Viable

Founded
2005

Members
Magnus Long, Charles Trevelyan, Gala Wright

Disciplines
Furniture, lighting

Mission
To embody in furniture the Orwellian slogan, “Four legs good, two legs bad”

Collective hero
Buckminster Fuller

If you’d wandered into Viable’s 2005 debut exhibition during 100% Design, you might have thought that the space, punctuated by a dramatic switch-backing ribbon of shelf, had been put together by some slick, heavily sponsored design outfit. But at that point, the London-based product designers—Gala Wright, Magnus Long, and Charles Trevelyan—had been together only five months.

The three met in Milan as co-exhibitors in a show that highlighted emerging British design. They took one look at each other’s work, decided they had something in common—more a sense of polished quality control than a strict stylistic affinity—and pooled resources. By the time September’s fair rolled around, they had a name (though Viable is as much a declaration of intent as a label), a graphic identity (courtesy of Trevelyan, the one Australian member), and a big, empty space to fill.

That they stocked the venue in style, with no funding and under last-minute duress, is a testament to their ambition. Among the products on display were Wright’s Mekong occasional tables, which embed globe lights in a two-way-mirrored cube; Trevelyan’s space-saving LDF room divider, whose sloping shelves incorporate a removable dining chair and side table; and Long’s jaunty folded-metal shoe shelves, which are currently being tried on for size by Puma’s New York concept store.

If the group experienced growing pains, they weren’t visible at the fair, and such assuredness can no doubt be attributed to impeccable pedigree: Trevelyan, 32, trained as an engineer before switching first to graphic and then to furniture design; 36-year-old Wright, who has a physics background, started with a career in film production, then followed a furniture design course with a stint at London’s Habitat; Long, 27, followed his furniture and product design coursework with a job as production coordinator at London’s famed Twentytwentyone design store, working with designers like Robin Day.

This year, the accolades have continued apace: Viable was selected for Design Mart, the Design Museum’s exhibit of up-and-coming talent, and in November the group took its first collaborative efforts—accessories such as metal door hooks and pendant lampshades made from thin sheets of cut steel—to Tokyo Design Week. The aim now, says Long, is “high design but affordable”; in other words, commercial success.
www.viablelondon.com — fiona rattray

Art: Charles Trevelyan’s Archipelago table (2005)

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