JULIEN LABBE, TAIT SYDNEY
Bringing another slice of Europe to Tait, Julien Labbe is Tait’s Sydney-based Sales Manager & Commercial Consultant for New South Wales, Queensland and ACT territories.
Julien brings with him a wealth of design experience from his upbringing in the South of France and his family’s own design business ensuring his passion ingrained from a young age. Moving to Australia six years ago, Julien’s career has initially forged at Coco Republic.
Sharing his devotion for authentic design, Julien further reveals his perfect Sydney weekend, his respect and admiration for his team at Tait and how he loves nothing more than a cool glass of rosé wine come summer, naturally.
Julien, what attracted you to work at Tait and to focus in outdoor design?
I decided to make the move to Australia almost six years ago. As soon as I made the decision, it become incredibly important for me to work for an authentic Australian company and one that supported home-grown manufacture and design. At the same time, I have a huge passion for gardens and nature, and so working for Tait was the perfect match for me.
Tell us about your design background.
I feel as though I was born with design a part of me. My parents are very passionate about design due to having their own interior design business in Cannes for many years. I would dip into the business twice a year to complete their buying for France’s Maison & Objet Fair. I did that for about 15 years and really loved it. As something completely different, I decided to focus my studies on the sciences, studying Microbiology / Biochemistry. I then worked for Pasteur Institute and Allergan for about six years, to return to University to complete a Masters in Human Sciences at La Sorbonne in Paris. I subsequently stayed in Paris for another six years to work as a human resources consultant and so it was only when I arrived in Australia that I decided to return to the design industry, working at Coco Republic for four years, initially as assistant manager and then showroom manager for the last three.
What does design mean to you and how important is good design in an outdoor space?
Design means everything and in an outdoor space it can mean even more to ensure a sense of longevity and to allow the space to age with grace. I have always deemed the choice of materials as probably one of the most important parts in the design process of an outdoor space, especially when you have to consider Australia’s harsh exterior elements which are some of the most severe in the world, and so a lot of time needs to spend choose the appropriate materials to fully respond to the setting.
What do you think makes Tait unique?
I credit Susan and Gordon Tait hugely in making Tait what it is. Gordon with his technical knowledge and skills are fundamental in the design of Tait’s outdoor furniture offering. Susan meanwhile has such an expertise in design and art that has been invaluable to the brand. Her eye has allowed us to collaborate with some of Australia’s greatest designers like Adam Goodrum, Trent Jansen and bernabeifreeman to develop new collections. Both Gordon and Susan bring a special sense of character to the company to deliver a unique mix of beautifully made outdoor collections.
Tell us about your team at Tait Sydney.
There are four of us in total at the Sydney showroom. We all bring different qualities to the table and so together it’s a really great and eclectic group. I consider myself very luck to have such a fantastic team. Alex Phan is our assistant showroom manager, originally from Adelaide, and is also a talented interior architect. Alex’s skills have always been such an asset to Tait’s client base who often require that additional guidance and technical regard of space, composition and arrangement. Our commercial clients really value liaising with someone that understands their needs and requirements from an industry stand point. Helen and Isabella make up our weekend team; both are very creative and passionate about outdoor living. I greatly admire their daily approach to work and the sincere relationships they have built with our clients, to constantly understand what they need and deliver outstanding solutions.
What does a typical workday involve for you?
That’s a hard question as I wouldn’t say I have a typical workday as such which is probably one of the biggest reasons that I love my job. Rather than a typical workday, my every day goal is to simply ensure I constantly deliver an unrivalled level of service to my clients so that their expectations are always met.
The Tait showroom has been designed to evoke the vibrancy and character of Australian design, how do you ensure it is constantly upheld?
Working closely with Susan on the visual merchandising has definitely ensured that. Susan appreciates that the Sydney and Melbourne showrooms are very different to each other and so spends a lot of time attentively considering each space, even regularly travelling from Melbourne to refresh the space with a new creative or product. She also allows me to have a lot of freedom so that I can add my own touch; as a fan of pared back, minimalist design, I think it’s conveyed beautifully in the showroom.
With Tait regularly specified for various commercial and residential spaces and yourself being a key contact for designers, what has been the most interesting project you have worked on?
There’s been so many great ones, how to choose just one? The most memorable are those which have reflected the Tait brand completely to further typify the Australian outdoor aesthetic. Where we can enhance that even more for a client, it is really rewarding, while when you can also help architects and designers to deliver on product, budget and time, it is extremely satisfying to take some of that weight off their shoulders and build that relationship with them further.
