Forward-thinking ideas, materiality and carefully crafted objects characterise the creations of 20 Eight, a design duo working across the fields of product, industrial, fashion and jewellery design.
With an ambitious focus on designing products to raise funds for struggling design students, 20 Eight aims to realise the dreams of others, as well as their own.
We chatted to Handre de la Rey and Inge de Beer, founding partners of 20 Eight, about their creative initiative and inspirations.
What is the story behind 20 Eight?
We have always been interested in the way things are made, the art behind the object. Coming from architectural backgrounds we have always looked at materials and objects used in the construction industry and wondered how to manipulate the material properties to push materials to new limits.
In 2011 De la Rey was accepted into the Architectural Association in London and as the classes were only to start in September 2012 the opportunity to start 20 Eight sprouted. The company was initially established to raise the necessary funds for the tuition fees, but the target was not reached and there was no help for design students to promote themselves. Hence, we decided to push our designs and promote the passion often driving young designers.
We intend the company to become a platform for young South African designers to develop their ideas and promote their talents, as well as to establish the 20 Eight Young Designer Bursary to help struggling design students with big dreams.
20 Eight is a very interesting name, tell us more about it?
20 Eight was founded by architects Handre de la Rey and Inge de Beer, who are the principal designers, executors and developers of the products created by the Pretoria-based studio.
The name 20 Eight comes from the collective birth dates of the partners, but more so from the exploration of our first material, concrete. It takes 28 days for concrete to cure and reach its full strength. We like to believe we continuously develop products to the best of our ability by giving 110%, ensuring all designs attain their full strength in durability, functionality, aesthetics, material usage and overall appeal.
What is it that 20 Eight is setting out to do; what's the drive behind your designs?
Materiality and texture is critical in our designs as we are driven by the visual and tactile experience. Our drive behind pushing the boundaries of the materials’ properties aims to discover new uses and combinations resulting in the culmination of a passionately designed piece.
We further strive to create a platform for young South African designers to launch their ideas, while learning from one another and promoting our country. Our first goal is to establish 20 Eight as a design brand through designing and developing our own products, and gradually add other young designers to the portfolio. This will help them establish, stimulate and discover their own creative ideas.
Can you tell us more about your concrete collection?
The concrete collection is our first product design endeavour. We chose to work in this material as it is something that is commonly used, yet the possibilities of concrete have not been fully explored yet. We come from architectural backgrounds and find the honesty of the material to be very important. We strive to fully understand the materials that we work with in order to bring out its essence. Concrete just seemed like a natural base point to start our experimentation in material properties.
You've mentioned that your designs express a variety of ideas through objects; what are some of these ideas and how do the objects communicate these ideas?
One of the theoretical ideas we have developed, which played a significant role in the concrete range, is the relationship between objects. The bowls for instance were not just designed as individual pieces but rather as a collection. Each and every piece picks up on the edges and lines of the adjacent object. What you are left with is an arrangement that not only focusses on the objects on its own, but more about the relationship between the objects and the spaces they create.
What inspires/motivates your creative work?
Knowledge is the greatest driving force behind everything we do. We want to learn and through learning express what we have come to know through our designs. The process of creation is a lot more valuable than the objects we create. The act of establishing the idea and going through all the stages of product development is what we live for.
Our products are further inspired by technological advancements in architecture enforced by international design developments in our field. The ergonomics of the products also play a major role in design developments as each piece is a handmade and sculptured creation.
You seen to be fond of experimenting with different materials… can you tell us more about your material explorations?
For our first material we decided to use concrete, as it has always had a fascination in material’s properties. However, we intend to develop products in a variety of materials in order to increase our knowledge and understanding of materials and their aesthetic properties. We will only introduce new materials into our design process once we fully understand the material and it’s design possibilities.