architect and designer who started his work with the great Gio Ponti back in the 50s but continued to work through the end of his life in 1980s. What I find so interesting is how he evolved his design every decade to reflect the new styles of living yet managed to keep his own style without falling into the trap of being trendy. It is important as designer to stay current and relevant yet not to follow passing trends.
The textiles are incredible colour combinations. When do you know it has worked and is failure a part of the process you embrace?
Coming from fashion, textile is the foundation of the work for us and when we design them, normally they work. Although we have had some misses, that you have to embrace, we know we have given an idea a chance and if it doesn’t work then we have to move on.
When it comes to your own clothing choices what matters most – fabric, cut, comfort, timelessness?
SM- All of the above, I tend to be more classic in my selection and I think the key is to know what works for your body and your life style. That is why I love the Lee Mathews collection as it ticks all of the boxes for me, she’s amazing to find the balance and the collection really works for me. I think that is why we work so well together as we have so many shared values, I feel that I am a true LM women and she is designing for me!
With clothes, does your love of, and skill with, colour translate to your wardrobe?
SM- for sure since I have been exposed to the creative process it has really change the game for me and I am so in tuned with perspective of what works. Maybe in past I did more unknowing but now I know why I love what I love.
There is a great deal of value placed on quality detail – how a glaze catches the light, how a glass or carafe feels in the hand – do these experiential aspects inform how you design?
For sure the quality is a driving factor for us in everything that we do, details are the elements that reflect this in the product. We work so hard in designing every bit of every item and nothing is left untouched or unseen. It is amazing to think how much thought we pour into the simplest detail and this aspect is not lost on our customers. It would be much easier for us to overlook these details but I think it is what separates the great from the near great. I know that the LM collection is very much driven by this philosophy.
You have collaborated with Monocle on some product – what is the best aspect of a successful collaboration?
For us the success of a collaboration has a starting point of shared values both in aesthetics, as well as in ethos. All of our collaboration, including with Lee Mathews, has happened organically and naturally and is never forced.
If you had to describe what matters to you most in five words what would they be?
Quality, respect, honesty, purpose and empathy. 5 words to live by!