Interviewing Rafa Garcia
Not everyday do we get the honour of speaking to the designer behind our favourite pieces of furniture.. but luckily for us, last wednesday, DREAM invited us to the launch of Sancal's Majestic Collection where we interviewed Rafa Garcia, the chief designer behind the collection.
Prior to the interview, we had already read and watched so much about the collection and the designers behind it and we had so many questions we just wanted to pick Rafa Garcia's brain about. He had been on a mini tour of sorts, to Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra for the launch of the collection and the last spot on his journey was sunny Singapore where he had underestimated the distance from his hotel to the DREAM showroom and made the mistake of walking under the hot sun for too long.. at least it will be a funny memory of his trip right?
Rafa is such a down to earth person and it was such a pleasure to interview him.. his answers were so heartfelt and honest it was like speaking to a friend. We talked to him about the collection, his plans for the future and growth as a designer among other things..
Bloesem: We just want to start with some interview questions about yourself. Of course the internet has told us many things about you, but I think some things are just better when it comes straight from the designer themself. Your work is described as 'Purified Shapes with Identity', 'Formas Depuradas Con Identidas', does that describe you as a person or your work, or both, and can you tell us why?
Rafa Garcia: It defines more of my work. I'm bigger than that, l like many more things. I like that when I design a piece, it can transmit many meanings with minimum forms in design. I follow the designer Dieter Rams and his philosophy of 'less is more'.
Bloesem: So can you just share with us what is your design process like, and where do you gain inspiration from?
Rafa Garcia: When I try to design something I first look for images. Sometimes it's nature, so I look for images of nature for some inspiration. And sometimes by looking at those images, I find one that starts creating, the process, and everything starts developing in my mind.
Bloesem: Tell us more about your home. Since you're a designer of amazing pieces of furniture, we're sure it looks fabulous. How have you decorated it?
Rafa Garcia: My wife is kind of the decorator. [laughs] But I take care of the pieces that we put inside the house. All my furniture is from Sancal. To give you an idea, I have 4 sofas.
Bloesem: Of your own designs?
Rafa Garcia: All my designs.
Bloesem: That's cool, sitting on your own designs.
Rafa Garcia: When somebody walks into my house, they say it's like a museum – but a museum of myself because all the pieces are my pieces. [laughs] For example my neighbour, he's an architect and we moved flats. Three years ago we met and we both moved to a new place, and one year later he said "Oh, I just discovered who you are," So now he's so interested to come to my house and see all the products. It was really funny. [laughs]
Bloesem: It's a nice conversation starter isn't it?
Rafa Garcia: It is. So from then on we speak very often.
Bloesem: As the "creative heart" of Sancal, how do you ensure that your ideas about designs influence the direction that they go towards?
Rafa Garcia: I design but– sometimes we have pieces from other designers, so we have a team, a creative team, and each one contributes a different perspective. Sometimes when I work with many designers, my approach is more to look for solutions in different pieces, to be able to produce them with our own methods and techniques.
Bloesem: Ah. That's what I was wondering when we were looking at the different pieces, and the different designers — how do they come together seamlessly as a whole collection?
Rafa Garcia: We look for a theme before the collection. We work with a briefing, and distribute it to the different designers. For example, this year we were looking for a product that was more of a luxury item perhaps. So every year, the collection has a different theme, and now, for example, we are already working on a theme for the next collection.
This year, the Majestic Collection is like a luxurious collection, and though the pieces maybe different, at the end we create a catalogue with the different images involving everything and the graphic design also helps because just one piece alone cannot transmit to you the whole theme. But with all the photos together, and the setting around them, they tell a story together.
Bloesem: Your designs are very timeless and very recognisable. Is that consistency in design very important to you?
Rafa Garcia: Yes, because I don't want my products to be fashionable items that will go out of style, they should be for all times. So I create simple products with a minimalist approach so my products will be timeless.
Bloesem: How has your design evolved through the years? If you look back on your first pieces that you started with.
