In 2010, after three years working with Hoberman to set up e-commerce design firm mydeco.com, Macintosh joined him in becoming one of the four co-founders of Made. In China, fellow co-founder Ning Li had first conceived of the idea of an online platform that would give customers access to designer furniture, streamlining the supply chain and therefore reducing cost. But it didn’t take long for Hoberman to convince him to move himself and the model to London.
The four-strong team (the fourth co-founder is chief operating officer Julien Callende) spent six months planning, before launching in the UK. Made now operates in the Netherlands, Italy and France – as well as in China and Britain. Working direct with factories means that prices are up to 70 per cent lower than on the high street. Currently going through a funding round, the business has seen 50 per cent growth year-on-year. “Everyone within the industry said it wouldn’t work... but when an industry says something is impossible, that’s when you know the opportunity is there. And that opportunity wasn’t just to do direct from customers to factory, but to really utilise the online community to make interesting, original products,” says Macintosh.
Now, Made’s prolific competitions and democratised furniture creation (where customers vote for favourite pieces to be made en masse) embody this. And if you walk into one of its four showrooms (three in London, one in Yorkshire), you’ll have a very pleasant and novel shopping experience: items can be tried for size, scanned using a smartphone and read about at leisure. “It’s not a hard sell – we’ve had a lady come in and do her knitting, and I’m pretty sure we’ve been used as a creche,” laughs Macintosh.
This blur between life and art extends into Made’s understanding of its customers. A large chunk of its market are young professionals with “healthy salaries, who don’t have a big mortgage and are willing to spend quite a bit”. They understand travel and lifestyle and, with the flexibility to buy on impulse, they don’t always choose pieces for the long term.
The move away from integrated ceiling lights is another interesting phenomenon: “more people are taking the approach that a light can change space, mood and can personalise – without spending too much. We’ve seen sales grow exponentially”.