Chester-based Nick Munro talks about his inspiration and design
PUBLISHED: 09:09 13 May 2014 | UPDATED: 09:09 13 May 2014
Nick Munro has created iconic modern homeware. He counts the aristocracy, fashionistas and even high street shoppers among his clients. Cheshire Life columnist Melissa Porter went to meet him
Nick Munro likes danger: ‘I’m a fan of danger in more ways than not...’ he explains to me upon meeting.
So now I’m a little scared. ‘I love Darjeeling tea.’ This calms me. His favourite colour is blue. Yawn, typical bloke response. Then he casually chucks in the curve ball of Atlantic blue to complete his thought. Slightly more interesting.
His favourite smells are springtime and lavender. ‘I’m reading Andrew Marr’s book the history of the world.’ Now I’m interested. I’m faced with an exciting bag of liquorice allsorts and instantly begin to focus with intent.
Walking into Nick Munro’s cosy Chester atelier, at first glance, is pretty typical of a hectic lifestyle section of a department store or interiors magazine. Simple rows of his infamous Wedgwood commissioned ranges (just one of his 12 more recent collaborations) and shiny stainless steel Raymond Blanc/Munro homeware accessories are perched atop delicately balanced slanted pieces of glass shelving.
RNLI slogan fabrics and linens sprinkle themselves amid Munro’s trademark classic British furniture items. His brand’s worldwide clientele currently span 15 countries and is soon to include Australia. It’s even caught the attention of Her Majesty the Queen and I’m keen to understand why.
I arrive in Munro’s office, located above his Chester store, to find a bearded, dashingly handsome man sitting with feet on desk surrounded by a sea of what appears to be complete disorganisation.
Munro is the man behind the 25-year-old brand and despite this appearance of chaos he exudes calm and is welcoming. ‘It drives some people crazy but I know where everything is,’ explains the British designer.
‘I choose to delegate. Entrepreneurs have to decide stuff and my mission has always been to put myself in a position where people can find me.’
Clearly, he radiates a very visible neon glow as via WPP (the famed advertising agency) the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Trust recently commissioned him to create the Diamond Jubilee teapot. Yet, interestingly, this is the man whose favourite meal is a simple version of fish and chips. He says the meal should ideally be coupled with champagne and absolutely surrounded by his family; Ali, his charismatic wife of 21 years and their two sons, Alfie, aged 19, and Ozzie 16.
‘My dad taught me that simplicity is a goal’ Munro goes onto explain. Which may be why, with crystal clear clarity, when I ask him what differentiates his brand and makes it so popular, his response is simple. ‘Quality.’ Enough said.
Munro, aged 50, is enchanting with an intense stare and I observe him acknowledging and engaging with our photographer and customers effortlessly and with intention. It’s an unusual quality for someone who has the fashion designer Paul Smith and the Duchess of Westminster on speed dial.
‘I trust people and I’m rarely let down.’ He recounts a story to perhaps illustrate his point. ‘On a recent business trip to Hong Kong my (lawyer) father and I agreed to secure a significant deal via a handshake versus the standard thick contracts.’ I ask if he has any concerns about being ripped off by a country applauded for their copies. ‘Safe isn’t safe’ he replied simply.
He exudes a sense of having a clear direction and I ask what he loves. ‘The feeling of freedom. I love riding my BMW motorbike but in keeping with the Brit theme I have a Triumph on my boys’ toys wish list’. I wonder how he finds the time with a burgeoning business that includes developing a branded property portfolio? Munro credits much of his success to the example shown by one of his mentors, Terence Conran.
‘The most successful people have time. Their decisions are based on choice and discipline and in their presence you will always have their full attention.’
Munro is true to his word as my scheduled interview spills over with no uttering of a grumble or resistance. ‘I like to collaborate with motivated, curious and interested individuals who are all interested in the same stuff as me.’
He credits his father-in-law, David (one of his first mentors) as providing him with valuable business insight. ‘If you’re not having a laugh why are you doing it?’ I shift nervously in my seat as my (very early in my TV career) appearance in an advert for candida flashes past my eyes.
Our interview finally draws to a close and I feel so inspired by him and the positive energy he radiates that I ask him when he feels most inspired. ‘When I don’t expect to be inspired’ he replies. ‘Like those crap teapots at service stations that leak everywhere - that’s like reverse inspiration for me. It makes me want to do something about it.’
About Nick Munro
Almost 30 years ago Nick became famous for his much-imitated spiral egg cup.
Following that, he earned the accolade of UK Young Entrepreneur of the Year.
His ‘modern classic’ designs have been sold in stores like John Lewis and Fired Earth.
Designing for a P&O cruise ship ‘Ventura’ in 2007-8 took his skills to another level: among many items he created was a bespoke cutlery set bearing the P&O logo.
His first degree is in engineering, which he says is valuable in combining design and practicality.
He has undertaken commissions for Wedgwood, the Victoria and Albert Museum, Bugatti and Royal Selangor.