“When it comes to beauty and function, the two have to exist equally,” says Corey Ashford. As the designer of meticulously considered lifestyle pieces that have been lauded by Vogue and stocked at institutions including Dinosaur Designs and the National Gallery of Victoria, he would know.
“If you’re using something every day and an object is part of your life, why shouldn’t it be beautiful?” says Ashford. “If you’re going to wipe pasta sauce off your mouth, let it be with a really beautiful linen napkin.”
Ashford’s namesake label exemplifies this ethos. His striking pieces – including hand-cast brass incense holders formed from a real oyster shell; brass and silver cocktail coasters shaped like a pool of spilled drink; and canelé-shaped marble dishes – aim to transform the mundane to luxurious. They also solve everyday problems, like preventing ring stains on your coffee table, but don’t need to be tucked away when your guests leave. Corey Ashford objects are designed to be on permanent display.
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Ashford is self-taught (albeit with 15 years of experience in sales and merchandising in Australian and luxury retail, including 10 with Dinosaur Designs). The self-described “purpose-driven designer”, who draws inspiration from nature and “the simplicity of things around us”, says he thinks of the product first, then the design. His namesake label was born when he couldn’t find an oversized, solid-colour linen beach towel. So he created his own line. According to Ashford, where there’s a gap, there’s an opportunity.
Ashford puts down his ability to make waves in a competitive industry to motivation and determination. “Everybody wants to start a business, but you’ve got to be able to work yourself to the bone and do it again and again and again,” he says. “You need to be able to persevere, hustle and be your own cheerleader and voice of reason – it’s not like one day everything works and you can go on holiday, it’s constant motivation.”
And then there’s the design. For Ashford, good design balances beauty with performance. “[It’s] trend-proof and timeless,” he says. “It has to last through all these flash-in-the-pan movements.” He points to luxury car brand Porsche as one example. “[Porsche has] managed to continually maintain iconic design and interiors, and are known for both beauty and performance,” he says. “They look hot, but they also give the performance we expect.”
As for luxury, “It’s so much more than a brand name,” he says. “Luxury isn’t achieved through price tags and flash. It’s achieved through years and years of innovation, and keeping that as its core element.”
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