A London-based circular economy project is a bold new approach to sustainable retail.
Social venture, Goldfinger, in London, a design brand that combines bespoke and retail furniture made from recycled and low-impact materials with a training academy and a community kitchen to help feed the community, is what the circular economy is all about.
Co-founder and CEO Marie Cudennec Carlisle is showing that retail can go against today’s fast, throw-away culture to add real value. The company is committed to being a force for good, including measuring and reporting its community impact. It’s also partnered with some big-name brands such as John Lewis, Hermès, Inhabit Hotels and co-living brand Mason + Fifth.
To date, Goldfinger reports it has rescued 398 tonnes of material from landfills to create its long-lasting new products, saved 109 tonnes of CO2e by using reclaimed rather than virgin material, provided 13,809 hours of paid work for young people through its training academy and served 5,060 meals to 200 vulnerable locals. Not bad for a furniture store.
“The material we touch, we turn to gold.”
Goldfinger is creatively named after Ernö Goldfinger, the infamous and much-loathed Brutalist architect that designed the social enterprise’s Trellick Tower building, the inspiration for Ian Fleming’s notorious Bond villain.
“We decided to take its literal meaning as guiding inspiration: The material we touch, we turn to gold,” the company’s founders say. The company calls its products “planet-positive furniture,” and boldly says it’s time to “reset our relationship to the living world.”
Cudennec Carlisle grew up in Hong Kong and says she has a memory, from about the age of eight years, of being on a boat and seeing a fridge floating in the ocean. It was, she said, such a graphic image and remembers being sad to see that humans were destroying our oceans and damaging our planet.
“That always stayed with me but it took a while for it to fully manifest into what I was doing,” she said.
The Goldfinger team source, select and work with superior sustainable materials, mostly reclaimed, and aim to create classic pieces that are timeless through expert craftsmanship and creativity for projects of all sizes.
The company’s range is extensive. Goldfinger bespoke pieces are made in collaboration with architects, hotels, restaurants and shops –– check out their work at Fat Macy’s and Gail’s Bakery. The company also has a range of products including chairs, coffee tables, benches, shelves and dining tables available to retail buyers. Add to that linen aprons, silk scarves, ceramics and even skincare products and it’s the perfect place for gift buying. Beyond products, Goldfinger also offers workshops in crafts such as bookbinding, leather works and dried flower arranging for those keen to learn a new skill.
See our related story in this week’s Climate & Style
If you’re in the market for one-off pieces of elegant furniture, check out Goldfinger’s exclusive Ayrton Collection. This is the first in the company’s circular design collection, handcrafted from reclaimed teak donated by Imperial College London, combined with sustainably sourced Douglas fir timber. It’s named after Hertha Ayrton, the first woman to publish a paper at the Institution of Electrical Engineering and a proud suffragette. The collection includes a desk, chair, side table and bench and is launching during London Craft Week. These pieces are showcased in the Goldfinger showroom and are being auctioned online available for purchase from anywhere in the world. Bid now to be the proud owner of a piece of design history in the silent auction until October 6th at 9 pm London time.
“Our new furniture collection brings together our minimalist design aesthetic with our commitment to sustainability,” said Cudennec Carlisle. “I’m so grateful to Imperial College London for donating the rare teak that made the Ayrton collection possible. It’s a great story of the power of collaboration to create sustainable supply chains.”
Like everything else at Goldfinger, the collection tells a story. It’s very much a part of the company’s philosophy that starts with a firm understanding that what they make and sell starts with trees. Given the threat to forests and biodiversity, customers are asked to consider material sources and impact, appreciation for craftsmanship, durability and how it might eventually be reused or recycled at the end of its life.
Goldfinger’s circular economy approach means the company looks beyond its direct impact to the role it can play in its community. In the past, the company hosted a monthly People’s Kitchen, with in-house chef Panella, offering free community meals made from the surplus food from local bakeries and markets that would have otherwise gone to landfill. During COVID, the Kitchen team pivoted to delivering meals directly to those in need in their community. Its education Academy offers apprenticeship training for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds but also does workshops through schools with kids as young as 10 and 11.
“We were ahead of the curve in thinking about the circular economy,” Cudennec Carlisle says. “That has given us a very privileged position, to be at the forefront of these conversations. We hope to be an inspiration to others to do the same. I’d love for Goldfinger to stand as an example for every business –– not just furniture design –– of re-conceptualizing waste as a resource.”