Crofts & Assinder discuss their lengthy and successful company in high-end design and manufacturing of interior accessories. They have managed to stay on trend through the years, since 1875, by keeping style and innovation of design as a cornerstone. Supplying giants of the hospitality industry such as the Ritz Hotel and the Waldorf Hotel. Surviving and supplying both World Wars. Then expanding into an ever competitive market at home and abroad, Crofts & Assinder explain how they go from strength to strength. In our latest Member Profile feature Crofts & Assinder talk about how they feel copying is destructive to the creative industry, what the Government should be doing to support designers and how ACID has supported them and the industry over the years.
Crofts & Assinder has such a rich history of design. Can you tell us a little about how the company developed and the driving force behind its success as innovators in interior accessory design?
Crofts & Assinder Ltd was founded in Birmingham in 1875 by George Crofts & Frederick Assinder. In the early years, the Company was a specialist in the design and manufacture of brass parts.
The Company started making decorative fittings in the early 20th century and was successful in obtaining business for the high-end contract market; high profile clients included the Ritz Hotel, the Waldorf Hotel, the British Embassy in Buenos Aires, and high-end fitting projects for both the Cunard and White Star lines. Reproduction items in this period became a very successful part of the business.
With the growth of cinemas in the 20th century, the Company supplied brassware into the emerging Odeon and the Gaumont chains and was a market leader in quality and design.
At the outbreak of the Second World War, as in the First World War, the company was instructed to supply the war effort and avoided bomb damage. After the war, the company developed an extensive export market into North America with its reproduction Lombard brand range and expanded its existing handle ranges into cabinet and kitchen hardware with the introduction of zinc diecastings.
Since 1987, the Company has centred on the design, manufacture and distribution of fittings, fixtures and related accessories for the Furniture, Kitchen, Upholstery and Wholesale markets.
Why do you think Crofts & Assinder have such a desired brand, and continues to thrive in such a competitive market?
For me it all boils down to the quality of the design and product as well as the high level of service provided. We have an outstanding Head of Design, Zoran Matijevic, who produces some truly wonderful designs, and our manufacturing facilities do a fantastic job in producing high quality goods, which when combined with excellent work conducted by our Marketing and Sales Team defines our brand. As proven by our history, everyone within the Company and I have a very strong benchmark to maintain, and this is a challenge all our employees are passionate about delivering.
Did you have any knowledge of intellectual property when you started your business?
To be honest, I had a very basic understanding of IPR and over the years, with the help of Guy Crofts, Dids Macdonald and the ACID team, I realised the importance of IPR protection and the value it adds to a business.
Copying culture is an unfortunate but undeniable aspect of design in the UK, what is your message about this culture, to those who perpetuate it?
Please stop. By copying other people’s designs, you are in effect damaging their livelihood and causing unnecessary worry and concern to people who are investing their heart, sweat, time, and financial resources into their designs. To see your own creations being copied can be soul destroying, yet if I went into the house of the Director of a Company who has taken the decision to copy a design and stole all their electronic equipment in front of their eyes, they would be furious and call the police. I see no difference between the two – you just do not do it!
Do you think that IP ethics, compliance and respect for intellectual property should be the cornerstone of the industry, in terms of declared Corporate Social Responsibility? And if so, how could the interior design sector achieve this?
Yes. I do believe that this should form a part of a Company’s CSR policy. For me it is about guiding the design sector on how you can deliver this within a CSR message, so that a common consistent approach is taken across the design sector, with particular focus on persuading the well-known brands to adopt such a strategy.
Designing beautiful, classic, and luxury handles, and fittings is at the heart of Crofts & Assinder design principles; how do you inspire your people to persistently attain high standards and how important do you think this is for the future of such a trusted and respected British family company?
For me, it is about keeping the design briefs simple and allowing the Design Team to have a degree of trust and freedom when working. It is also important for the Company to aspire to be a trend setter within the market, who our peers wish to follow, and this requires a good understanding of the market and future trends. One of Head of Design’s key mantras is to have a distinct style that people will recognise as a Crofts & Assinder product.
Under the latest IP Act, we have criminal provisions for intentional Registered design infringement against the infringing company but also for individual directors. Do you believe that if these criminal provisions are extended to unregistered designs infringements, it will become more of a deterrent?
Yes, I do believe in this point. If infringers are aware that they may face criminal sanctions for unregistered design infringements theft this will help to reduce the trend. I also believe some well publicized examples of where organisations, directors and employees have been found guilty of criminal provisions, it will act as a deterrent to those thinking of copying. In my opinion, there is still an element of people who have no morals when it comes to copying designer’s work and they need to be stopped.
What do you feel ACID’s achievements have been and what could we do in the future to further raise awareness about IP theft?
ACID have done a fantastic job in raising the profile of IPR infringement and the impact this has on the design community. The work that ACID have done with regards to lobbying government for legislative changes has been very impressive and I can say from personal experience that the legal advice and support given when we have faced design infringement has been second to none. On an educational side, the seminars that have been delivered to young designers fresh out of education have been vital in making young designers aware of the importance of IPR in relation to their work.
As you know ACID is the main Policy and Government campaigning body for Design & IP reform. Do you have any recommendations to Government to stem the tide of blatant design theft to support the interior design and broader design sector?
I believe the Government can and should do more to protect design theft. One area of concern I have relates to the inconsistency of how copyright infringement and design infringement is applied across different industry sectors. For example, the music industry has very strong protection with regard to the duration of protection, yet a product designer’s protection with regard to duration is significantly shorter. This is not right. A final concern I have relates to the cost of protecting your design when an infringement occurs. From personal experience, it is typically the larger organisations who copy or arrange for copies of products to be made – typically on grounds of wanting reduced costs. However, when you do engage with the legal challenge route, the legal costs for designers and small businesses can escalate very quickly and can often cripple sole traders or small business financially. The large companies who copy know they can outspend smaller companies when it comes to legal challenges.
It takes a very brave and principled person to see a legal challenge through to the end and all too often, many withdraw from this process before it concludes. I would like to see government instruct insurance companies to offer, as part of their standard terms, protection cover for businesses in relation to IPR and infringement. I do believe that when continuous infringing organisations are challenged successfully and when they receive adverse publicity, that their approach to copying does change.
Crofts & Assinder