“Objects have power: they connect us to our most intimate selves and to the people, places, stories and memories of our lives.” That’s one of the central tenets of Alexander Lamont’s brand philosophy and it couldn’t be more true than in the story of how Alex and I met, and ended up growing a business together over the last 21 years.
Alex and Alexandra in Somerset, England in 1993
Alex and I both attended the London School of Oriental and African Studies between 1988 and 1992. As students of Asian languages we spent time overseas as part of our university courses, Alex in Thailand and myself in Taiwan and China. I didn’t know Alex back then but in Taiwan I ended up sharing a room with Alex’s then girlfriend, Nicky. They had been travelling together in Thailand prior to her coming to Taiwan to take up her Chinese studies. Eventually Nicky decided that Chinese was not for her and she returned to London early leaving behind a box of things including some, that as it turned out, belonged to Alex. I absorbed those things into my student life in the southern Taiwanese university town of Tainan: I read his books on meditation and prayer by Michel Quoist and Thomas Merton, and I listened to his bootleg jazz cassette tapes discovering the music of Joe Pass and Charlie Parker.
Alexandra with a friend at Tainan University, Taiwan in late 1989
But the object I remember most was a vase shaped like a fish. Its detailed scales were finished in a pale verdigris colour and it stood on its fanned out tail, its eyes agoggle and its mouth agape. It was heavy, made of bronze, and it sat on my desk keeping me company while I pored over my dictionary of Chinese characters.
Over a year later back in London I finally met Alex at a party. When I realised who he was I said “Oh I think I have some things that belong to you”. Little did we realise as we sat there in that basement flat in Pimlico, laughing over life’s coincidences, how important those objects would turn out to be in bringing us together, and setting the course of our lives to come.
Fish of fortune: traditional Thai bronze fish vase; bronze Koi Carp installation by Alexander Lamont
After some years in UK and Hong Kong we settled in Thailand in 2000 and Alex set up the business working on commissioned accessories for US companies such as Baker and McGuire. At the time I was a corporate lawyer and I moved from Hong Kong to Bangkok with the London firm Freshfields where I worked on mergers and acquisitions. We were two young people starting a new life in the beautiful Kingdom of Thailand and so it seemed the right thing to do to get married here too. We had a small ceremony at Santa Cruz Church on the Chao Phraya river followed by a beautiful reception at Jim Thompson’s House, the home of the famous Thai silk magnate.
Tying the knot Thai style with showers of petals from silver bowls
Today Alex is the creative force that drives everything we do at Alexander Lamont, while I am CEO taking care of the business side of things and making sure the company advances and grows. We have been partners in life since 1992 and we have raised two beautiful daughters together. Sometimes I like to think of our business as our first child, 21 years old this year and growing, developing and surprising us all the time, and now coming into its most exciting years.
Alex, Alexandra and their daughters at the company’s Fuorisalone exhibit in Milan in 2017
As we prepare to open our new Gallery later this month in the historical and creative district of Bangkok, so many moments of the past 21 years come to my mind. At times it has felt as though we were running just to stand still in a complicated and slow growing business, at other times it has felt that we have surged forwards taking decisive steps that have allowed the business to expand. I reflect here on our journey and share with you my personal favourites of Alex’s pieces.
The Brancusi Spiral Table in bronze by Alexander Lamont
In 2002 we opened our first store in Gaysorn Plaza. It was an important milestone in the development of our business taking place the same year that we became parents for the first time. In the early years we worked mainly in bronze drawing on influences from both East and West. The Brancusi Spiral Table with its clean elegant lines and dark patinated bronze finish was one of our earliest accent furniture pieces. Its simplicity of form is timeless and essential resonant of an Asian aesthetic but with a distinct sculptural presence.
The Peking Concubine Vase is hand blown from molten coloured glass
Gold Spring Vessels are light as a feather and velvety to the touch
By 2004 we had begun to work with Peking Glass as well as with natural lacquer and gold leaf. The Concubine Vase with its curvaceous form in hand blown coloured glass, and the Gold Spring vessel with its velvety layers of black lacquer and glowing gold leaf interior, endure as iconic pieces within our collections.
