Vicki Evans talks to Kohler’s global faucets director – design at the launch of its Components range to get an insight into the thinking behind the collection and how the company designs products for a global market

The Karbon kitchen tap has fi ve joints to provide fl exible movement

Tapping into global design Q & A

Global can’t be average as that’s when global dies

Q: Kohler’s Components range includes a range of mix-and-match elements. What was the inspiration? A: The beauty of Components is its simplicity. The reality is that sometimes you want your tap to blend into the environment. At the same time, people now want actually to have more infl uence over the way things look, where they are, and to feel like they have the freedom and empowerment to have their tastes. What we do is give you the ability to fi nd your solution, but we are putting in some guard rails. In the Components range, we have spouts, handles and fi nishes that work together, so you can play with the fi nishes with tens of different combinations to fi nd the right solution. A key element is the fi nish and Kohler talks a lot about ‘un-bathrooming the bathroom’ to make it feel like an extension of your living space. A big part of that is making it feel like home and not just having cold fi nishes. Kohler’s fi nishes allow you then to choose whether you’re complementing your interior design and making it blend in, or whether it’s standing out to become a real feature.

Q: Some people want to make a statement and feel a tap is a way to be more adventurous. Do you agree? A: There is that element, and there is a lot of risk management as people say ‘I like this statement piece, but will it affect the sell-on value of the house or will my friends think I am a bit odd?’ Brits are not the most outgoing people, but a small statement design piece, like a tap, can be that little step. The faucets fi gure highly, but they are not the fi rst thing that people choose. They see them as being a beautiful fi nishing touch to an environment.

Q: How do you accommodate different cultural tastes when your tap designs are for a global market? A: There’s a real tension there. Global can’t be average as that’s when global dies. Which is why not everything we do is global. If you can’t fi nd the worldwide synergy for the ranges, then it is time to go more local. We deliberately have a mix of global and regional brands, as we believe in being true to those cultural values.


Q: When launching a new product globally, where do you start the initial research? A: We start regionally and look at local designers and trends. That’s important because that’s where you get a feel for what is genuinely different, and you have to be immersed in the culture. We allow the regional research team to fl ow up to the global. In a way, we are very humble about who we are, and actually, we want to be out in the fi eld talking to designers and gaining insights – understanding what’s going on and listening to them.

Q: How are current lifestyle changes – like 4G homes – affecting the way things are being designed? A: It’s interesting because the world is having more multigenerational homes, so when you look at our ranges, there are choices to allow you to appeal to any age or ability. For example, our lever handles are disability- approved, so anyone can use them. Part of that process is that Kohler is a global brand, so inclusivity is vital. Our global strategy means that we are driving people to be inspired by our products, but making sure they have the correct solution.

Q: Sustainability is a massive topic at the moment. How is Kohler developing its environmental policy? A: We are committed to a sustainability plan. We have a plan to have net zero carbon emissions by 2035 – it is an aggressive target, and we invest in it hard. You have to think about these things holistically, and we are thinking about how do we invent the next tap that will be genuinely sustainable before the market is ready for it. Every tap manufacturer knows that casting metal and plating it in chrome has a lot of toxins and chemicals and uses a lot of heat and energy. It is almost impossible to make that process sustainable – you can make it clean, but not sustainable. So, we think about what can we do differently to change the perception in the market. The diffi culty we have is the market readiness for this until government regulation forces people or cost spirals – people are not making that decision themselves. It is changing, but the market is slow. Water usage is close to our hearts. We want to make a

great experience for the end-user with as little water as possible. A benefi t of being global is that we are forced to comply with different regulations – for example, California and Australia have stringent water-saving laws. Those regulations fi lter back to what we do worldwide.


The Components range has customisable elements to make the tap fi t the bathroom or kitchen design perfectly

kbbreview · June 2019

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