Rafa Garcia: Now I really appreciate the finishing of materials. In the beginning, I was more interested in the form of products, and now I have discovered that with one same line, giving that finishing touch to the material, you can achieve a very different product. I want to look for that difference because we are working in a global market, so it is important to have the specifications that competitors may not be able to copy.
Bloesem: About the Majestic Collection, we love the copper legs of the TipToe couch and we don't think we have seen it in any of your other designs. So we just like to know is that a part of an evolution as a designer yourself?
Rafa Garcia: I want to think yes. For TipToe Sofa, I had already made the design of the piece but I didn't feel that the sofa was really finished well. When it was already about to be produced for the Milan fair, I told my boss I did not like the design. [laugh] So he gave me one more month to redesign. So I removed that base and I found a design that I was really looking for in the beginning.
So this time I became more obsessive until I found what I'm looking for. I'm not just happy with the first design, I keep on going and I try to evolve my designs to continue to develop.
I have a drawer where I keep my designs in and look back at them at a later time, this gives me some time to think about it and see if I still like it when I look back.
Bloesem: So talking about materials and designs, what is your favourite material to work with and why?
Rafa Garcia: Wood. It allows you to create many types of different shapes and at the same time it has the aspect of nature. And also because at Sancal, we can make 19 different types of wood, with different colour, we have the standard finishing but we also have blue and purple, pink, white, yellow, mango [laughs].. the list goes on.
Bloesem: Did you face any difficulties during your design process for this collection?
Rafa Garcia: Above all, to be able to finish on time. And also in this collection, the cover of the Vichy table, the tabletop. To help the designers with what they wanted to bring across, at the same time keeping in mind what we were able to produce. So that's what makes it a bit more complicated.
Bloesem: Is this your first time in Singapore? How do you like it so far?
Rafa Garcia: I'm falling in love. Today we (Rafa and Sancal sales representative for South East Asia) woke up late this morning because of the jet lag, and decided to walk here from the hotel. When they arrived here we had to take a shower.
Bloesem: Yeah! No walking! In Singapore you have to take a cab everywhere [laughs]
Rafa Garcia: So we went back and shower. The thing is it's very impressive for someone like us, from Spain, when you visit first time in Singapore. You fall in love because it's Asian, yet you are reminded of something Western like in Europe. A beautiful mix where I feel at home, and at the same time I feel excited because I'm discovering something that is totally different than what I'm used to.
Bloesem: Do you think that Asia itself is ready for your designs?
Rafa Garcia: I think so. Because I don't design just thinking of a specific place. Perhaps some designs may not be understood as much as others, because it's inspired by certain things foreign to some cultures. But my designs are very minimalist and that can be adapted anywhere.
This sofa [referring to the Duo Sofa], our bestseller in Singapore, is in fact not our bestseller in Europe.
Bloesem: Oh! That's interesting.
Rafa Garcia: Any worker of Sancal, when you want to buy a first sofa, they usually buy this one. My cousin who also works at Sancal also has this sofa. When somebody wants to buy a first sofa it's this one [referring to Duo Sofa].
Bloesem: That's nice, everyone's supporting you! Are you inspired by Singapore, or perhaps after this trip you might be?
Rafa Garcia: I think so. Because you see many things that you're not used to seeing. This morning for example they pass by a small alteration and upholstery shop in the middle of the street. When I design I really just look for images that will serve me as inspiration. Clearly the trip that we have made will give me lots of inspiration.
Sancal's South Asian Sales Representative: So once he made a trip to the South of Spain, he saw a chair there, and he took inspiration from there to design one of his chairs.
Bloesem: Are there any other things you would like to share with our readers?
Rafa Garcia: For the next year, I would like to design a sofa. A higher sofa to be able to support your head also, very different from everything I've designed so far.
They always say that to design a sofa is one of the biggest challenge you can encounter. To design a sofa is really difficult, because the world is full of sofas. And to achieve a piece that is really different, and to be able to be different from any other piece that is sold to the market, it really takes me days without sleep. We will wait for you in Milan to see the new designs!
Bloesem: We look forward to that!