Ruthless People, with Lisa McMillan
I’m excited to share today’s blog post with you; it’s an exclusive interview with Lisa McMillan, the Founder and Designer behind Kieko London | @kiekolondon. She just released her first furniture collection, a bold, colourful and geometric five-piece ensemble that I think you will love discovering below.
I actually met Lisa totally by chance at an event held by It’s Nice That earlier this year on the future of publishing. We were sitting next to each other in the crowd and at the interlude, while everyone rushed to the room next door to grab a beer, we got chatting. She told me she was working on launching her brand and let me flick through pictures of her prototypes on her phone. I was smitten and asked her to keep me posted on her progress. She officially launched Ruthless People this summer and we got back in touch.
Lisa’s work is wonderfully minimal in its aesthetic, with clean austere lines and a nod to industrial materials. She’s playing on three classic shapes: the circle, the triangle, and the square, and in doing so, is allowing for space and light to compliment the geometry of her pieces. Her five pieces, the dining table, mirror, stool, coffee table and floor lamp are a statement against excess and clutter. Manufactured from mild steel for strength and durability, they are strikingly coated in a combination of specialist paints in blue, orange, white and lime green. Each piece is handmade.
I hope you’ll enjoy reading about Lisa’s background, process and creative journey as much as I did. Let’s dive in!
Meet Lisa McMillan
Hi Lisa! Let’s start with an introduction: who are you?
Hi Jesse. I’m Lisa McMillan, London born and raised. I suppose I’ve started something to find out what my limits are. A while ago I wrote down a quote by Dennis Hopper, “The responsibility of being free”. Running something of your own is continuous and takes work, but from another perspective it offers up a sense of independence. So fingers crossed I guess.
What’s your education and career background?
I studied BA Design at Middlesex University after doing two years focusing purely on furniture at college. After this I wanted to get into a design house to see how things operated, so I went for a PR internship at Tom Dixon. This lead on to me working for the PR agency Camron, with a great team for a few years. I saw so much good work from designers coming through that I decided it was time I put my money where my mouth is and get out there and do it. A year in and I’ve launched my first collection.
Did you always want to become a designer and what has your creative path been?
Definitely. I have always been drawn to furniture, seeing it more as usable art. I understand the more you love something, the more you should use it. For example, a beautiful car; if you treasure it there is no point in just looking at it, that’s not where the enjoyment comes from. Furniture can be created as a form of art that should be used and worn over time. I started Kieko London when I did, because I felt I needed to wait until my style evolved into something I could run with.
The Brand: Kieko London
Tell us about the genesis of your brand and starting your own business
I have a desire for spaces to express people as individuals. I have always bordered design and art, believing that art can be designed. Plus, that people can be braver with their personal spaces.
What is your process as a creative and maker?
There is a lot of paper with overlapping doodles, a mass of card models and samples of materials. The process I would say is organised chaos. Chaos in the beginning, organised in the end. Like most designers I have moments of self-doubt and frustration but I enjoy the challenge.
What do you hope to achieve with this first collection?
I want this collection to show the start of what’s to come. I can have a very surreal imagination so would like to do events one day that can have fun with that. This collection was to put an image to the name.
The Collection: Ruthless People
What is your concept, why five pieces and do you have a favourite?
Each piece in the collection is created to serve a sole purpose. Where furniture is often designed to multifunction as storage, I want to show the beauty of keeping a space visually open, how that can affect the way we feel in a room. I restricted myself to using only circles, triangles and squares – being my first collection I wanted to keep the visual result and usage uncomplicated. A clear and definitive outcome for each piece was the objective. Saying my favourite is difficult, because I love each one for different reasons, each having their own definite function. I suppose the coffee table, because ironically I often choose to sit on the floor.
When did you feel a breakthrough in bringing this collection to life?
I suppose the more I did and the more of a brief I gave myself. My first decision was deciding the base material would be mild steel, which was easy, as I have always loved working with it. Also when I had a finalised folder of materials, drawings and ideas to show people that I asked along the way. I began to feel like the collection was coming together.
What are some of the challenges you have faced?
Finding people/workshops that I liked working with and could rely on. Finding that for each material and stage of the pieces was probably the most difficult. A close second would have been sourcing the right paint within the UK. That took a while.
What are the some of the important lessons you have learned in this process?
To keep going. I had to remind myself of something I learnt from looking at the older kids at school: anything in life is achievable, you just have to learn the steps of how to get there and then start climbing.
Did you have any mentors or creatives to turn to for help? Do you have advice for aspiring designers?
I have actually been very lucky in having a very supportive partner, who has a great eye himself and someone I can always rely on to be honest with me. I think that is very important. Straight criticism is a necessity for you to see clearly yourself, because anyone who runs a project will know that you can get too close sometimes and you need another set of eyes to take a step back with you. So, thanks to him! I also started by making the pieces myself at Blackhorse Workshop, a great place to chat to other designers/makers. Knowing how to make the work is key in the design stage, right down to how the pieces get painted.
What’s next for Kieko London? Do you have anything in the works?
I have already started designing collection two. As this first collection was all colour, the second will be strictly black and white, possibly with a touch of grey.
What do you think about Lisa’s collection? Do you have any questions for her?
Enjoyed this post? Why not keep in touch with Hecticophilia: never miss new blog posts by following via Twitter, Facebook and Instagram or by subscribing on Bloglovin or Feedly. If any of your friends would enjoy this content, then please don’t hesitate to share!