Let There Be Light: Lee Broom On Collaboration And ‘Fashioning Design’

The sleek, sculptural grandeur of designer Lee Broom’s furniture and lighting creations hints to the start of his story: nightclubs. Before launching his namesake label in 2007, Broom advised London’s late night spots on their interiors. And prior to that, he was recognized by Dame Vivienne Westwood as the Young Designer of The Year and went on to study fashion design at London’s prestigious school of Central Saint Martins.

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Some of Lee Broom’s creations shot by Michael Bodiam. Photo: Lee Broom

It’s that fashion background which has inspired the title of Broom’s new book Fashioning Design, launching on November 17. As his first release with iconic publisher Rizzoli, the book encompasses the 15 years of Broom’s brand and the over 100 products that he’s designed since its inception.

There’s a whole chapter in it called “Material Boy” that is dedicated to the designer’s collaborations: from the latest with Rémy Martin, to the Clarks Desert Boots for the brand’s 65th anniversary, to Christian Louboutin’s Harrods store and the Gold Room at Lancaster House. Here, Jing Collabs & Drops speaks to the leading product designer about all those co-branded releases, touching on the often unspoken similarities between the fashion and interiors. 

Over the last 15 years of your career, what have been your highlight collaborations?

My most recent collaboration with Remy Martin XO was a very special project. I was asked to redesign the XO decanter for a limited edition bottle. This is actually the first time any designer has been able to re-imagine the decanter in this way so I was incredibly honored to be asked to do this. I love working with brands that have a strong heritage and a focus on exclusivity and luxury. For me, Remy Martin XO exceeds all of these qualities. Plus, I also love to work in glassware. 

Could you tell us a bit about the “Material Boy” chapter of your book?

This chapter focuses on my fascination with materials. With every collection I create, I always try to push the boundaries by working with new materials that I haven’t experimented with before. I’ve worked with marble, crystal, glass, brass and, more recently, with hand-draped plaster and hand-poured Jesmonite. I like that it pushes me as a designer. And with every new collection working with different materials, I then get the opportunity to work with different craftspeople, and the process is very collaborative and very rewarding.

How would you personally describe your presence in the fashion industry?

It’s been a long time since I worked in the fashion industry. When I was 18, I worked for Vivienne Westwood in London and in Paris, and I also studied fashion at Central Saint Martins so it is definitely instilled in me even as a product designer to have some inspiration of fashion within my furniture and lighting designs. This is particularly true with my exhibitions, which are always theatrical experiences and more akin to fashion presentations rather than furniture and lighting shows.

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Known for luxury lighting and furniture design, Lee Broom’s trademark is undeniably dramatic spotlight installations. Photo: Lee Broom

Do you see brand collaboration as important to you and your career?

I would love to collaborate more, but because I have my own brand where we design and create our own products it’s sometimes difficult to find time. However, I love the art of collaboration. It allows me as a designer to take my work into an unfamiliar territory. When I’m working on my own brand, the canvas is very blank and I create my own stories; when I am collaborating with other brands, there is already a story there and it’s more about how my creativity and their world can be combined to create something new.

Do you think your fashion design education made you more open to working within the industry as a lighting designer?

It has definitely given me a point of difference. When you are not formally trained in the profession that you specialize in there is a certain naivety, particularly at the start. I’ve always seen naivety as a strength, however, and not as a weakness. It allows your brain to expand into areas that might be more constrained if you had been formally trained. However, at the end of the day, there are many similarities within fashion design and product design. The process is the same: you start with an idea or a sketch and then you produce a prototype, a sample, a finished product, and then you go into production. Whether it is a chair or whether it is a coat, the journey is the same.

Do you have a presence in China currently?

Yes, we are sold in many stores in China. One of the more unique spaces we are sold at is the House of Wang in Beijing, which I think is a beautiful design store. The building and surroundings are exquisite. I love China, and I do hope I can come back to visit soon.

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Fashioning Design by Lee Broom. Photo: Lee Broom/Rizzoli New York

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