This week’s Modern Hero is Massimo Buster Minale of Buster + Punch. Industrial designer and architect Massimo, founded Buster + Punch in 2013 and their distinctive look, influenced by rock music, motorbikes and street culture is an amazing antidote to the quiet minimalism we see elsewhere. Working in high-end metal, stone, leather and luxury finishes, they bring the rock star lifestyle home.
Taking inspiration from London’s fashion, music and sub-culture scenes, they are keen collaborators in creating a diverse range of lighting, hardware, whisky bars (really!) and custom motorbikes. They’re true innovators too, beating the big players to the punch with the world’s first designer LED light bulb.
IDEALIST: Can you tell us where you’re based and give us a sense of the history of your company?
Massimo: Buster + Punch is based right next to Borough Market in London Bridge, but it all started in a small motorcycle garage in East London. I am an architect by trade and used to work for a large architectural practice by day and build custom motorcycles by night, this slowly become my great love. We used to build bikes for a bunch of interesting clients, from rock stars to fashion designers and it wasn’t long before people discovered my past as an architect and began asking me to make things for their homes – everything from light fittings to furniture. Five years ago, interior product brands were very neutral and a little bland. I saw a gap in the market to build exciting interior fittings made from rare, solid materials which would empower people to stand out from the crowd. People responded and in 2013, Buster + Punch was born.
We used to build bikes for rock stars to fashion designers and it wasn’t long before they began asking me to make things for their homes
IDEALIST: What is it that you are most proud of?
Massimo: To date, my most proud moment was when we won the race to build the world’s first designer LED light bulb – ours is called the Buster Bulb. When we set upon this challenge, people thought we were mad – as all the largest bulb manufacturers in the world were trying to beat us to the finish line. We were up against companies like Philips and Crea, who throw millions of pounds at product development and all we had was three guys, a small garage and not much money.
The process almost killed our company, but in 2015 we launched the Buster Bulb at Milan Design Week to many plaudits including from the huge companies that to this day, don’t know how we won. I am also very proud that in the grand scheme of things, we have helped to shift the way people see eco-efficient design and how beautiful it can be.
All we had was three guys, a small garage and not much money
IDEALIST: What is so unique about your offering?
Massimo: We think our offering is unique because we have reinvented the functional fittings in the home that had otherwise been forgotten and made them into the details to be loved most. When we launched our light switch range we had a queue around the block of our Stockholm store of people waiting to buy from us. Before this point light switches were overlooked like many other rudimentary yet essential items such as door handles, kitchen hardware, LED light bulbs, task light fittings and even brassware. The great thing is that we now offer a complete range of exciting fittings for the home and feel like we have disrupted a ‘sleeping’ industry whilst doing so.
IDEALIST: What is your most popular range?
Massimo: This is a tough one as all our ranges are designed to be mixed and matched and work in harmony with each other, this usually means that when our customers buy the light switches, they will come back to match them with our door handles, then light bulbs and so on – the relationship is ongoing. We have a very loyal customer base that we cherish and as such our product ranges usually sell equally well.
IDEALIST: If you were starting your company again now, is there anything you would do differently?
Massimo: This sounds crazy, but probably not, although we have made a lot of mistakes, albeit honest mistakes. When we started Buster + Punch, we were all makers and so all we did all day was make great products, we didn’t stop. However, as anyone who has ever run a product company will tell you this is a recipe for disaster as the more you make, the more people want and ultimately the more money you need to supply the beast.
IDEALIST: Give us a sense of the day to day life as the head of B+P
Massimo: Nowadays I am the creative director in the company and so I am usually preoccupied with our next product range and how we market it in a way that will continue to shock and excite in equal measures. Morning starts with lots of coffee and then I work with the design team to refine concepts and answer questions on products in development. The afternoon is then spent in our content studio where we create photos and video for social, brochures and advertising associated with product launches. Then I rush to pick up my son at day care and after he goes to sleep I try and work on my next ‘crazy motorbike’ for a few hours. It’s a pretty full-on life, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
IDEALIST: What are you most excited about in the next season?
Massimo: This is a very exciting year for us as we have two large lighting launches, both are based around our innovative LED technology that we have been refining for the last five years. The first launch is STONED which is a futuristic table light and will launch towards the end of March. The next is CAGED, which is our largest lighting range to date and it will have its global launch at Euroluce in Milan in April.