Today’s Modern Hero is Soroush Pourhashemi, who founded Lozi Designs, designers and makers of beautiful plywood furniture, lighting and accessories, back in 2012. We caught up with him on the opening of their new store and workshop in Hackney.
They’re everyday beautiful products: very minimal and honest
IDEALIST: Soroush – can you start by telling us the background of Lozi — how did it come about and what’s behind opening your new store?
Soroush: It was all part of the dream I had. I started woodwork in general and studied design at school. I always wanted to have a place where we can create our work and people can come have a look and just see what’s going on and where the focus is. I also wanted to have a bit more exposure for my work. So getting a shop and having a studio workshop around it made sense rather than to have two separate places. I want to make it accessible in the city, people can come and see the work. It’s great to have a focus for a local businesses and Hackney works well as you shop locally for so many things.
IDEALIST: And for people who haven’t seen your product range how would you describe it, what characterizes it?
Soroush: They’re everyday beautiful products: very minimal and honest. We try to make most of our furniture pieces out of one piece of wood with minimum joints and when you look at them you can see immediately how they have been made. In the big city there are so many complications and things to see and digest. Coming home is a safe place and I wanted to communicate a sense of simplicity and ease through beautiful shapes, rather than challenging designs.
One of the things that we do here a lot is bending wood, using a specific vacuum press plywood technique
IDEALIST: So you’ve got lighting, you’ve got cabinets, you’ve got tables, you’ve got other kinds of furniture. What’s the starting point for your work?
Soroush: If you look at the business, we have a standard range like coffee tables, lamps, table, chairs, and so on and we also do bespoke interior projects. So it’s always changing, it’s always interesting, for example, if we get a commission to interior design a house, then there is a lot of new fitted furniture from the kitchen to the wardrobes and shelving and we also bring a lot of our standard products in to match with it.
So the entire thing looks like an art, the whole design is unified. It’s kind of hassle free for the clients because they deal with one person and then we design everything for them. We make it, we install it. It’s then customer service afterwards. So it’s a lot of caring for the clients. Maybe they spend a bit more but the result is great and everyone happy.
IDEALIST: And what would you say your hallmark approach is?
Soroush: One of the things that we do here a lot is bending wood, using a specific vacuum press plywood technique. That’s something I started the business with. Bent plywood has been done a lot of times, like in your 1930s-40s, and through to the 70s and of course it’s a technique used in a lot of design classics, but it’s an approach that falls in and out of use as it’s very precise and time-consuming.
IDEALIST: But you experiment with other materials too?
Soroush: Yes – and at the beginning there were a couple of materials we were working with. I was just exploring, but at as you keep going, you kind of see new things, you kind of explore new things and new combinations . And then you develop your approach.
I recently discovered a company who do surfaces with recycled plastic and so soon we’re going to bring some of this finish to our range. It’s recycled yogurt bottles and the material is called yogurt, but it is like a very very compressed white plastic that has a very nice texture which goes very well with wood.
IDEALIST: Is sustainability something that’s important to you?
Soroush: Absolutely — our percentage waste is much much lower than the industry average because through bending ply we are keeping the number of joints and pieces to a minimum. So much is made from one piece of wood and we have control over it, so there is very little wasted and through the application of very thin layers of plywood at each stage we can carefully control the amount of material we use.
IDEALIST: But that kind of work is very labour intensive isn’t it?
Soroush: Yeah, it’s a long process for all of us. We put a lot of effort and time to get it right. For example this is standard range I was telling you. It takes a long time to develop it. We create jigs, we create frames and then once we have it all there everything is made to order. Everything seems like a one off piece but it’s the product of a lot of prior development.
our percentage waste is much much lower than the industry average
IDEALIST: So what are your ambitions then? Do you want to be stocked in the high street?
Soroush: No I don’t think so. We got approached by a major retailer and they were interested in some of our products, and if you can do it, why not? But I like to keep this brand individual. We don’t necessarily want to be part of like a bigger brand, all the corporates, all of this. Starting a business is very difficult and we have passed that point and it’s very enjoyable now. We want to retain our values and ensure the sort of business we wanted to build we get to continue with. For me, this is my passion as well, designing furniture. So I don’t want to lose that.
IDEALIST: So who are your heroes?
Soroush: One of those questions. Heroes. A lot of people, most of them are like musicians actually. I really like Leonard Cohen – that’s one of my heroes, as a person, he’s a really nice person. His art, his work is just incredible. Coming to design and furniture. I really like Alvar Aalto.
IDEALIST: What about your ambitions in terms of your designs. You’ve mentioned you love working with clients on major projects. What about the product ranges, what do you see next in terms of product ranges?
Soroush: I would like to develop a range that suits modern living. Technology has developed incredibly over the last 20 years, but we still use the same furniture. Many people live in tiny apartments especially in London and other big cities. How can we achieve an environment which enables people to work, relax, maybe have a little dinner party — and how can our designs support that? And we love doing interests interiors projects where we get to explore new ideas and bring new materials. It’s amazing to create things that people are likely to keep in their houses for years.
IDEALIST: Just thinking from the perspective of the client, it must be difficult you know finding that balance in the sense that you approach professionals because you trust them and you love what they do and you’re willing to invest in that but you want something that’s just personal to you, so you want to put your personal stamp on it. Finding that sort of intersect, between the designer’s vision and the client’s vision, it can’t be easy. How do you do that?
Soroush: Yeah you said it: it’s not easy. This is another thing, in our brand we are trying to create that trust in the products, so when people see our previous work they can immediately trust this kind of quality. The design, the attitude and we are not mainstream, we know that. And if anyone approaches us, they kind of know our style, their attitude, their direction and they know we have this shop, this workshop, people come and see the entire store.
So then they can say, okay putting this together with this I can start to understand. And it’s like a real privilege for us do the entire commission as a project. I mean we feel privileged to be chosen. Sometimes clients have strong ideas and inspirational images to work with, otherwise it’s more of a blank canvas. And as we discuss we can help them think through their needs, we can give them lots of tips and they say oh! we didn’t think about that. And then you can build it up from there to give them solutions that really meet their needs.
Find Out More
The Lozi Shop/Workshop is based at 278 Hackney road, London E2 7SJ and is open Mon – Fri 10am – 6pm, Closed Saturdays, Sundays 11am – 5pm
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