When Sasha Titchkosky and Russel Koskela launched furniture and homewares brand Koskela 18 years ago, their mission statement was clear. “From the very beginning, we decided we wanted to support the local manufacturing industry,” says Titchkosky. “To raise the bar and show we can produce high-quality pieces that stand on a world stage. We were told over and over to go to China and that we’d never get [furniture] made here. But we were determined. Now a few people from the start are still working with us today.”
As well as supporting local industry, another founding tenet of the business was to “do something to redress the inequalities that affect Indigenous communities.” Titchkosky reached out to Indigenous art centres to collaborate on products that would offer artists a new income stream. “It’s a great opportunity to showcase some positive stories,” he says. “Especially around remote Indigenous Australians.”
Almost 10 years ago they began collaborating with the Yolngu weavers from Elcho Island Arts in Arnhem Land to create lampshades. The pieces were nominated for the Rigg Design Prize, the highest accolade in Australian object and furniture design. The success of the collaboration has compelled Koskela to connect with other communities. “Last year we really wanted to beef up our commitment,” says Titchkosky. “We put 10 per cent of our profits into developing more of these projects so we can have a bigger impact.” On the agenda for this year is to collaborate on furniture for the first time.
Last year the brand debuted an annual exhibition to coincide with NAIDOC week. It featured black-and-white works from both emerging and senior Indigenous artists. “It was virtually a sell-out,” says Titchkosky. This year works by female artists from Iwantja Arts in South Australia will be exhibited for six weeks. There’ll also be a T-shirt exhibition. “Indigenous art centres often get younger artists to create T-shirt designs to represent their art,” Titchkosky explains.
Seven years ago Titchkosky and Koskela moved the business from Surry Hills to Rosebery with a renewed focus on making a great retail experience. It now stocks Australian homewares products such as Takeawei ceramics and Loom rugs. When not attending to shop duties, Titchkosky’s favourite local places to visit are Archie Rose (“It’s a pretty incredible achievement; it’s great seeing people so passionate about what they do.”), Da Mario (“Some of the best pizza in Sydney.”) and neighbours Three Blue Ducks.