Q&A with Terri Winter of TOP 3 By DesignPOSTED 03 May 2019
In celebration of HOME.GROWN. presented by Sydney Design Festival this weekend, Sagitine sits down with industry veteran and Top 3 Founder and Curator, Terri Winter to discuss Australian Design and emerging talent.
Terri is a host of Australia by Design – Innovations on Channel 10 – which has recently started filming it’s third season and will be on air from November 2019. Terri loves meeting and chatting with the innovators and founders of such a diverse range of product: "it's fantastic to hear their stories directly". She has also been a judge at the Australian International Design Awards for the past 8 years (entries open now!)
"During the sampling and development phase prior to the launch of Sagitine, I was fortuitously introduced to Terri Winter through Andrew Simpson of Vert Design. Terri was extraordinarily generous with her time and advice regarding the range of designs. It was her encouragement that really was one of the drivers in getting Sagitine to market. Top3 by design was Sagitine’s first stockist and has been a consistent champion of our products and many other Aussie designers. We are so fortunate to have people like Terri in our community, supporting original design and small business.
I am forever grateful for your enthusiasm and friendship Terri, thank you"
1. What did you do prior to starting Top3? It seems to have been the go to store for excellent quality design for as long as I can remember.
I had a Graphic Design studio. For the first few years of top3’s life I ran both. The store was downstairs and my studio was upstairs. I also sub-leased the building to a photographer, and another couple of designers and we pitched on jobs together. I pretty soon realised I loved top3 – and soon I started asking the designers to find somewhere else as I needed more room for stock!
2. Do you still stick to the “Top 3” mantra or do you find yourself stocking more of some items - just because they are so good?
I have to stick to the 3’s. Sometimes it is very difficult! Over the years we have come to realise that there are some categories that need to be split up though – as the variation within it is just too huge, and it was not a “fair” grouping of products. Such as vases. There are such different forms of a vase, so we have several categories there. Vases – Sculptural / Vases - Classic Form / Vases – Single Stem for example.
3. You are one of the strongest supporters of Aussie Design. Have you found it satisfying watching young brands grow? Any particular highlights?
Firstly, thank you for saying so! We are very proud of our range of Australian Design. We don’t specifically pull the Australian design out and shout about it BECAUSE it is Australian, it stands shoulder to shoulder with the best in the world AND it is Australian. Australian designers truly hold their own on the world stage.
We have several Australian designers in the range that have product produced by some of the best European Brands, like Adam Goodrum for Alessi and Normann Copenhagen, and Adam Cornish for Alessi as well as home grown brands, several of them starting life on fundraising platforms like Kickstarter that are now taking on the world. We are super proud to have been the first Australian stockist of Orbitkey, which has now won an IF Design Award in Germany, one of the very first stockists of memo bottle who are ridding the world of single use plastic drinking bottles and changing the way we interact with our water bottles. The now award winning Chessplus is the creation of a father who’s daughter “cheated” in chess and he saw an opportunity for an entire new approach to the game.
Memo bottle, Chessplus and Orbitkey are very much like yourself in how they started, Tina, with Sagitine. Not all of these brands were started by “designers” either. But they each saw a need themselves that could not be currently solved and set about solving it. If not designers, they sought the help of an industrial designer to ensure their product was successfully produced with integrity and they got to market with a quality product. The idea itself is only one part of the final product. I often hear people say – I should have done that, or could have done that – but they didn’t.
Pen is utilising the talents of several established designers like Helen Kontouris and Nick Rennie to create a stable of Australian designed products across all sorts of categories.
Fink is a stand out Australian brand started by the late Robert Foster who was a mentor and icon in the design industry with a range of anodised aluminium products and lighting projects with his brand going strength to strength even after his awful and sudden death by his wife and business partner, Gretel. They are an institution in design terms in Australia.
And Ryan Hanrahan of Addition Studio has taken the wellness space and tackled the frilly girly aesthetic that was often associated with it and utilised concrete, marble and Travertine, along with bold shapes to really be integral in the acceptance of wellness products like oil burners and incense in contemporary décor and offered a more architectural aesthetic.
I am proud of all the Australian designers that completed their journey. They are all so different. There are so many others that I hate not naming them all, but each have had their own journey and I am proud of all of them, no matter how big or how small and I love the direct contact I have with each of them on a regular basis. I am honoured to play what small part I can in that journey.
4. Aussie designers seem to finding their way to the world stage more and more. With the likes of Local Design heading to Milan for the 4th year with a very long list of extremely talented designers. Do you think the world is starting to take note of our home grown talent?
The world loves Australian design. I think you are right, perhaps right now even more so than ever. Australian designers have an honest design aesthetic that is not labelled or pigeon-holed by a specific aesthetic style – but more by an integrity in form and function and natural materials that I think really resonates globally.
5. What are the biggest obstacles you see local designers facing?
The lack of protection of their work in Australia. The acceptance of low cost, cheap and crappy copies of original design in Australia not only hurts our designers (who get ripped off regularly and struggle to protect themselves due to extraordinary lax IP protection and copyright within the design industry). Replica is fake. It needs to be called what it is. It is hurting the lives of both young and established designers, and with the growth of social media giving access to unscrupulous companies to cherry pick from a smorgasbord of designers (and even see what is resonating with people!) this is only growing as a problem. Therefore we do lose many designers to Europe where their work is respected and protected.
The impact of “fast fashion” has moved into the homewares industry too, where “design” is a lesser part of the process of any product going to market. Any street clean-up will highlight the amount of rubbish furniture and household objects going into landfill. We all need to buy less and buy better. I am seeing a shift with consumers caring more about where product came from, and the integrity of materials and the environmental impact of their product choices, I just hope the concept of buying less and buying better can grow more and more – we will all be better off for it!
6. Top3 has an enormous range - how on earth do you manage so many items?
Sometimes with great difficulty! Everyone wants new and we do need monitor the number of products in the range to ensure they all get enough “love” so it is a constant assessment of the inclusions and sometimes even great products have to go. However, in most cases this is because they have become more widely available and we can move on to launching a new designer or brand and support them becoming more well known. It is a constant challenge! Although ultimately I do all the initial buying, I have a great team that helps me with replenishment, merchandising and promotion to ensure the products are successful.
7. Your new 3D tool is absolutely incredible! Are you finding customers are taking it up with gusto?
I am personally very proud of top3 AR. It is a collaboration with Melbourne based developers Inhaabit who have really ensured this is a useful tool – not a gimmicky toy! Customers can REALLY see how the product looks in their own home. It is really like it is there. It is to scale, you can walk around it, even look up close at the texture of the fabric or leather and the stitching. It is a game-changer for getting your product choice right! I am certainly seeing people being more brave with colour selection once they can see how it will look in their own home. And to know it physically fits the space is of course an obvious benefit if you are selecting a hall console, a rug or a sofa! You can set up multiple items, change the colours and really see how they go together and then add them to your cart! I tis loke bringing our showroom to your own home.
8. Any new brands you have your eye on ?
The HOME.GROWN. Marketplace offers visitors the opportunity to buy original products and accessories from some of Australia’s most dynamic homewares brands. Click here for more information.