We sat down to chat with Ashley Tran-Suzuki, owner of Black Crate, about inspiration, style and all things black.
What is the Black Crate story?
The seed of inspiration for the brand was planted when I myself searched for new dinnerware and cutlery. My husband and I had just moved into our home in Sydney and I wanted to create an unforgettable dining space where we entertained and I really struggled to find dinnerware and cutlery that was striking, made from premium materials and unique. I wanted something that boasted unique tone, texture and style.
I met my co-founder in 2015 and we became great friends as we worked in the homewares industry together. It was during a conversation at the beginning of 2017 when magic happened and the vision for Black Crate literally came to life. I flew to Melbourne the next weekend to plan the brand concept and the next few months involved intense hard work in bringing it all together.
This culminated in our showroom in Fitzroy, Melbourne that opened in July 2017. I believe because we were so clear on the brand vision and essence, we were able to create the website and showroom quite quickly.
For me personally, the brand was and is about enhancing human connectivity. The business was co-founded with a very good friend during a period of great connection and I view our products as being vessels that enhance not only the dining space but the connection that happens during the intimate experience of sharing a meal with friends and loved ones.
The use of a ‘Black Crate’ as the brand mark is ingenious, how did you come up with the idea?
Offering beautiful packaging was very important to us, we knew it would be key to distinguishing the brand in a competitive market, and we really wanted to create something distinctly unique to the brand.
The black crate was designed by us and is not only synonymous with our name but it perfectly brings to life our story. All Black Crate dinnerware is delivered inside the custom black crate. My co-founder and I actually dreamed up the concept and got very excited over a conversation whilst one of us was preparing dinner. After that, it was magic, the aesthetics of the brand and the brand essence just came to life. The vision was just so clear.
Do you use trend forecasting to decide which dinnerware products to stock at Black Crate?
For the dinnerware, the product and design sourcing is organised by myself and my creative director. For our furniture range, it is custom developed by prominent Melbourne architect and interior designer, Elvin Tan.
When it comes to the dinnerware, we research and follow international trade fairs extensively and devour religiously leading design magazines. My husband is Japanese so I am very fortunate to be able to visit Japan regularly. I draw so much inspiration from these visits to Tokyo (my third favourite world city behind Melbourne and Sydney!) as Tokyo is just the ultimate fusion of east meets west and in terms of international trends, it’s one of the leading cities to watch.
I also follow international fashion brands extensively and draw so much inspiration from the fashion industry. I believe this helps me keep the brand different, by learning from another industry.
How do you source new products to ensure that Black Crate remains at the forefront of dining space excellence?
We research and follow international trade fairs extensively with my favourites being Maison& Object in Paris and Salone del Mobile Milano. We attend all the major trade fairs in Australia too. A big focus of ours is moving towards in-house design, this has already begun with our very first furniture collection being released in 2019.
Our unique dining furniture range encapsulates the brand essence and ethos of luxury, texture, tone and style. The exclusive range consists of five inaugural pieces including two different dining tables and chairs and a console. The pieces are art deco inspired with a touch of contemporary sophistication and really complete and enhance the brand offering to help make Black Crate the destination for clients to reimagine their dining space. Each piece is completely beautiful, made to order and individually hand-finished to the highest standard in quality in Melbourne, Australia.
Can you share any styling tips for creating a beautiful centrepiece for a dining table?
If you look at the centrepieces that we have on our dining tables in our showroom, you’ll notice that they don’t just rely on floral arrangements for impact. We style centrepieces using our range of accessories as well―for example, we use gorgeous solid oak wooden salt and pepper shakers and lay our spices on a marble slate to style one table and another has a solid black wooden serving board, paired with smooth matte black salad servers and striking grey tree branches. The idea is to ensure you have a cleat set colour theme, and from there play with different textures and tones.