In that year we opened a small shop in the Oriental, a beautiful jewel of a hotel, steeped in history and residing on the banks of the Chao Phraya river. By this time our second daughter had been born completing our family.
Alexandra and her daughters in old Bangkok
It feels significant to me that we are returning to that very same area of Bangkok to open our new gallery at Warehouse 30. We have a long and affectionate connection with old Bangkok: it’s where we got married and when my children were growing up it was a favourite destination for Sunday walks meandering through the old streets of Chinatown and the riverside markets.
The iconic Hammered Bowls by Alexander Lamont: there is nothing quite like the weight of bronze
In 2007 Alexander Lamont received the UNESCO award for excellence in craftsmanship for our Hammered Bowls. This prestigious award was a major mark of recognition for the brand at a time when we were gaining confidence in our uniqueness and quality, and establishing our craft ateliers in north Bangkok. The Hammered Bowls inspired by the idea of an eggshell cracking and emitting a glow from within are made from bronze that has been hand hammered around the outer surface and meticulously finished inside in pure gold leaf. The most popular and iconic of our designs, you will find many imitations of the Hammered Bowls the world over but only the originals will have the reassuring weight of real bronze when held in the hands and the distinctive Alexander Lamont cicada mark beneath. In later years we received the UNESCO award for our Pointillist Vessels, Gilded Scallops and Virtue Crystal Boxes.
The River Ledge Credenza, one of Alex’s early furniture pieces exuding character and spirit
In 2012 we launched our first Couture collection catalogue as we prepared to enter overseas markets including US, Europe and Middle East. One of my favourite pieces from that earliest collection is the River Ledge Credenza. The credenza beautifully marries together dark patinated bronze and raw shagreen skins, the pearly white beads creating pattern and accent over the front of the cabinet. With its eight legs and custom made bronze fittings the piece takes on an almost animal-like presence, and a wonderful character and spirit all of its own. For me Alex’s pieces of those early days overflow with an exuberant and fresh energy, making them unique and special within his body of work.
In 2014 Alexander Lamont introduced the Le Mur collection of wall panels using our signature materials: straw marquetry, shagreen and gesso. This new product line proved to be a significant addition to the brand’s offering enabling us to work in some of the most prestigious interior design projects. The Oriental Hotel in Doha, the Jumeirah Beach Hotel in Dubai, Park Court Aoyama in Tokyo, the Okura Hotel in Bangkok and the Louis Vuitton Flagship stores in Shanghai and Rodeo Drive are just some of the places where you will see beautiful installations of our straw marquetry and shagreen panels.
Lobby of Mandarin Oriental, Doha featuring our straw marquetry panels
Alexander Lamont Bangkok showroom displaying the 2016 collection
A major launch of over 50 new pieces of furniture, lighting and accessories in 2016 put Alexander Lamont on the map in markets across the world but particularly in US. This was followed by new collections each year establishing Alexander Lamont as a sought-after niche brand in luxury interiors, known for our unique designs, meticulous craftsmanship and innovative applications of traditional materials in contemporary settings. Today we are represented in 24 markets around the world where our work can be found in the most beautiful and prestigious showrooms and projects.
The Agata Cabinet from the 2016 collection beautifully showcases Alex’s work in colour and our capacity for dyeing straw to an array of colourtones.
The Lune Mirrors from the 2016 collection are quintessential Alexander Lamont creations with their primordial sense of having been hewn from rock and dappled with golden moon dust.
Our new Bangkok Gallery and Showroom at Warehouse 30 provides a tranquil space where you can view our furniture and lighting collections on the second floor, and take your time away from the dust and the heat of old Bangkok’s streets to browse among the soulful, handcrafted gifts and accessories in the downstairs gallery. Perhaps you will pick up an object that connects you somehow to someone or something special and sets you on a journey of discovery. We look forward to welcoming you when we open on 19 November.
Alexander Lamont Gallery at Warehouse 30
Thank you for joining me on this trip down memory lane. The journey to becoming a family, a business, an iconic brand is a long and hard one, but it is also full of wonderment, appetite for life, joyous memories and a never-faltering spirit of creativity.
Custom Meso Straw Marquetry Box made for Elle Decor