Innermost have gathered some of the most notable global lighting and furniture designers together to pursue their desire to rebel from the norm to defy expectation. Passionate about each design and every level of detail they manufacture, they travel across the globe sourcing the best quality materials and the most suitable producers for each product and every component.
Describing yourselves as designers, curators, industry experts, and mavericks, what do you consider relevant to today’s changing marketplace?
We have always looked for innovation, whether that be in the process, use of materials, orthe final design, but as we have always been ‘hands-on’ in the supply chain, we’ve knownwe had a responsibility over what and how we produce. So it has always been important tous that all products should be repairable or recyclable. We are proud when we are asked torepair or refurbish one of our designs from 15 years ago as the customer wants to continueto enjoy it rather than replace it.
What originally inspired you to start Innermost and what are the hallmarks of your continuing success?
We sought innovation, for many years using the words ‘involve innovate inspire’ alongside our branding. That meant involving the designer throughout the process, innovating with the design, and inspiring the market. We use different tag lines now but the ethos and DNA of the company remain unchanged. What has been added is that now it applies not just to products we develop but to brands we represent within the UK.
How important are your partnerships with industry organisations? For example, we are proud that you are a member of our ACID Council. What does this mean to you?
Collaborations and partnerships are vitally important to us. Innermost has always worked with others, with designers and for designers. I am proud to be a British designer and recognised as an ACID member. I think it’s the collective responsibility of the entire membership to help further ACID’s aims and goals, only by standing together will the industry get the recognition it deserves. Being asked by the ACID Council has been a particular privilege.
Working with so many different brands and global designer personalities, what is the key to bringing them together under the Innermost brand to deliver design excellence, consistency, and cutting-edge innovation?
Managing expectations is always a challenge. Most seasoned designers understand the realities of what’s involved in a project and this usually makes for a more successful outcome. We make sure we explain at the start of each project our vision and goals for the product – sometimes they are different from the designers, so it is vitally important we all agree on the journey before we start it. The final vision comes from involving the designer and makes for a better product.
What do you think are the ingredients for your success in this highly competitive sector?
Honesty and commitment to quality, belief in what we are doing, and genuinely enjoying the interaction with the community to create great products. Designers, just like clients, need to know they are dealing with people who believe in what they do in order to trust them.
Success is relative, we are still very much a small business competing in a very large industry. This does allow us to try new things easily. But being good at supplying quality products also helps.
It’s clear you take your intellectual property seriously ensuring that there is evidence from concept to marketplace. You have been copied many times, how do you discover and deal with infringements?
We are fortunate to have some long-standing and loyal customers, and having their eyes on the industry helps with this. Each infringement is slightly different, but using the expert advice and experience of legal counsel recommended by ACID has helped us tremendously.
You have your own designers and work with freelance designers on licence, how does this work from an IP perspective? Have there been any issues?
Firstly we never reassign the IP, and we recognise this under licence by paying royalties on all sales, even with our own design team. We will advise and help young designers better protect their IP where we can as it’s in our interests to do so, and we are proud, in several instances, to continue to pay royalties on designs even after their unregistered design rights have expired.
Thankfully in the 20+ years we have been licensing designs we have only ever had one difference of opinion regarding a designer’s IP, and thankfully ACID legal counsel were there to help us navigate that one.
As a design/skill-led company, what is your message about the copycat culture that pervades some of this sector with cheap lookalikes by riding rough shod over the law?
We would love to see the government take action to counter this but that could take some time; in the meantime, it’s important for brands to take the lead and gently call out the people doing this. We are often asked to find or source copied products for projects. Our response is simple; we don’t do that, we can either supply an original or design something new.
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 this sector achieve this?
Yes absolutely. It needs continued education, in the same way Architects or Doctors have to professionally develop throughout their careers, those working in design should also so that responsible sourcing can become standard.
We now have an IP Act which will mean not only criminal provisions for intentional Registered design infringement but also for individual directors. Do you believe that if this is extended to unregistered design infringement, it will become more of a deterrent? The government thinks it would be chilling for innovation and lead to business uncertainty. We don’t agree, do you?
I think the Government’s uncertainty in this is chilling. In our experience, the issue is a lack of knowledge regarding IP in general and on all sides. Designers don’t always know their rights or how to enforce them, and those that infringe design aren’t always aware that they are doing it. Greater education for the whole industry is key.
Can you give us a steer on what you feel ACID’s achievements have been and what we could do in the future to raise further awareness about IP theft?
Without ACIDs’ relentless campaigning we wouldn’t have any focus on design IP. This continued advice and direction given to the IPO and Government is invaluable. However, I think it’s every member’s responsibility to further awareness about design IP theft. If we don’t stand together and we don’t all promote the issues, then we aren’t helping ACID achieve what is needed.
As you know, ACID is the main Policy and Government campaigning body for Design & IP reform. What are your 2 recommendations to the Government to stem the tide of blatant design theft to support this sector?
Promote and educate the issues surrounding design infringement across the full industry. Designers need to be better informed as much as specifiers need awareness of what is or isn’t allowed. Afford UK designers post-Brexit unregistered design rights protection in the 27 EU member states.