Predicting the future seems to have always come somewhat easily to Victoria Redshaw — it’s not only what her company does, it’s what gave her the courage to do something only a handful of other companies are bold enough to try. After speaking at the International Speakers Series at Pacific Rug Gallery’s new store in West Vancouver, Redshaw shed light on her unique business.
“When I left university, I worked with manufacturers as a designer, and we used to go and see the buyers at the big High Street stores,” says Redshaw. “They started to ask me, ‘What do you think will be in next season? Do you think that this product would be good next year? Should we recolour it?’ I realized that they needed to know this future information.”
While there were many companies that spotted trends, few forecasted them — maybe only 20 in the world today, with even fewer focusing on interior design. With a Bachelor of Science in textile design and six years of working with UK’s major retailers in product design, Redshaw foresaw this as her chance to fulfill her dream of becoming her own boss.
“I left the security of working within the commercial world, and I started my own business,” she says.
Redshaw launched UK-based Scarlet Opus 13 years ago, and the company “works with interior designers, retailers, manufacturers, homebuilders, and the media, letting them know what will be in fashion in the world of interiors in the future,” she says — essential insider information these creatives and executives need when developing their next project, whether a home, hotel, shop, or airport.
In a world where people can hardly predict what will entice them tomorrow, she’s tasked with defining trends for the home, hotels and other public spaces two to three years into the future. “It’s an unusual job,” she says with a laugh, but somehow she makes a science out of fortune-telling.
“We don’t get it wrong, because of the research that we do and that we’re very focused on the end consumer: how they want to live, what their mood will be, what will be on their radars in the future,” she says. That might be events a couple years out, architectural projects, slated films and TV shows, art gallery exhibitions, and, of course, fashion.
“We can put all that information together, and then we know what will be on people’s radars,” she says. “And it’s also important what’s happening now as well because that affects the mood in society and what people want to surround themselves with: the colours, textures, materials and styles that they want in their homes, in hotels, bars and places that they spend their social time.”
But she also needs to dive deeper, exploring and assessing the collective psyche to see how people will want to cope with life — something that inevitably will play into design.
“The mood in society and the fears and desires, their wants and their needs are all really tied in with what’s happening in the world at the moment,” Redshaw says. “For instance, at the moment, there’s a lot of uncertainty and instability and a huge amount of change, which can introduce a level of fear. That means people will want things that are comforting and reassuring, and they need their homes to be a sanctuary from all this chaos.”
The crash of the financial markets in 2008 perfectly demonstrates how the mood of society affects the world of design. Before, “we were, stylistically, much more ostentatious,” she says. “There was a lot of gold, it was very high shine, and it was much more of a showy style that was overtly luxurious. Now we’re moving to something that is more of an earthen luxury, where we’re working with metallics rather than gold. It’s more brass and bronze and coppers and much more earthy metallics, and that a lot of the materials look as though they have a patina, an age, a distressed quality to them. It’s just more tasteful and it’s a little bit more subtle and stylish in a quieter way. Since the financial crisis, it doesn’t feel appropriate anymore to show off in such an overt way.”
Not only is it impressive that Scarlet Opus has been able to predict the impact of major global events on design trends, but they’ve been doing it year in and year out for over a decade in a ruthless industry where it’s one strike, and you’re out. Despite that pressure, forecasting isn’t even the hardest part of the job.
“You could only get it wrong one time because, in a year, either that happens or it doesn’t, and you will be proved right or wrong,” says Redshaw. She says the biggest challenge lies in making a client a believer. “When we first work with a client, we’re not just asking them to believe that we can see into the future down the road a little bit, we’re asking them to believe that we can see down the road around the corner.”
What’s ahead for interior design in 2017? Redshaw says there will be ways to harmonize our lives — and interiors — with the all-consuming chaos and constant public exposure of the digital world. So nature, nature prints, botanical greens and natural materials will be alive in furniture and homewares. Weathered, distressed looks will continue while finding new ways to show rawness matched with modern precision. Furniture design will play with ways to cocoon the individual, giving peace of mind, which in turn, does help us return to our truest nature.
English Text by Lindsay Wallace Photography by Jimmy Jeong