Tom Dixon, designer and restless innovator

Tom Dixon

Tom Dixon (Sfax, 21 May 1959) is a British designer and creative director, a restless innovator with an unconventional self-taught pathway.

“If I had spent more time at art school, I would have been told to do this, or not to do that. There was great liberation in just being able to make different things using found objects, without having to justify myself”.

Born in Tunisia in 1959 – son of an English teacher and a journalist for the BBC World Service – Tom Dixon moved to England in 1963. He attended Holland Park Comprehensive, where, in the pottery department and during the Life Drawing class, started his obsession with materiality, manufacturing and form took shape. He studied at the Chelsea School of Art so that he could explore his own creativity and a personal means of expression using recycled materials.

He is a “designer by accident”: he started, in fact, to design from whatever material he could obtain for free or from the primitive tools he bought.

In the Eighties he played bass in the disco band Funkapolitan, developing his idea to make a product from an idea and manage a business.

“With self-determination, you could make a living from an idea”.

A motorcycle accident broke his arm, so he give up with music and moved to the design world, start-making things for fun. Those were the years of the opening of his laboratory called “Space”: a think tank, an independent open space where artists and designers could collaborate and influence each other creatively and design-wise.

“I got the idea that you can transform materials into something more precious. That’s still what I do”.

Tom Dixon started collaborating with the Italian furniture company Cappellini, for whom he realised the acclaimed S-Chair. In the 1990s, the “Space” was transformed into a full-fledged design studio: Dixon became recognized as a top-level designer and his name started spreading rapidly amongst internationally acclaimed brands. His commercial success led to his nomination as Head of Design at Habitat, in 1998, where he became Creative Director.

In 2002 he founded his own luxury design brand Tom Dixon, specialized in furniture, lighting and accessories. In this, he could follow all the development, the production and the communication processes to have a more wider understanding of the work.

“I’m open to ideas, they can make the creative process completely different from the departure one”.

In the meantime, he also worked on private and institutional collaborations, dedicating himself to a number of noteworthy projects and creating a series of pieces that are destined to remain unparalleled in terms of popularity and appreciation.

His design embraces different sectors: in 2021, for the 50th anniversary of the V7 motorbike – launched in 1967 by the iconic Italian motorcycle manufacturer Moto Guzzi – he designed “Tomoto”, a concept that mixes motorcycle art and industrial design.

In 2019 he launched in Milan “The Manzoni” his restaurant, showroom and office all in one.

He also collaborated in the music world with the electronic French duo Daft Punk for Habitat, designing “Coffee table”, a disco dancefloor as a coffee table.

Dixon’s works are included in the permanent collections of the most important museums, including the Victoria & Albert Museum, the MoMa in New York and Tokyo, and the Centre Pompidou.

In 2000, Dixon received the prestigious Order of the British Empire, awarded by HRH Queen Elizabeth II. In 2014 he was awarded Designer of The Year at Maison & Objet in Paris. In 2019, he received a silver medal for Best Garden at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show and in the same year the prestigious London Design Medal at the British Land Celebration of Design Awards.

In 2021 Tom Dixon came up with an original way to celebrate what should have been the start date of the 60th Salone del Mobile of Milan. He visited Milan as a hologram and launched through computer-generated imagery (CGI), two new products: “Hydro” chair at Palazzo Mondadori and “Burst” chandelier in the brutalist Church of San Nicolao della Flue.

Tom Dixon
Tom Dixon
Tom Dixon

Tom Dixon was a guest of our “Disrupting Pattern Talks”, series of talks dedicated to inspiring design & fashion icons. During this session, he traced the steps of his unconventional career, from being an independent and innovative designer – working with recycled materials – to the role of creative director, and running his own luxury brand Tom Dixon.

His career began in music, where he also developed his business acumen. Both of these skills he learnt through experience rather than formal training or education. He believes that this enabled him to create his own ideas and products. His career demonstrates the power of experimenting and developing ideas. He shared the “behind the scenes” of some of his iconic pieces, such as the S-Chair, inspired by the form of a chicken. His personal approach of being able to look at things with a new prospective led him to build collaborations in different industries from motorcycles to music.

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Tom Dixon
Tom Dixon

“With self-determination, you could make a living from an idea”.

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