Interview - Alexander Lotersztain of Derlot

Lucy Feagins
Lucy Feagins
17th of August 2012
'Cubo' modular storage unit designed by Alexander Lotersztain of Derlot for the One Third collaboration, launching this week in Melbourne at Saturday in Design.
Alexander Lotersztain (top left) working with Helen Kontouris, Jon Goulder, Adam Goodrum and Matthew Prince on One Third - a collaboration with Tasmanian furniture manufacturer Designs in Timber.  This project was initiated by Alexander Lotersztain to foster collaboration between Australian designers and manufacturers.
Limes Hotel in Brisbane - designed by Alexander Lotersztain / Derlot, 2008
Design details at Limes Hotel in Brisbane - designed by Alexander Lotersztain / Derlot, 2008
Whilst in Brisbane recently (yes there are some QLD home features coming!) I had the great pleasure of meeting a designer I have long admired - Alexander Lotersztain of Derlot. Alexander is an Argentinian-born, Australian-based designer.  He's tucked away in Brisbane, he's incredibly busy and he travels a LOT, which is perhaps why he's not quite a household name just yet (although design industry peeps will certainly be familiar with his work).  But make no mistake, Mr Lotersztain is one of Australia's most exciting and dynamic designers, and his company Derlot is making big waves both locally and abroad. Derlot is a small studio, but is absolutely prolific, and takes on an incredible variety of work - from custom product design for specific architectural projects, to Australian-made furniture created under the name 'Derlot Editions', to complex interior design solutions and associated graphic design, branding and marketing.  Clients include Planex Australia, Asahi Japan, Nestle Switzerland, Arthur G Australia, Queensland Art Gallery and many many more. Alexander has won a slew of awards and accolades for his design work in the past few years - he was awarded with the inaugural Queensland Premier Smart State designer of the year fellowship award in 2010.  He's also been named one of 100 most influential top designers worldwide by Phaidon, and his work has appeared in design publications around the world.  Alexander is part of the 'Smart State Design Council' for the Queensland Government, drafting the Smart State Design Strategy for 2020 - and has also served a stint as a mentor to contestants on the TV series 'The Renovators'! In person, Alexander is a bit of a rockstar.  He rocked up to our meeting on his shiny black Vespa, full of buzzing energy and enthusiasm for his latest projects (his fab South American accent also added to the buzz!).  We chatted about Limes Hotel - the boutique hotel he designed in Brisbane in 2008, where I was lucky enough to stay during my visit (HIGHLY recommend!).  But mainly, he was bursting with excitement as we discussed One / Third - an inspired and ambitious collaboration initiated by Alex, resulting in a stunning range of contemporary Tasmanian-made furniture, designed by five of Australia's very best furniture designers, and launching at Saturday in Design tomorrow in Melbourne! (Stylecraft showroom). But aside from his rockstar vibe, impressive design credentials, and intense passion for his work, there's also a real pragmatism about Alex.  Of course he's highly creative and immensely talented, but he also totally gets the 'business' of design.  I guess this killer combination of creative talent and intuitive business sense is what really has propelled Derlot to such great heights in just under 10 years.  Most impressively, Alex is only 35!  Ouch.  How's that for motivation!?? I highly recommend a browse through the Derlot website for a good look at Alexander's incredible creative output!  And of course, don't forget to support One / Third with a visit to the Stylecraft showroom if you're at Saturday in Design tomorrow!  You won't be disappointed!
Can you tell us a little about your career background – what brought you from Argentina to Australia initially, and what path led you to study design, and to launching your own design studio?
I’ve always had a severe case of the travel bug and was lucky enough to travel a lot with my parents as a child. When I turned 17 a friend of mine came back from a six-month surfing tour of Australia raving about his experience and that was it for me, I had to check out the world for myself. I packed my bags and told everyone I was leaving Argentina to study abroad - it sounded like a responsible excuse! But really I just wanted to explore and learn about a new culture. After graduating I went to Japan, got a job with GK and a few month later with IDEE where I worked for a year and a bit. Then moved to Barcelona, Milan and eventually decided Australia was it. I like it here, there is a very relaxed attitude to everything and it’s a beautiful place. I live in Brisbane, and yes it's not the usual design hub, but love it. There are heaps of opportunities here, not to mention the design culture is expanding and ever growing, that’s why Derlot and Derlot Editions is based here!
Xsystem shelving designed by Alexander Lotersztain / Derlot for Planex, 2008
