We grabbed a moment with Plumen founder Nik Roope and long time WATG pal (there he is below modelling our ‘Boys will be boys collection‘) to find out a little more about him, his business and what he thinks of our macrame lampshade collaboration (you can check out all three designs here, here and here).
1. Tell us what Plumen is in your own words
It’s an endeavour to show how we can move forward towards a sustainable future without this feeling like a horrible compromise. Lighting is the second largest draw on energy in the home after temperature control, so leading people through inspiration toward efficient lighting technology has significant impact on energy consumption. Plumen is about driving this change, using the beauty in our products and the enthusiasm in our brand to move things in the right direction
2. What sparked the idea for Plumen?
I was in a mild panic about climate change, just like everyone. Everything was telling us to use horrible efficient technologies to reduce consumption. One day I looked at a low energy bulb and just thought it could be done a thousand times better. The more I thought about it the more obvious and compelling the idea became. So we did it.
3. What is it about WATG that you thought would make a great partner?
WATG have a very similar ethos to Plumen. Not just another templated fashion brand, but one that questions every step in the chain, every assumption and relationship between designer, producer, buyer and wearer. It’s trying to create better products that are more responsibly sourced and produced, that create a much richer experience and relationship for the owner and wearer. Plumen is like raw yarn. Our products are the ingredients for our customer’s creations. And when people make amazing things with our products, it’s so much more satisfying than just buying a standard product and hanging it up. So it made a lot of sense to us to create something together.
4. What are you most excited about the Plumen X WATG product range?
I just love the way they go together, creating something completely different and unexpected. It’s not an aesthetic we’ve played with much until now, but the products have such character, colour and playfulness, it takes what we’re doing in a completely new direction that still makes total sense. When people have chosen the materials and colourways and gone to the effort of crafting their shade, they are going to love them like no shade before! As will I!
5. What is your vision for Plumen in 5 years?
We’re moving from light bulbs to lighting experience. Sounds a bit pompous but makes sense when you think that what the customer wants isn’t a light bulb, but beautiful lighting. With smart tech maturing we’ll be using the best parts of connected product technology to create great lighting that changes from dawn to dusk and optimises efficiency and use even more. To enhance mood and wellbeing.
6. What makes Plumen special relative to other businesses in the same industry?
The industry concerned with light bulbs is very engineering focused and volume based. It’s all about delivering the best performance at the lowest price in the most generic format in order to gain maximum market reach. Design is mainly geared to create subtle product differentiation whilst staying very close to existing formulas. Plumen on the other hand is creatively led. We’re still providing great light experience but we’re much more focused on creating a really inspiring, beautiful products that are a pleasure to own and use. Radical new designs, engineered to create great, usable lights that are compelling and unique. The price isn’t comparable to a generic lighting product created in the millions on automated production lines, but are still very accessible for a design product featured in the MoMA and V&A design collections. Also, whilst most lighting companies have followed demand wherever it has gone, whether that’s incandescents, edison style bulbs etc, Plumen was founded as efficient lighting company. The Plumen name was created solely to inspire people to adopt efficient technologies. Just like Tesla was created to inspire drivers to move to electric vehicles.
7. What is your philosophy regarding sustainability
Sustainability shouldn’t be a nice to have. It should be the way we all live. The world is making a huge adjustment from polluting, energy greedy old ways, but it’s taking an awful long time and the planet’s not getting any cooler. Whilst it’s tempting to think that some magical global institution may force everyone to change the way they live, this isn’t going to happen. It’s incumbent on all of us to change and to facilitate, encourage and accelerate that change. Our view at Plumen is that we can inspire that change in lighting with beauty. We can make people feel good about changing their lighting products by making them beautiful, aspirational and individual. Just like Wool And The Gang are creating beautiful things that people really love, whilst cutting out waste, from the material, to transportation to manufacture.
8. What do you think it is that make people so passionate about Plumen?
We make pretty lightbulbs so that’s not changing the world. But I think we offer the hope that the changes we will all have to make aren’t necessarily awkward and difficult compromises. Those changes can feel like steps forward with the right attitude to product design and experience and by addressing the role these can have in people’s lives. Also, just as with Wool AndThe Gang, our products are ingredients for the customer’s creativity, vision and individuality. Our bulbs are like yarn that the buyer finds a way to place, accessories and embellish, to make it special, to make it their own. That creates a completely different relationship with Plumen products, because it’s as much their as it is ours. This is why we love watching social so much, seeing people inventing so many magical things with our products. We’ve just added loads of new accessories, cord colours, lamp holder etc to our online range (at Plumen.com) to help facilitate and fuel all this creativity and to enable people to create even more ambitious chandeliers and installations with a much wider range of possible options.
9. What is the best or truest piece of advice about starting a business you have ever received
Whoever told me it was all about tenacity and staying power over everything else. We all like to think our smarts, or creative genius will punch us through into the heady heights of success, but it’s generally not the case. It’s commitment, staying power and self belief that what you do is special enough and important enough to endure the struggle!. I’m not making this sound very fun am I ; )
10. Who was your biggest inspiration growing up and why?
I loved the Young Ones beyond belief. I watched each episode a hundred times on crumbly VHS in my dad’s basement under his shop. I loved watching the sensible, choreographed world of media torn to shreds by anarchistic and creative maniacs. It was out there and I think i took that journey with them and never came back.
Follow Plumen out there!