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London-based designers Jerome Rigaud and Alexandre Bettler recently brought to life their vision for a collaboration-focused e-retail experience. Practical yet inspiringly candid, the French/Swiss duo sells books, clothes and shelves amongst other things. As Design Marketo turns one-year-old, its creators continue their self-assigned mission of “emptying designers’ stock for your pleasure” – and for theirs.
Years ago, Jerome and Alexandre used to share a workshop in London's Hoxton street. Frustrated to see great products gathering dust at their designer friends' studios, they dreamt of using the adjoining shop window to sell objects. They’ve now set up an actual shop - albeit a virtual one.
A good sense of timing brought the project to life. When a handful of jobs paid well on both sides of the partnership, Alexandre and Jerome were able to take time aside from their respective careers and plan DesignMarketo. Producing a business plan to attract investors, they envisioned a design-focused version of Ebay.
In 2008, recession hit the world, and economic realism hit home. With the prospect of starting up a new e-commerce giant rendered unlikely, a liberating sense of creative possibilities took hold of the business partners. They binned the proposal and embraced what they enthusiastically describe as a "marketing-free, intuitive" approach.
Setting up a low-key website, they aspired to link their friends' designs to a potential range of consumers. Working on a word-of-mouth basis, the project necessitated time to flourish. Growing numbers of visitors ensued as the site stayed true to its ‘raison d’être’: a "quality over quantity" enterprise based on real-life relationships. Alexandre describes DesignMarketo as "the online version of a small, privately owned, local shop. We test the products we sell and have stories to tell our customers about each one of them."
This personable identity needs to express itself beyond the limitations of a computer screen: operating online is not enough. Since its inception, the project has materialised in the shape of several pop-up shops. The first of these ephemeral outlets was set up within the creative retail spaces cluster of Redchurch street in London's East End. The next will be at a forthcoming Milan trade show, where DesignMarketo have joined forces with Apartamento magazine to produce a 'FoodMarketo'... Each unique event enables Design Marketo to reach new audiences. The brand could recently be appreciated 'in the flesh' in London's upmarket West End venue Saint Martins Lane Hotel. Using furniture by Lars Frideen that sells on the website, to display publications from Idea books, the temporary shop was yet another collaboration.
"Collaboration springs from survival instincts" says Alexandre. "The paradox is that, as an independent creative, I am dependant: I depend on other creatives." For Jerome, "collaboration is inherent" to the condition of designers. London pubs are fertile brainstorming soil: "we share a drink, have a chat, and a project is born".
Alexandre and Jerome practice design as a means to foster relationships; they value objects for their ability to engender stories. The pair clearly enjoys the process: "We’re necessarily going to get certain things wrong! We look forward to learning from our future mistakes."
A trained graphic designer, Alexandre Bettler designs social, interactive projects. The Bread Workshop is one of his current projects, unleashing creativity through baguette-making. http://aalex.info
DesignMarketo is inscribed in a lineage of collaborative online projects by Jerome Rigaud, such as electronest. Jerome works in "response to the desire to use the internet as an artist’s blank canvas." http://jeromerigaud.com