On April 17-20, the Club of Industrial Designers is attending Salone del Mobile.Milano in Milan for the first time. They go with a specific purpose: to show that there is a market for industrial design in Russia. 30 local brands (including Krasnodar member of the club Sasha Kustrya, Chevron Floors) will present their items that are already on the market and “are a step from conceptual development and piece designs to small-scale production” at the stand. HomeGuide talked with Konstantin Lagutin (Archpole), Club ideologist and co-founder, about how Russian product design is treated domestically and abroad and why imitation of Europeans is the road to nowhere.

Let’s talk about Milan: how did this trip occur, and why did it occur only in the fourth year of the Club existence?

It should be understood that the Club of Industrial Designers was initially focused on creating a competitive environment for the development of a serial product design in Russia, and not in other countries. Therefore, when it appeared, we as organizers and personally as Archpole defended the position that the trip to Europe was pointless. And we thought so until recently. The Russian market is so wide and not developed that it is more important to take root here: to design for Perm, Krasnoyarsk and Vladivostok…

But six months ago, we realized that there was some skepticism about the domestic product. Russian people like to laugh at themselves. They like to compare a high-tech European product with a Russian one and say, “Guys, what are you talking about? Where are they and where are you? You are a million years behind.” We realized that right now it is important to show the Russian audience that this is not the time for self-mocking. This is not the time to say how far behind we are. We do not claim to have created some unique thing. The very concept of Russian industrial design is very young, provocative in some way and interesting by definition. You can treat primitivism differently: with skepticism or see it as a bright future. And yes, we are going to Milan to get some recognition of the banal things that we create.


Items by Archpole

Nevertheless, you are going to Milan to declare the Russian designer product as a serial product. Does this mean that you consider the European market as a potential platform for work?

No, we are not going to Milan to find a buyer. We clearly understand that we are not yet ready to work for Europe. Our recent experience has confirmed this: there was an order from London for RUB 500 thousand. We calculated the cost of delivery: RUB 700 thousand. No chance. Europe is a different format, a different scale.

House Bed by Doodywoody1 / 10

Now most of the Club members are going to Milan for inspiration. Not for the come-and-look inspiration, but for come-bring-their-work-compare-with-others-and-talk-on-an-equal one. For inspiration, which, I reckon, should show that there are no limits. To a greater extent, a European assessment is needed for self-belief in order to continue the work that they started.

Plus, we hope to show what we could only dream about four years ago. To present a product that not only lives in the minds of a narrow audience, but which has already found its consumer. Of course, we are not talking about the Russian design product as a mass product: it does not yet exist in every house, no.

Bed by Sasha Kustrya, Chevron Floors Chevron Future

But does it strive for this? Are you, as Archpole, ready to release a serial product? After all, we understand that this requires production.

The problem is not so much in production. It seems to me that the future of the industry belongs to small factories. It is possible to make 10 thousand products on one small facility up to 1,000 sq.m. If there are one hundred, two hundred, one thousand, and ten thousand such facilities, there will be another scale. But there is another problem: Russians do not believe in design. They believe that they can take someone else’s idea from Europe, refine it, simplify, reduce the cost and sell it to the Russian consumer. The industry must change. Design should become an integral part of any production, and then there will be a revolution.


Light by WoodLed

How do Europeans feel about a Russian design product? As an Archpole, you have repeatedly participated in major international exhibitions, in particular, Maison&Objet. Surely you have an idea of how they think about us.

We observed at exhibitions six-seven years ago that Russian product design is something far away and unknown for Europeans. Russia has long been associated with a country having no serial product design at all.

But there is another side. There is something that distinguishes us: Russian product design is gaining momentum not under the classical scheme. It develops not because there is a need for it, but because this is what people themselves want, i.e. manufacturers who are looking for an application, a profession for life. They move outside the box, outside the industry. They create an image of design outside the logical chain. A Russian designer is a person inventing, producing, selling, carrying out logistics and doing all this in a creative outburst. Our design is design without experience – experience that enslaves. And this primitivism is our great advantage.

анна харченко кпд

Pot Holder by Anna Kharchenko

I am absolutely sure that the path of Russian design cannot be as consistent as theirs. We lag behind in technology, knowledge, in many things. If we try to imitate, we will always be in the background. But if we are outside the law, if we gun for our ideas, we can create something new.


Bar Stools by Ply

I remember how an elderly couple paid attention to us at an international exhibition six years ago. Having learned that we are from Russia, they said: “This is what we did 60 years ago.” And after a pause they added: “And that is exactly what we are returning to now. Manual labor, search, fantasy are the most valuable things. In this we see not industry serving the consumer, but creativity.”