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How Steelotto dares to diversify Australian design

Steelotto is an Australian design brand here to shake things up, but not for the sake of controversy. Rather, to build bridges between artist and industry.

How Steelotto dares to diversify Australian design

Steelotto stools put to use at Atomic Beer by YSG Studio. Photo by Anson Smart

Steelotto: (noun) a Melbourne-based design brand, deriving its name from two words; ‘Steel’ and ‘Otto’ – the Italian word for eight, a number historically symbolic of new order.

The emerging Australian design brand is here to shake things up. Or as the official brand language states: “Steelotto strives to diversify Australian design by offering unique aesthetics that embrace radical design movements.” But let it be known that this unorthodox approach is not simply for the sake of controversy. The true intention behind Steelotto’s conception is to build bridges. Specifically, between artist and industry.

The people in pursuit of this mission are Alexander Cummins and Remy Cerritelli of Melbourne-based design consultancy, EFFOE Design Office. Having worked together for a few years, Alex and Remy had grown frustrated with the archaic ways of working between design and production when they decided to take the matter into their own hands.

Founded on an ethos as opposed to a product, Steelotto was born brand first – a happenstance that Alex and Remy believe enabled a highly curated, concise first collection. “We always knew that we wanted the brand to be unapologetically Australian,” says Alex.

With a saturated colour palette; big, bold typeface; and hints of Aussie irony, Steelotto hits unapologetic on the head – deliberately different in aesthetics as well as ethos, and not afraid to show it. Or as Alex puts it, “[Steelotto is] strong in flavour – we don’t water anything down, especially the colours.” Why fit in when you were born to stand out?

Steelotto has clearly developed a knack for harnessing the strength of being the odd one out. Contrary to much of Australia’s industrial design industry, Steelotto assertively declares that it is not a designer maker, nor does it have any intention to become one. The lack of in-house production capabilities inherent in taking this stance turns out to be the very opposite of a restriction for Steelotto. It is what Alex says “has afforded us the ability to design outside our own constraints.”

Challenging status quos evidently comes as second nature to Alex and Remy. For Steelotto’s debut collection, the designers went against the perennially popular ‘form follows function’ in favour of the notion that ‘form follows manufacture’. By this token, Steelotto’s only design limitation is that of steel and its manufacturing capabilities.

In case you were wondering, the affinity with the material comes down to the allure of the underdog. “We have long been mindful of Australia’s deep love for timber and thought steel was doing it pretty tough,” Alex discerns. “With modernism as our foundation we decided to use steel as our defining material.” No timber to see here.

As far as the quest for new order goes, Steelotto’s mission is far from over, but not without a plan. “The next step for us is to collaborate with other designers and artists to keep building the brand – and bridges,” says Alex. I’m thinking these guys might be on to something.

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