Angela Gidden was born in 1960 in Cardiff and has become a highly established and renowned U.K designer. She is a creative entrepreneur and turned what she loved in multiple businesses, working as a design consultant and creative director. She awarded the Member Of The British Empire (MBE) in the Queen’s New Years Honours list in 2007 and is testimony to her commitment to design and business in Wales.
‘A Creative Journey of Romance and Risk’. The romance is part of the things she loves, the risk is something she have never tough before but it is part of the journey. she is a consultant designer and payed as such plus royalty.
She has a variety of role models. They tend to be outside the design world. One of them is Maya Anjelou, an American poet, singer, memoirist, and civil rights activist. One of her favourite quotes that she relates to: ‘If you always try to be normal you will never know how amazing you can be”.
Angela Gidden is an award winning designer and owner of 3 brands/businesses. As she tells us, she made loads of mistakes but some great decisions, one of them was to be a consultant creative director. She also got a medal from the Queen.
She had 4 role models in her life: A ballerina, her mom. A footballer, George. Angela used to draw him and sell the portraits to every person she knew at the age of 7. A singer, she was fascinated by him, dressed in color and patterns and at the age of 12 she knew she wanted to pursue the arts. A technician, her dad. He has been her jury from the moment she shared to manifest a desire to pursue a career in design. The lesson here is that there is always someone to questions you an to whom you have to prove wrong to and this can either stop you from the start or it can be a a good motivator to push you to do better.
1979 – Cardiff art college foundation course
1980 London College of Art
1984 Masters that she failed together with half of her class
What makes you get that far is both passion and luck. However, all sorts of luck can come your way but its up to you to grab it
Her first job was working for Christie Tyler where she got promoted to design director after only 2 years. Back then it was a male director dominated industry where she had to prove herself. She was tough and worked hard and grow them and succeed!
She ended up designing for different companies such as IKEA, the Heinz beans tin for Tesco etc. She was always the name behind some other brand’s products and started to feel limited. She then decided to take the risk and break free, as her personality a free spirited, unconventional and a natural risk taker.
‘You have to have the passion and conviction to be very good, damn good!’
She always has been told that designers do not make good business people. In 1993 she started looking for loans, and even with a good business plan she’s been repeatedly rejected. The same happened with Barclays that said no to her just because it wasn’t common for a woman to be a businesswoman. In the furniture market there is a limited time that goes from designing to manufacturing and to the market. To keep up and be profitable she created her design studio with an integrated production department to create her own prototypes. She advertised herself and Habitat and other brands commissioned her immediately the Pacino sofa. With Habitat she had a 1.34£ per sofa for an amount of about 340.000£ in 9 years with a 60 mil turnover.
Exposure and reputation is very powerful. Good exposure increases your reputation. the more the more, repeat and repeat. Build a positive reputation from the beginning and build on it, without it you are not considered. She has been commissioned to design the furniture for the Welsh. They wanted her to commit that the product would last 100 years.
She designs for Orange Box, for the retail, hospitality. She thinks about innovation as well and works today with a german company for a 360 degree seat rotation. She also worked for a ‘seat’ for disables for the outdoor, she took inspiration from the automotive industry and designed something that could blend with the owner, like a piece of clothing where the chair would disappear regaining the attention on the person: Nomad chair.
During production they had much waste from leather and decided to create a second and third company to reuse these materials, first in fashion accessories such as bags and with that waste created smaller products such as wallets, and key fobs.
She loves collaborating, it is inspiring and makes a change. ‘Change is a damn good thing.’
She worked for Camira, a big company, as a consultant. They were very proud of their secret method in creating their fabrics. She had to work hard in molding their point of view to change strategy and share this secret with the world instead. Times have changed, today sharing means bringing more customers because by seeing the process and gain more trust and visibility, therefore clients.
One of her life principle is ‘Making Life Better by Design’. The process of design should be a process that allows to create the best designs but as a solution to a problem/need.
She had a church congregation as client, the Citychurch. She sat down with them to understand what they want (clients not always know). The place needed to be an open space for 1000 people and reflect spirituality. She chose woven textiles, recycled yarn from a Danish company and also considered acoustics. The one person that gave her more satisfaction in the end was an old lady from the congregation that admitted to have bir reserves about the space but in the end she transformed in her bigger fan.
She worked with some very skillful technical from the knitting division. Knit to fit, an interesting concept with a zero waste process. Nike fly net new shoes just came on the market so she asked why not use the same technique for furniture. It was a difficult work but she wanted to see her inspiration from those shoes becoming reality for furniture and made it happen.
It is never about one single idea but an evolution of many. when clients say they want a chair they wont get just a chair. clients often do not have the vision of what they want, often you have to show them
She will launch this year MadeFine&co, a retail brand that says it all in the name, fine, long lasting, attention to detail and co not with a big c for company but small for collaboration. she is not only designing the furniture but she is searching for all the accessories as well such as lamps etc. they crafted the brand and the makers mark.
Typical question she got from from people: Love the Idea but why do it?
All businesses start with an idea. The why can be vast and has to be analysed in order to understand the potential success. It has to be an original idea, it has to have a competitive edge for the client to compete in the market, there might be a gap in the market, but always ask why? ( in fact Nike designed pink football boots because there was a gap in the market but they didn’t sell), can it make money?, will it make profit to give possibility for expanding and innovation?, can you see and create opportunities?, can you maximize contacts?, are there resources and support to tap into? (role models, mentors and somebody to lean on), is there potential for dynamic collaboration?, will it add value to what you do?, is there a desire to be in control? are you a risk taker and willing to go for it?, passsion?
A crucial aspect and consideration is that:
- client is for life, but it is challenging keeping them. She starts her collaboration with this in mind.
- Exceed clients expectation or at the very least delight, don’t disappoint! Don’t oversell yourself
- You will be copied, be prepared. It is robbery because our best ideas are our greatest assets
- Don’t get comfy in your creative world, there are always others able to beat you
- Never think you designed your best piece or you will settle. She always says to herself after every project that ‘The best is yet to come’.
- Balance life and work. The older she gets, the better she understands its importance. Too much work can take you away from a healthy emotional lifestyle
- Be Yourself (Her dream while growing has been to ‘become a rock chick’)
How important it was working in industry before setting your own business? With her first job she learned everything she needed to be in the front line for a business. To become a director she had to prove to know design, costing, finance, how to manage people, sales marketing, how to run a board meeting etc. The recommendation is to get the industry experience for both contacts and connections.
She selects fabrics from Camira (leaders in sustainability) they grow their own nettles. They weave using hemp that they plant here in Uk, and they also used it with wool. They have a mill of the size of 3 football camps. They produce 133 thousand of meters per week. They use recycled products, silk woven with wool. The technical knitting uses zero waste.
Is there a possibility for collaborations with textile designers? Her approach to design is Scandinavian, minimalist but there might be in the future for textile designers.
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