Albert Einstein famously said, "Imagination is more important than knowledge". Australian self-taught interior designer Ashley Sutton, responsible for some of Asia's most eccentric nightlife destinations, such as Ophelia and Iron Fairies in both Bangkok and Hong Kong, is a firm believer in that maxim. He talks to Perspective about his recent work
Why did you become a designer?
It was never my intention to be a designer, I only wanted to build boats growing up. I fell into design by mistake – I used to manufacture fairies and I wanted to create a good working space which represented my Iron Fairies books that I had previously written. At the same time, I wanted to help my staff understand what they were making to inspire them, so I created a 'fairy factory'. People loved the space and would come in and watch us making the fairies. Eventually, landlords started coming to me and asking me to create spaces for them, too.
How would you describe your style?
Detailed and whimsical.
From where do you draw your inspirations?
From my mind. Anything can inspire me, but most of my concepts have been in my mind for years. I'm constantly reworking them in my head and usually, once I see a location, one of my concepts will fall into place and I'll refine the concept to the space.
What does good design mean to you?
Something practical yet looks amazing to the eye; something where people can lose themselves in the experience.
What do you think of first when creating interiors?
I look at the location and think about how to create an experience around it.
Which architects or designers do you particularly admire?
Joyce Wang. I've come across her work during my time in Hong Kong and I like her style.
How did the design process evolve for your most recent project, Yojimbo in Hong Kong?
It was kept as a bar/nightclub because of the location, existing facilities and the time frame. As the space is quite intimate, it reminded me of a lot of the nightclubs in Ginza, from the time when I was designing Iron Fairies in Tokyo. I find Japanese culture fascinating and it inspired me to create Yojimbo, which is the coming together of my interpretation of underground Japanese clubs (many of which are very minimalistic) and Japanese pop culture, which is showcased in the entertainment.
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