We spoke to Anthony Dann from Paper Tiger to find out his inspiration, what the biggest thing he has learnt along the way and what is next for Paper Tiger. Read Below.
1. What was the inspiration behind Paper Tiger?
A combination of factors all coming together - A craving to do something environmentally positive, an interest in testing out uncommon materials for furniture, a happenstance of coming across a very large sheet of cardboard at the right time!
I prototyped many different chairs and furniture pieces earlier in my career- sort of trying, failing, trying again. Always with an interest though in doing something original. Something not seen before.
In terms of how it came about:
For my day job I had been a product designer of sporting equipment for an Australian company and saw their production leave Australian shores for Asia during the early 2000s.
I was responsible for setting up the first production working with factories in China, Korea, Vietnam and Indonesia. While over there I was exposed to the kind of problems inherent in cheap labour markets. The environmental issues were my biggest concern. I left that job to find a more satisfying way for myself. That calling was architecture, and I went back to university to start a new career.
The designer in me kept clawing back though and in my first year of study, I designed the original Paper Tiger stool that was to define this business. I kept the study going, but the early success of the business tempted me to follow that path alone. I’m glad I didn’t because I’ve recently registered as an architect and I really like doing both.
2. What does the Paper Tiger range include?
The Paper Tiger range has 7 pieces.
The original triangular stool in adult and children’s sizes, an accompanying table, a new square stool which Undress have been using, a low square cafe table to accompany that; a trestle table with single or double shelves, and a product called the cube which is a modular box capable of building into any size wall or even room structure.
3. Describe Paper Tiger in five words…
Flat-Packed Folding Cardboard Furniture - that’s the dry description, but the forms are the exciting part - and it’s the focus on detail, precision, strength and beauty that hopefully does the rest of the talking. And the fact that most people are still amazed that this same flimsy cardboard they see in their cardboard boxes can actually hold their weight. I didn’t use the word Green because I think it’s commonly (and rightly) understood that cardboard is a very environmentally friendly material. It uses waste products and natural starch based glues in its production, and it’s all recyclable and easy to manufacture locally. Any big city in the world has a cardboard plant so things can be made and distributed locally, rather than shipping halfway across the world.
4. Where did the name Paper Tiger come from?
Paper Tiger was one of those names that floats around the ether. Beck had a song named Paper Tiger at the time so that probably crept into my brain. It actually is an ancient Chinese saying which means ‘empty threat’.- but it’s just a name with a certain feel that I liked.
5. You have been doing for almost ten years, what is next for Paper Tiger?
Well yes, I have been doing it since 2006. But it’s always been riding next to a very busy study and work life in architecture. Paper Tiger’s my baby so I’ve had to nurture it and let it have a life as best I can in the circumstances. It’s been easiest to sell direct to businesses. My vision for it though is to focus on these existing products with a good e-commerce delivery mechanism, delivered in a good colour range. I’m craving colour. So sick of brown and white. To do multiple colours though requires volume and a retail commerce base, be it online or bricks and mortar. I’ve always focussed on selling business to business because I didn’t have the time resources to develop the online selling properly, but I’m finally getting to that, so in a sense that’s what’s next.
6. Have you started selling to the overseas market yet? If not, would you consider it?
I lived in Amsterdam for a couple of years not too long ago. While I was there I studied and worked in architecture, but I also had some success with setting up Paper Tiger in Europe. I now have manufacturing infrastructure to be able to produce two of the products locally there - out of Belgium. I’d like to work on America though as my next international effort. It seems like a logical next step and I’ve had some interest already in distributors over there.
Other markets I’d like to sell to are Brazil, Japan and Europe as a whole, properly. I like the idea of doing business in these places because they have a respect for intellectual property, and are responsive to my designs. China is not appealing because they’ve already tried to rip me off, which doesn’t do much to enthuse me.
7. What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned during your time working on Paper Tiger?
I guess the biggest thing I’ve learnt is that you don’t have to know at the beginning of a journey how to actually do something, or whether that thing will be successful. You just have to be faithful to the original inspiration and keep believing in it. Any business or creative endeavour really just needs total dedication to succeed, more than any other ingredient, to see you through the doubting times.
Interviewed by Kyra Dymock