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At the 30UNDER30 breakfast, hosted by Interface, sustainability was the message

At the 30UNDER30 breakfast, hosted by Interface, sustainability was the message


On Tuesday 13 February, ADR celebrated the final 30UNDER30 at an intimate breakfast hosted at Interface’s stunning Sydney showroom.

Now in its second year, ADR’s 30UNDER30 program champions the future leaders of design and innovation. What better way to do this than by bringing together this year’s finalists, last year’s cohort, and design industry legend David Oakey and Brian Clohessy for an intimate conversation about the challenges and infinite possibilities ahead for this young, talented group.

David Oakey’s quote set the scene for the Final 30UNDER30 breakfast at Interface

David Oakey founded celebrated US based design studio David Oakey Designs in 1985. From day one, Oakey has been a leader of nature-informed design and sustainability. As Interface’s exclusive product designer, Oakey not only leads Interface’s global efforts in sustainable design, he is also one of the strongest, most influential voices in the increasingly vital sustainability conversation. 

Brian Clohessy of BVN asking insightful questions

In conversation with BVN head of people and character Brian Clohessy, Oakey shared fascinating insights into his hugely successful and influential design career, including his early days as a carpet designer in England, through to advising some of the world’s most well-known global brands on how to integrate sustainable design into their businesses. 

David Oakey, left and Brian Clohessy, right, in conversation

Clohessy, as interviewer, drew out Oakey’s story in the way only a fellow architect and advocate for sustainability, innovation and genuine wellbeing can. His questions were considered, and equally as informative as Oakey’s answers. As the conversation unfolded, Oakey shared how growing up in a small carpet mill town in England shaped his values, how his education in textile design at Kidderminster College influenced his design process, and talked in depth about his experience of founding Pond Studios and sitting around the boardroom table with industry titans.

Brian Clohessy, Left, and David Oakey, right, in conversation

Commercial career success aside, what was also evident is that Oakey lives and breathes his design philosophy. It goes deeper than design, and success for Oakey is about more than the product alone.

“I love nature,” he said. “One of the best inspirations we get is when nature and man come together. If you compare [them], nature is so organic, there is no bs, no squares. It’s diverse. Man-made design is very rectangular. It’s monolithic.” 

David Oakey, centre, and Brian Clohessy, right, talking with a 30UNDER30 cohort member.

Oakey’s genuine passion for his work, and his reasons for doing what he does — his why — reverberated through the entire conversation. It was impossible to leave Interface’s showroom and venture back into the office without feeling moved and galvanised to hold fast to one’s values, to read as widely and deeply as you can, and never doubt that with each small step you can be a force for change. 

Trish McCann, marketing director – APAC Interface introduces Brian Clohessy and David Oakey

In hosting the 30UNDER30 breakfast, Interface — a global leader in design-driven, innovative and sustainable modular flooring — put their company ethos into action. Lending their support to 30UNDER30 is about much more than hosting an event. It’s about contributing to the dialogue on issues that matter most for the future of design and humanity as a whole. 

The 30UNDER30 cohort listening intently to David Oakey

The intimate and relaxed conversation provided an opportunity for young designers to not only learn and be inspired but also contribute their voice to the conversation during a lively Q and A session and connect with their peers.

The 30UNDER30 cohort mixing and mingling over breakfast

It was a privilege for everyone in the room to have the opportunity to hear Oakey’s story and learn from one of the global leaders of sustainable design. ADR is looking forward to continuing the 30UNDER30 event series and hosting the Creativity Retreat in Bali later this year. 

Quotable moments – David Oakey
  • “Look to nature — there is no word in nature for waste.”
  • “Don’t be afraid when other people make decisions for you. It may lead you to a different place.”
  • “Become a great storyteller. Think of how you can sell the concept. A great story will really help people make that decision on your product.”
  • “Embrace technology. I encourage you to embrace change.”
David Oakey’s quotable moment on the big screen
Panel discussion highlights 
  • Hold true to your values
    Develop a design philosophy and carve out your niche in the design world. Oakey shared the ups and downs of his career journey, emphasising that holding true to his values has always led him in the right direction and helped him overcome imposter syndrome. 
  • Build, solid, trusting relationships
    In the early stages of your career, the gap between where you are and where you want to be can feel like a gulf. Embracing opportunities and developing good relationships with peers and industry can help shrink the gap.

    Having a good partner — a dreamer and a realist — is also a key to success for Oakey, who described Interface CEO Ray Anderson as “the dreamer with the sustainable vision.”
  • Bring others on the journey to make change
    Oakey shared how it was through pushing manufacturers and suppliers to develop the sustainable materials he wanted to use in his carpet tile products in the 1990s that led to industry-wide change.

    For Oakey, sustainability and shifts happen through working collectively towards a common goal. This means that suppliers, manufacturers, specifiers, and end-users need to collaborate from beginning to end. 

Photographer: Narrative Post, Matthias Engesser

Learn more about Brian Clohessy and how he applies the lens of potential at BVN


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