Covid-19 has really strengthened Aussies’ love for all things Australian made and durable, a trend that isn’t going away any time soon.
Nikki Sparkes, founder of Sydney based studio Aggre that specialises in concrete homewares and handmade candles, believes the Covid-19 pandemic really taught us about the fragility of international manufacturing, and that we had become comfortable and too reliant on large companies that import products.
“This has opened a door for local production to kick-start again and encourages people to buy locally produced products,” she explains.
“Which is so exciting for myself and my business, as there is a really lovely appreciation emerging from it.”
Keeping items produced locally, as opposed to offshore, is incredibly important to Sparkes. It provides jobs to local artisans and offers opportunities that are otherwise lost to mass manufacturers. This also minimises our environmental impact from transporting or importing items from around the world.
“I love concrete’s strength, durability and versatility. I saw it as an exciting, modern and sustainable alternative to pottery―it doesn’t need the excess use of energy for the kilning process. We are able to make many products at one time because concrete is cast in silicone molds and then cures at room temperature.
“I have an affinity for items that have a story and create an emotional connection with their owners. However, I feel that we have sadly lost that love for a lot of our items. The majority of the time, we are making purchases because of their modest price point and rapid availability.
“I’m really concerned about our current state landfill and pollution, which is driven by our consumption or poorly made products. Concrete is long-lasting and resilient, by utilising it in a new and exciting way, I believe it targets the issue of breakage and waste,” she adds.
Aggre showcased its latest collections at Life Instyle Sydney including the Venus coffee table, plinths and new colourways for its homewares range which is a homage to Sparkes’ childhood, travels and love for all things tactile and textured.
The brand was only launched in November 2019 and is already stocked in four different countries, in multiple stockists in Australia and Aggre’s online store.
“I decided to exhibit at Life Instyle as a way of introducing my brand into the domestic wholesale market. As we haven’t been operating that long (and due to the Covid pandemic) it’s only in the last six months that I feel like we are ready to properly take on the wholesale side of business. Funnily enough, I have a distributor over in the US for some of our products for North and Central America. So I was so excited to get into the local market.”
“Our products are quite unique in their texture, colours and tactility, so I believe it is crucial for people to see and touch them first hand. After a year of email threads and social distancing, it was so lovely to finally meet people face to face.”
Sparkes is excited about the future and she is working on some amazing collaborations as well as some new furniture pieces which will go into production shortly.
“We will be dropping a few limited edition lines of homewares and expanding our range of products (Life Instyle was great for market research―I’ve realised that people want really large platters). I’m really excited to be launching larger, bespoke pieces of furniture. It has been a dream of mine for a really long time to have my own range of furniture. So to see it come to fruition is amazing.
“I’m also excited to work with more Australian brands to collaborate and make some cool products together. It is amazing what happens when multiple creative and driven minds collaborate. My aim is to move into our own warehouse and have a showroom. Who knows, maybe an Aggre concept store too? Gotta aim high,” she adds.