An interview with sunglass mavericks Dave Allison and Peter Smith of Sydney, Australia’s CoLab.
XLR8R: Who is involved in CoLab?
Dave Allison: The owners are Peter Smith and Ian Hoole, and I am the Creative Director. Our age is not so important–suffice to say that we live and breathe an artistic culture.
What were you doing before CoLab?
Dave: I have worked as a designer on various projects with Marshall Artist, Warp Records, Mambo, PAM (Perks and Mini), Rittenhouse, Ministry of Sound, TVI, UK•TV, and Victa. Peter and Ian are both from the Optical/Sunglass supply industry, with Peter being the ex-marketing/sales manager for Safilo Eyewear Group (Gucci, Dior, Armani, and Diesel).
What designers are you working with for your second season?
Dave: Perks and Mini (Australia), Geoff McFetridge (USA), Eboy (Germany), Rockin’ Jelly Bean (Japan), Neasden Control Centre (UK), DMOTE (Australia), Genevieve Gauckler (France), Josh Petherick (Australia), Marok (Germany), and Fergadelic/Tonite (UK).
What has been the biggest surprise so far?
Dave: How much time have you got? Everyday is both a surprise and inspiration. I must say that one of my personal faves is PAM’s style “Weiner”–the creation of a new frame to look old and broken. The owner has then set about a process of self-repair on the eyewear… very clever! CoLab has also been pleasantly surprised at the reaction of fellow artists, press worldwide and our customers… All is going well. “Can’t complain, no one will listen…” Ha.
If you could get any person/thing/design house to design something for you, who would it be?
Dave: Damien Hirst can you please design my island home? Please also include inside it some artwork and sculptures… I would like it to be located in Sardinia. Andy Warhol and Basquiat would also contribute to the art collection.
Peter Smith: I want Banksy’s art all over the outside of my house.
What do you listen to while you work?
Dave: Mostly the radio, but my iPod is as eclectic as the CoLab collection itself. I have just finished reading the Jimi Hendrix biography, Room Full of Mirrors, by Charles R. Cross. As much a history lesson on Seattle in the '50s, '60s, and '70s as it was about the short but energetic life of arguably the world’s greatest guitarist. Also on high rotation include artists Eagles of Death Metal, Z-Trip, Mos Def, The Cat Empire, Silversun Pickups, Hot Chip, and Justice.
Where are you located?
Dave: In a secret undisclosed scientific laboratory… it has all the mod cons, like a scientific version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, somewhere in Sydney, Australia.
What's your favorite thing in your studio?
Dave: My computer and unlimited sweet biscuit supply.
Peter: My Eboy posters of New York, London, and Venice.
Why is Australian design so great right now?
Dave: CoLab is an international brand working with international artists. But the reason for Australia’s success may be its demographic isolation… Australians are generally known for being high achievers at most sports, good drinkers, professionals on the “Barbie,” and many other uncrowned talents. Why should its success in design and the arts be queried? Australian design is great, just because!
What is your favorite fashion item that you have ever owned in your whole life?
Dave: My Griffin (U.K. designer) wool jumper. I bought it online about five years ago. I get comments on it all the time, when it’s cold enough in Australia to wear it. It has soft fleece-lined pockets, and abstract printed art on the back… and it looks cool and warm.
Peter: I’m almost embarrassed to say that I have a full denim suit from the '70s. with flared cuffs and flared pants. It looks ridiculous but I love it!
Name your favorite monster.
Dave: All the monsters in the children’s book, Where the Wild Things Are. It was an imaginary relationship when I was young about keeping your enemies close. I am Max.