Derlot’s practise spans architecture, interiors, furniture design, objects and events – that’s an impressive variety of work! What have been one or two favourite projects in recent years and why?
I think the most exciting projects recently have been working alongside and collaborating with Cox Rayner Architects on the new Brisbane Ferry Terminals, and ONE ONE ONE Eagle Street where we developed a lighting solution for the building – it took three years in the making but we are so happy with the result as it at night it really showcases Brisbane’s cityscape. This year we also added a new business to the Derlot fold that is Derlot Editions, so that we'd be able to extend our product range and have opportunities to develop new products in conjunction with other designers, including a recent partnership with Matt Prince of Fit Shelves. The biggest, most exciting thing on my radar at the moment that I am very proud of is  the launch of One/Third. We have invited some of Australia's most renowned designers to design products for us under this umbrella and all products are made in Tasmania, it's a very exciting time!
The debut One / Third collection, handcrafted in Tasmania and launching this week in Melbourne!  Featuring designs by Alexander Lotersztain, Jon Goulder, Adam Goodrum, Helen Kontouris, Matthew Prince, One / Third.
This weekend you’re launching ‘One / Third’ at Saturday in Design. Can you give us a little info about this project? How and why did it come about, and what do you hope will come out of this unique collaboration?
The idea was ignited by my passion to promote Australian manufacturing and show people how design plays an integral role in all apsects of the business. One/Third is the result of this experiment and you will be able to see all of the amazing products launched at Saturday in Design (tomorrow in Melbourne!) exclusively through Stylecraft.
Pieces from the debut One / Third collection, launching this week.  Clockwise from top left - Tub chair by Adam Goodrum, Penelope table by Helen Kontouris, Splay chair by Jon Goulder, Tub table by Adam Goodrum.
Your studio is incredibly prolific – you seem to efficiently juggle many varied projects at any given time. Can you give us a little insight into the inner workings of Derlot? How many people do you employ and in what roles? How is your studio structured, and what significant tasks do you outsource?
We usually try to do everything in-house. We have a team of people that we collaborate with on a project-by-project basis, mainly in the graphic and web design departments. We also like to encourage a holistic approach to designing when working on client-based projects, where we'll adopt responsibilities in an art direction and marketing capacity. We find this method allows us to produce the best product possible and market it accordingly. You could say it's a one stop shop!
Flinders public furniture designs by Alexander Lotersztain / Derlot for Cox Rayner Architects, 2011
Which Australian designers, artists or creative people are you liking at the moment?
I like the work of Florian Groehn, he is an extremely talented photographer, he also happens to do most of our photography. I also like what is happening in the Australian fashion and food industries at the moment. I always like to see what's happening in other industries, take it in, and let it inspire my own.
Can you list for us 5 resources across any media (i.e. specific websites, magazines, blogs or books) you tune in to regularly?
Notcot Dezeen Nod Architonic New Scientist
Matthew Prince's Fit collection designed for Derlot Editions.  Photography by Florian Groehn
What does a typical day at work involve for you?
Wake up... Breakfast---Fast--- Go down for a café to the local before getting to work around 9am Do emails…set the tasks for the day.. Site meetings, or clients lunch Then back to the studio around 2 4pm go to the gym Back to the studio Dinner with the family!
What would be your dream creative project?
There's too many to tell. I like the way design can really make a difference.  Any project I can see that potential in, I get excited about!
What are you looking forward to?
I am looking forward to my four-week European holiday with my family.  It's been a busy year so far.
'Solid' stacking timber stool by Alexander Lotersztain / Derlot for the One / Third collaboration, launching this week in Melbourne.
'Solid' stacking timber stools in various heights by Alexander Lotersztain / Derlot for the One / Third collaboration, launching this week in Melbourne.

Brisbane Questions

Your favourite Brisbane neighbourhood and why?
West End – I like the atmosphere and the lifestyle, and our studio is there.
What and where was the last great meal you ate in Brisbane?
Gerard's Bistro on James Street.  It's a great new restaurant by the same guys of Lychee Lounge and Laruche.
Where would we find you on a typical Saturday morning?
Breakfast with the family, then off to the markets for fresh organic produce and a mountain bike ride in the PM if I can !
Brisbane’s best kept secret?
Alfred & Constance Discoteque… good luck getting in!

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