On 15 June, Namur’s creative hub TRAKK lent its pretty walls, terrace overlooking the Meuse and atrium to a talk co-organised by KIKK, WBDM and Wallonie Design. It was an opportunity to bring their respective audiences together around a broad, unifying theme, and to break down the codes often attached to the design professions.
At the start of the evening, Laura Latour, director of the Kikk Festival (one of the founding members of TRAKK) and head of the event, spoke of the importance of “bringing together and networking players in the creative industries”. An opinion shared by Laure Capitani, who emphasised WBDM’s desire to encourage more and more players in the creative industries to pool their skills and take an international view. The evening was organised in several stages, giving the public (architects, designers, photographers, video-makers, students and public service workers) the opportunity to benefit from the experience of the guest designers, as well as exchanging their impressions ‘al fresco’ on the TRAKK terrace at the end of the evening.
5 guests on the grill
For this summery evening of discussion and networking, guests were given 15 minutes to present their project. It was also an opportunity for the audience to discover the world and career of AFC Collection. Augustin Bown, co-founder of AFC Collection, spoke about the 4 years that have elapsed since the beginnings of the project he imagined and set up with Audrey Joris. Listed as one of the ’30 Under 30′ by Forbes magazine last year, AFC Collection is proof that it is possible to innovate in a sector as conservative as interior design and furniture distribution. The strength of the concept obviously lies in its digital roots and its very ‘millennial’ approach to interior design, which combines a physical showroom, digital visualisation and human support.
Studio Biskt, a duo formed by ceramist Charlotte Gigan and her companion and working partner Martin Duchêne, an industrial designer, is in a different mood. The creators of the Tulumba vase, a signature product distributed in shops and online, they have developed an uncompromising approach, blending craftsmanship with industrial manufacturing processes that has won them the title of Designer of the Year 2022, but also, through the gallery that represents them, a chance to rub shoulders with the increasingly buoyant collectible design segment.
Joachim Froment, co-founder of the design and engineering agency FutureWave, spoke about some of the support projects he and his team orchestrate for companies already well established in the market (such as Delhaize and Sony), as well as emerging start-ups. This is a fine example of generative design, a hybrid approach at the frontiers of design, engineering and business, which aims to offer the agency’s clients technologically innovative solutions while ensuring that each project is anchored in a real market logic. With his sights set on eventually building a team of around thirty, the young entrepreneur stressed the importance of retaining a passion for design, even in the midst of an entrepreneurial dynamic; a passion that is essential if the agency is to fully fulfil its mission of facilitating the implementation of ambitious concepts and the emergence of new creative talent.
These 3 profiles, which seem to have nothing in common, have many similarities, including a willingness to push open doors that seem closed in advance and to cross genres. Led by Laura Latour, the question-and-answer session – part Proust questionnaire, part fun, rock’n’roll quiz – gave these 2.0 speakers a chance to look back on their first loves, their career paths and their future ambitions. It was a no-holds-barred, highly improvised affair, albeit rich in inspiration. Among other things, it was an opportunity to find out more about the unusual profile of Augustin Bown, who trained in finance and spent some time as a set designer, and who now combines his academic background with his deep-seated artistic aspirations, or to understand why Joachim Froment, who likes to talk about his passion for drawing (“I used to draw before I could walk”, he recalls), but who, until late in his studies, “didn’t even know design existed”, is now seeking to grow his agency sufficiently to be able to offload certain management tasks in order to reconnect with the creative approach that makes him tick.
The power of entrepreneurship 2.0
Despite the obstacles, but also the many opportunities created by the COVID interlude (a year of introspection, research in the studio, but also online sales), the studio duo BISKT emphasised their desire to remain ‘small’. This is particularly true of Charlotte Gigan, who was destined for a career as an accountant, but for whom working with clay was a revelation. The Designer of the Year award she received last year reinforced her belief that the vocation of their studio was to mix genres and “above all not let ourselves be pigeon-holed”. During the exchange, which was punctuated by lots of laughter, the evening’s 5 guests gave the participants a great lesson in entrepreneurship. As Martin Duchêne concluded,
If I had to give one piece of advice to the person I was 10 years ago, I’d say: Don’t listen too much to what people tell you. You’ll struggle, but you’ll be fine.