Michael Anastassiades’ minimalist, utilitarian lighting creations have become major talking points for the way in which they hand creativity back to their user. Recently in Dubai to present the prototypes for Arrangements, his new collection for the Italian brand Flos, the London-based designer took time out to talk inspiration, intimidation and satisfaction with our team.

Drawing the first line or taking the first step when faced with a blank canvas or new challenge can be a daunting prospect for a creative talent. Is it one you’re familiar with and would you put your entry into the Dubai market in this category?
That’s an interesting parallel to draw since bringing designs to a new location is certainly a challenge. I think all creators have experienced that uncomfortable feeling of being handed a tool and needing to decide which direction to take. It produces a conflict of emotions, that feeling of anything’s possible against the fear of making a wrong move. My personal experience is that drawing the first line is hugely satisfying, even if you’re not quite sure what you’re going to do with it. I think this is the reference that I was using with the Dubai project.

So a blank canvas or first line can sometimes be intimidating for a designer?
Yes, and also for customers! I realised this when I first designed String Lights. Customers could decide how to configure and hang the lights. However, I think in the early stages, some were perhaps concerned about what to do with the lights once they got them home and opted instead for a ready-made, configurated product. Potential freedom can be overwhelming.

Talking of String Lights, I think you’ve said it was one of the projects that you showed Piero Gandini, the CEO of Italian manufacturer Flos, during that ‘famous’ taxi journey…
Yes, the one that replaced our planned lunch in London after his plane was delayed and I couldn’t get to the station in time to meet him for coffee! In the end our ‘meeting’ was a 20-minute taxi ride, during which we walked through several of my ideas. It was unconventional, but by the end of it, we’d decided we were going to work together. I’m pretty sure that the first project I showed him was String Lights. He saw it as revolutionary and immediately wanted to be part of it.

Your latest collection for Flos, titled Arrangements, is a modular system of geometric light elements that can be combined in different ways, so the two projects share common ground. Do you regard it as a natural progression?
I like to think of Arrangements in some ways as the second step in the story, but there are differences. The creativity is there, but it’s more controlled. Customers can put together their own combinations from the various elements available. The options are vast, but will always work. Giving people something to explore, react to and engage with, rather than something they simply plug in, really interests me.

As a first-time visitor, how have you found Dubai?
Since arriving, I’ve been particularly interested in the coexistence of the native Emiratis and the people who have decided to make Dubai their home. Despite the contrasting cultures, I’ve noticed that there seems to be a coordination rather than a conflict between the two, which is great. I’ve found people here to be receptive, open-minded and willing to try new things. The concept of allowing new things to exist is important to me too.

by Anastasia Nysten

Featured image: Michael Anastassiades, photo credits SGP.

A version of this article appeared in print in Selections, Letters From The Past #43 pages 122-125.