Design Stories: Niche

Design Stories: Niche

Jeremy Pyles, Creative Director, Niche Modern, features in the IDT Design Stories series, discussing the unique mantra of Niche Modern and his quest for enduring lighting designs.


The Niche workshop

Tell us about the design background of Niche Modern.
Niche started as a design oriented retail store in the East Village, New York. My background is in fine art photography, which I studied at the University of Texas. I became obsessed with the idea of light and its effect on illuminating objects or people. I approach lighting as if it’s sacred and beautiful and critical to every environment or scene.

What does Niche Modern represent as a design company?
I think design has to happen organically and magically. Niche Modern is genuine because my goal is to design beautiful things that inspire me. I really design for myself as my own worst critic and most difficult client, so the idea is that if I can make myself happy with the outcome of a design then maybe other people will like it too.

How do you continue to innovative in the industry?
The only way that innovation can happen is through experimentation. The outcome of a product I design is often unrelated to the thing that might have inspired it, and I think that’s how interesting designs happen. Ideas are tangential and not direct or linear; that’s where the beauty and magic of something well designed comes in.

What has been Niche Modern’s most successful milestone to date?
One of the things I’m most proud of as a designer was being included in Design Within Reach’s product line up among some of the best furniture, lighting, and product designers of the last 100 years. It’s incredibly meaningful and flattering and humbling. It encourages me that the products they included are worthy of being put beside Eames and Knoll and Nelson. As a manufacturer not having any real background in manufacturing, one of the biggest milestones was opening our own glass studio in Beacon, New York. It was a real labour of love and an incredible risk. I think it’s one of our biggest assets. It’s not just a place for manufacturing, but it’s also a studio for experimentation and risk taking.

How do you manage working globally as a lighting company out of your NY base?
In today’s economic climate, people obviously care about the province, where things are made and how they are made. When we first moved to Beacon away from New York City, we were concerned we would be lost or forgotten in the countryside of the Hudson River Valley. What we found is that a product’s relevance in the world is not determined by location. Good design is above and beyond a certain time or location, it’s agnostic of a country or a culture. I take great solace knowing that our products resonate with people all over the world.

How do you remain competitive, without sacrificing your emphasis on craftsmanship and quality?
It’s a real challenge and a problem that has to be solved on a daily basis. I think what we are trying to do now is focus on what we do best here and let other people outside of Niche focus on what they do best. We may outsource some parts or components, but we focus on the things that only we can do or we can do better than anyone else.

What does Niche Modern aspire to look like in 20 years time?
We want to continue designing and innovating and challenging ourselves, but I’ve always had the desire to branch out into more areas of design like furniture and using other materials. Ultimately, 20 years from now, I would like to look back at our catalog and see designs that are still relevant and timeless, designs that still resonate with people. I want to continue to be an iconic brand that inspires people.

Jade Tilley
Jade Tilley
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