In 2009, furniture designer and Founder/CEO of the Amini Innovation Corporation Michael Amini announced that he would be collaborating with award-winning actress and celebrated artist Jane Seymour to co-brand a new line of fine furniture. The multi-award-winning Seymour has had an extensive and diverse career as an actress, artist, author and designer. She draws on elements from her glamorous Hollywood lifestyle and combines them with Michael’s love for art, architecture and design.
One of the first collaborations between the two was Hollywood Swank, which has been on display during this summer’s Las Vegas Market, the most comprehensive furniture, home décor and gift market in the US. The collection is made up of styles inspired by Sunset Strip and uses design elements from the French Regency period. Hollywood Swank is interpreted in sensual colours and textures to let its buyers live a dream of elegance from an era of grace and charm.
Michael and Jane are now introducing the Hollywood Swank collection in Indonesia in the Malinda Design Center, Kemang. We got the chance to meet and sit with them to talk about the latest design collaboration.
Indonesia Tatler: When did you first become interested in furniture design?
Jane Seymour: All my life, because I was allowed to decorate my own bedroom, but I didn’t have any money so I just had to be clever with it. I used to collect fabric and make my own cushions and cottons—I made everything myself. And then when I moved to Hollywood, one of the things I did while I was acting was to buy a house that wasn’t very nice and make it into like the perfect English house. And then I sold it with everything included: the art, the books, the furniture. Everything.
IT: Other than being an actress, are you ready to call yourself an interior or furniture designer?
JS: I design with Michael and, yes, we do furniture; with another company we do beds and beddings. I have another company that designs candles and another one that designs silk flowers. I also do lamps with another company and I’m also a painter, so I show my art and sell my art and sculptures. So I’m very much involved with design—with the jewellery, for example, I draw everything myself 100 per cent. Little pieces that developed with all the stories on them. With a great company, it is possible to manufacture something beautifully and to do it responsibly, too.
IT: So you like to make beautiful things?
JS: Yeah, we both love to make beautiful things. Some he does by himself, and we have this project we do together as well as others.
IT: And for Michael, can you recall how and why you became a furniture designer?
Michael Amini: That’s a big question. Well, I’m actually an electrical engineer by degree and I worked in this area for a year and a half. Then I was looking to do something different, and frankly, it wasn’t easy to find a job that I liked because, just like any graduate, I was looking for an opportunity, not knowing exactly what I would do. But with the love that I have for design, clothing and fashion—especially fashion—it didn’t really matter what I did as long as I was in the fashion industry.
So I went to Italy and designed clothing for a while and, frankly, I soon realised that I needed a lot of money to be able to make it a success. I did shoes, and that didn’t work out, so finally, after trying other things, I ended up being employed by a furniture company. Within the first two months, I knew that that’s what I wanted to do.
I designed my first furniture with that company; I manufactured the pieces and within nine months, I had left the company and opened my own. I’ve been designing furniture ever since, and I love it. And it’s not just the furniture that I do, that’s just part of a chain of many different trades and many different items. I do a lot of other things, like wall art, bedding, pillows... Pretty much anything that fits and makes a home beautiful. So I do a lot of interior designs right now—very exclusive ones; beautiful homes that are made more beautiful because of the furniture.
Q: For Jane, how did you find Michael Amini and how familiar were you with his work before you collaborated with him?
JS: Originally I was doing a collection of bed tops and table tops with the Saks Fifth corporation and with other companies. And I had my own galleries, in the stores, and it was fantastic. And, of course, we needed furniture to show off the bedding, so we took inspiration from my home in the UK; it was a thousand years old and everybody at the time wanted to buy the bedding, but they also wanted the furniture with it.
So when that series with the company was sold, I had already earned a reputation over three years. I didn’t want to give it up and I was introduced to Michael and went to all the showrooms. I love the showmanship that Michael has; he doesn’t just make furniture, he celebrates furniture, and he really knows how to design, how to mark it, and how to make something that’s unique. So I was very thrilled when he asked me to join him.
Q: For Michael, among other Hollywood actresses or celebrities, why did you choose Jane?
MA: She’s the best! She’s very professional. And you know I’ve met a lot of actors and actresses during the years I’ve been in fashion. I’ve gotten to meet a lot of people and some of them are very, very good at what they do—but that’s all they know.
What differentiates Jane from just being an actress is that she has taste. She knows how to draw what she wants. If she wants to design a home, she knows what she wants to buy; she doesn’t just go and ask somebody to make her house beautiful. But mainly, when you know your style, when you know what to do to make your home your sanctuary, then you can decide what type of design you like. And I think she understands this, and that’s how it makes it easier to collaborate.
Q: And tell us about the collaborative work between you and Jane.
JS: We spend a lot of time in the market itself. I’m usually there for five or six hours and we both meet and greet all the clients. And so we get great feedback from the most important source of all: the end-user. We find out what’s selling, why’s it selling, who buys it and who likes it, and what we could do better. And then we all get to sit there and throw ideas around. Big-picture ideas. So it’s not so much a formal process—it’s a collaboration of ideas.
We also both travel all the time, so when you have an instinct or an idea, you’re not necessarily siting in the same room doing it together. If I have an idea, I throw it at Michael and he throws it back to me, and the next thing we know, he has produced some wonderful pieces.
MA: One of the challenges that we have, besides the fact that we should like the furniture and the design that we do, is that we should design something that appeals to the masses. Being a global company, we need to be careful about the fact that our work must not just appeal to a few people, but to a lot and in many different countries.
Some colours don’t appeal to some markets and it’s the same with styles. In the Middle East, they don’t like us to use animal heads, for example. So we need to be very careful and it takes a lot of study, a lot of collaboration, and a lot of thinking to make sure everything works.
Q: One last question: can you share tips on how readers can add a glimpse of glamorous Hollywood lifestyles and touches to their homes?
JS: I think you just come to the Malindra Design Center! [Laughs]
MA: And buy some furniture!
JS: Yes. And buy some furniture! And talk to the salespeople here. They may show you a piece that you love and you can mix them up, too. But our collaboration has so many different pieces that go together. You can make it more grand or less grand; you could even make it more blingy or less blingy. You can really it in any direction you like: that’s what I love so much about it.