Which Tait product have you been most-excited about this year?
The Tidal collection has been a real monumental collection for Tait and now with the recent addition of the Tidal Sunlounge, it has undoubtedtly raised the bar for Australian outdoor design. We launched the Tidal Sunlounge at DENFAIR this year and received an incredible response. The level of detail and technique behind the collection is really impressive, with the Tidal Sunlounge being what I would describe as a true icon of Australian design.
What do you think makes Australian design (and manufacturing) so special and how does it compare to design in other countries?
Australian design is so different to anything else in the world. Unlike European design which is of course steeped with fascinating history, Australian design is fresh, modern and pioneering with a real opportunity to make its own history. In France, where I originally come from, my family are also in the design industry and so I know first hand that designers find it a huge feat to create original design that isn’t influenced by the past, or be compared by previous designers or design eras and their influences. That’s a great pressure and unconsciously it affects their creativity to go outside the box. When you look at the two, I really feel that Australian designers can be more free with their creativity. We have different resources here too with a whole spectrum of unique materials that you wouldn’t have access to in other parts of the world. Manufacturing has also become more and more difficult, particularly in Europe, with a lot of products now being mass produced overseas that over time has diminished the quality to create a disposable attitude to furniture. It’s hard to physically manufacture in Europe which has meant people aren’t so concerned with how to actually make furniture. I hope Australia doesn’t make the same mistake as Europe and continues to believe in its value. Regardless, I do think things are changing with people only recently starting to realise the worth of investing in well-manufactured pieces that will last a lifetime to pass down the family and generations.
Which designer inspired you to pursue a career in design?
Growing up in France, I was lucky enough to spend a week in Le Corbusier’s La Cité Radieuse in Marseille, when I was 20. It was a real eye opener and allowed me to truly appreciate what architecture and design means, and the importance of the two. I would say it was that experience that gave me the desire and passion to work in this
How would you define Tait in three words?
Designed to last.
What’s a little-known fact about Tait that you would love to share?
It’s authenticity is incredible – what you see is definitely what you get. When we communicate its authentic design, it is very true. I really admire Gordon and Susan’s concern for Australia and the environment and so my fact would be how the roof of the factory in Melbourne is fitted with solar panels that actually power the entire manufacturing of Tait’s furniture. Pretty impressive!
What inspires you daily?
To simply make this day a good one.
Describe your ideal Sydney weekend.
I live in the inner west of Sydney and so I tend to stay local during weekends. I would start the day by breakfast in my favourite café: Two Chaps in Marrickville. Some shopping would follow, probably on King Street in Newtown, to then meet friends for a drink. I really like the Courthouse Hotel and their back courtyard. Continuing the theme of food, you can always grab a great dinner at Stanbuli in Enmore, which is a beautiful restaurant offering what I think is the best Middle Eastern and Turkish food. Sunday mornings usually involve a swim in Little Bay, followed by a trip to the Marrickville Food Market on Addison Road. Their French cheeses and saucisson are sensational and allow me to take a little piece of France back home with me. Going to an exhibition or performance at Carriageworks in Everleigh ensure my dose of culture, which I love to finish off by drink on the rooftop of Websters to watch the sunset.
What are your plans for the holidays this summer?
I have my parents visiting from France next March and so my partner and I are going to use the time to really discover other parts of Australia. So far planned is a trip to South Australia and then Uluru, which will be a real pinch-yourself moment. I can’t wait to experience the heart of Australia and its most-iconic landscape. Even though I have been in Australia for nearly six years, I’m still a tourist in a sense with so much of Australia to still visit.
What would encapsulate your perfect A Life Outside?
Taking in the sunset with a glass of rosé while joined with some friends in our backyard sitting comfortably on my Tidal Loungers, of course. The scent of garden when it’s freshly watered paired with the sound of Cicadas are so iconically Australian. It’s one of my favourite times of the day. I love it.
Based in our Sydney showroom, Julien Labbe is Tait’s Sales Manager and Commercial Consultant for New South Wales, ACT and Queensland. To contact Julien direct for any commercial specifications, your own residential space or simply a question about all-things Tait, email email@example.com
Tait Sydney, 611 Elizabeth Street, Redfern 2016; madebytait.com.au
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