You may not have heard of EOQ but chances are you’ve switched on one of their lamps or sat in their chairs. Perhaps even the Chair 4a, a deceptively simple recycled and extruded aluminium piece whose simple lines belie its sturdiness, comfort and stylishness. The 4a is also the foundation upon which a brand is being built.
Matt Pepper, brand director and a former buyer for the likes of Lane Crawford, launched EOQ with product designer Michael Young roughly three years ago after Young designed 4a for a local restaurant. “That’s a really nice chair. It developed a lot of interest, particularly from other designers,” says Pepper. “There’s a functional element to the crimping that also then becomes decorative, so it’s function becoming design and working together. It’s had good response.” So good, in fact, that every time he and Young got together they would wax poetic about what a shame it was that the chair, without distribution, was effectively gone.
They’d also reflect on how amazing it was they could get Dongguan electronics factories to work for them. “But that was 2008 and for the first time in 20 years they had spare capacity,” explains Pepper. “That was an opportunity that wouldn’t happen now … But we caught them at the right time to be able to take advantage of their expertise and create a partnership.” And so EOQ was born.
EOQ — whose name refers to the manufacturing process of many of the brand’s products — has larger plans that involve other designers from the region and around the world. Pepper sees EOQ as something akin to the UK’s Established & Sons, which started out as a flag carrier for British design by attracting and facilitating talent. “We felt very strongly that there wasn’t a Hong Kong-based, southern China-based, credible design brand in the market,” notes Pepper. He hopes that within five years EOQ can fill that role.
Among the brand’s signature lighting designs are the newly launched Dub pendant fixture, which also incorporates glass with the raw extrusion process, the Asian-influenced Joseph collection (in pendant, sconce, floor and table models) and the classical Bramah in aluminium. Finishes for lighting come in a range of metallic hues, most anodised aluminium (the finish you find on a MacBook). On the furniture front there’s the Yi chair, the defining 4a and complementing Barstool, and the cast aluminium and wood Otto stool. Perhaps the coolest from among a lot of cool items are the Bayer bookshelf and the carbon fibre Shindo chair. The Bayer combines elegant engineering and natural forms for a modular piece as functional as it is funky, and the ultra lightweight Shindo has to be lifted — by a finger — to be believed.
Currently Young designs EOQ’s entire range but to grow Pepper knows they need fresh blood — wherever it may hail from. And he thinks the SAR and its environs are the future of design. “We’ve made a big point about our Hong Kong origins and talking about China as the forefront of innovation now,” he states. Europe is increasingly risk-averse and relies on a lingering “Made in China” bias. But for Pepper, “China has the engineering ability, the talent, the money and the enthusiasm,” to tackle innovative ideas. The next step is eliminating that resistance to Chinese construction — and the presumed low cost. “Very often we find people will get up close, feel the product and see the quality. Tell them the price and everything’s fine, but then they say ‘Where was it made?’ When you answer China, they ask ‘Why isn’t it half the price?’ There is still that misconception that everything out of China should be cheaper. So we are playing an education role too.”
The duo has every intention of using their position to foster new talent, but admittedly it has to be the right talent, and one that will blend seamlessly with EOQ’s aesthetic as it stands. “There is a common language here … a softness to the product. I don’t want to end up looking like an Argos catalogue,” quips Pepper.
At present, EOQ is planning to add some tables to the portfolio by the end of 2015, as well as some of that talent. And though designers and institutional buyers dominate the client base, EOQ product is not unavailable at the retail level. Outlets such as Lane Crawford and Archetypal carry the label, and in the very worst-case scenario, Pepper is welcoming. “If you have any problems drop us an email.”