Designing for Change – David Trubridge
Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand

Photography Simon Devitt, Davide Calafa, Scott Burrows, Daniel Blanko, Ben Pearce & Brigida Gonzalez
Words James Lyall Smith

Recognised globally as a leader in environmentally responsible design, New Zealand based David Trubridge is credited with being one of the originators of the ‘raw sophistication’ design trend. David’s work has generated critical acclaim on a global level, but it is the journey behind the iconic designs that provides true insight into a man devoted to not only his craft but the improvement of the world around him.

“I am the sum total of all my experiences,” states David. “Everything I have done and been is there in some incremental way in all the things I create. This is your greatest asset; it is what makes you unique. It is this, not your ‘cleverness’, which you should be drawing on in order to make your designs naturally unique, with no contrivance.” This poignant wisdom comes from a man who journeyed from a degree in naval architecture to a self-taught apprenticeship in furniture and lighting making and design, to a five year sailing voyage half way around the world, to the eventual establishment of a design studio in New Zealand, where he still resides today.

David’s design process combines innate craft knowledge, sculptural abstraction and computer design technology, as it draws on his life’s rich experiences.

An active leader in the global design scene, David’s work is manufactured onsite at his company’s studio in Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand, and sold around the world into a myriad of residential, hospitality, commercial and gallery locations. The current collection represents a lifelong devotion to environmentally responsible design and consists of approximately thirty lighting designs and a small number of artisan furniture pieces. “Our biggest challenge within the company is to keep developing our ideas while remaining within the narrow restrictions we have built around ourselves, to maintain that freshness, to always be questioning and be nimble,” explains David. “Never follow trends as you will always be only a follower, trying to keep up with the truly creative people who set them — trendy design is here today, gone tomorrow!”

With a career spanning almost half a century, David’s work has been sold, exhibited, documented and been the recipient of prestigious recognition on a global level. However, it is his industry-leading practice of environmentally responsible design that will forever be his central focus. “Sustainability is totally fundamental to all our work,” says David. “But I have no illusions that we are currently sustainable. Something is only sustainable if it can continue to be done forever. There is precious little about our consumer dominated lives that can do that. So, we don’t claim to be sustainable.” He goes on to elaborate, “we say that we are doing all we can to be environmentally and socially responsible, but that we are not perfect, and we are open about our failings. Our aim and duty is to continue to improve each year.”

“Never follow trends as you will always be only a follower, trying to keep up with the truly creative people who set them — trendy design is here today, gone tomorrow.”

Keeping true to this mantra, the company recently discontinued all its remaining products with a high plastic content and reissued the Cloud and Ebb ranges in plywood instead of plastic. David and his company have also shifted to a more localised approach by giving back to New Zealand based environmental groups and have been working hard to completely eradicate plastic use throughout the entire company, through products, manufacturing and packaging.

Key to the distribution of David’s iconic and environmentally sustainable designs is his strong relationship with Australian-based contemporary lighting company Studio Italia. A name synonymous with the distribution of prestigious lighting products to the Australian architecture and design industry, Studio Italia was a natural fit for David and his company. “I came over to Australia over 15 years ago looking for outlets there,” explains David. “I met a few people who were excited about what I was doing and super keen to sell for me. I also met Mark Gower of Studio Italia in Melbourne. Over the years he and his team have consistently delivered. It has been a great relationship, thank you guys!”

Experiencing firsthand the fragile environment around us reinforces David’s drive to create sustainable design and to raise awareness about ecological responsibility in design.

Forever humble and committed to evolving his practice through sustainable and original designs, David remains every ounce the unconventional risk taker that set sail from Great Britain to New Zealand, with a love for good design and an intrinsic curiosity for the natural environment that surrounds us. When asked what the new year has in store for him and his company, he replies, “rewarding days spent with my team in the office. Fun days by the beach surfing and walking and just sitting thinking. And probably other good stuff and bad stuff that I don’t yet know about!”

“I also met Mark Gower of Studio Italia in Melbourne. Over the years he and his team have consistently delivered. It has been a great relationship, thank you guys!”

Published 2 December, 2020
Photography  Simon Devitt, Davide Calafa, Scott Burrows, Daniel Blanko, Ben Pearce & Brigida Gonzalez
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