Any of you with an interest in young NZ design talent will have had George and Willy “blip” on your radar over the last 18 months. It may have been for their cool swings or perhaps trestle tables. You might have spotted their hardy duffel bags or have been swept up in the international popularity of their industrial paper roller. I can assure you if you haven’t seen any of these yet…you are definitely going to enjoy the pioneering, grassroots aesthetic that shines through in all of their ideas and products.
Fittingly, it was a good old kiwi backyard workshop where I finally got to meet them.
George Wilkins, 22, grew up in Tauranga before heading to Dunedin where he studied Design and is just wrapping up his thesis for his Masters in Commerce and Management. Will McCallum, 23, spent his childhood between Auckland, Argentina and Tauranga before heading off to University in Dunedin as well, where he studied Marketing and Design.
The pair first met while skiing at age 12 through their parents who were family friends and then went through secondary school together in Hamilton. Both had always been keen “makers” but it wasn’t until the last semester of university in 2012 that they had a real chance to collaborate! A design project for class led them to make model helicoptors which resulted in an order of 10 for the Westpac Rescue HQ in Wellington!
With their design and production appetites whetted they then got a roll on. They struck off to various markets with a collection of laser cut MDF products including mini beer crates, letters and dinosaurs which they sold with great success!
Then the organisers of a university business competition asked them to produce centre pieces for the tables at the awards dinner. Dinosaurs were their decoration of choice and while they only had a few sales as a result, in true student thinking, they felt buoyed by how many were stolen! They must be cool!
With the wrap of University at the end of 2012 they both moved back to Tauranga for the holidays and immersed themselves totally in making. Ideas for swings and lamps had been tossed around for months but and with the opportunity to use a space behind the work of Will’s father they got experimenting. Family and friends took an interest in what they were producing and custom work started to flow in.
They LOVED it!
Up until this point, their “business” had been a pretty casual endeavour. But with Will having finished Uni (George decided to do his Masters which meant one week in Dunedin per month) they started to organise their project. Between pool painting jobs and custom cabinetry/office fit out work they also wholesaled their lamps with the Dunedin based design store; White Room.
Armed with their hardy duffel bags they stalked the huge agricultural show; Fielddays in an attempt to meet and promote their product as corporate gifts – something that worked with Volkswagon placing an order for their conference. They also had a look around for smart, innovative designers locally that perhaps would be willing to share some wisdom and advice. They found this in Simon James which also led to him stocking their swings in his Auckland concept store.
The Paper Plane store in Tauranga, led by successful kiwi furniture and product designer; Timothy James and his wife Krista also stock some selected products and have made themselves available as a source of encouragement and guidance should the boys need it.
This is where I see George and Willy being part of a wider network of exciting young go-getters, innovative entrepreneurs and most importantly I fresh new breed of young professional who are not even remotely bound by any of the “industry” rules that may have existed before them. Their graduate friends working in the media have been instrumental in drawing their products in front of a receptive audience. Below you can also check out a video made for them by good friends and collaborators Motion Sickness Studio who are challenging the ideas of online content and communication like they have invented it! And lastly the brand on board in support of this post as a Naming Sponsor is Moodie Tuesday, a growing art based fashion label led by former class mates of the boys!
It doesn’t stop there… the under 25’s coming out of Dunedin are definitely a force to be reckoned with and George and Willy are cruising at the front of this bunch!
(watch this space!)
Quite early on they also decided to work with only a very small collection of retailers, instead pushing and growing their collection from their own site and online store. Their product range is not at all restrained by any kind of theme, nor does it have them pigeon holed as any kind of designers. Currently they have furniture both online and in the works, dog bowls, paper rollers, duffel bags and so much more! I have no doubt that in a few more years lovers of the George and Willy style will be able to furnish and use their products in endless parts of their day to day lives!
Shortly after I met the boys, Will was winging off to New York to intern in a design based company while George was wrapping up his Masters and working on the expansion of their business. Despite the geographic separation, the pair presented a super motivated, design AND business focussed front which quite frankly inspired and impressed me.
If I was under 25 I would be begging to be part of their team.All photography by Julia Atkinson for Studio Home
WHAT I LEARNT FROM GEORGE + WILLY:
Age is no barrier – only old school thinking.
Enjoy this great look into the world of George and Willy by Motion Sickness Studio.