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Cameron Foggo: Nonn

Cameron Foggo: Nonn

Sydney-based designer Cameron Foggo’s furniture label, Nonn, is about comfort, form and soft-edged sculpture. His buttery Liaison Chair is a lesson in luxurious restraint and is currently on display in our Martin Place store – and more of his work is on the way.

Today he talks to us about design, art and being a one-time front man of kiwi band Dead Man’s Suit.

Tell us about your background.

I was born and raised in Christchurch New Zealand, I studied Visual Communication Design in both Auckland and Wellington. 

I made a living as an artist for the first decade after study. I still consider myself a painter but I tend to work in bursts when I feel the need.

I decided it was a good time to join the family business when my daughter was born. The sporadic income from painting and playing in bands wasn’t ideal when you have a young family.

It became apparent pretty quickly that furniture was my passion, I had always been very aware of whatever my parents were doing in their interior design business. It felt like second nature to me when I initially became involved.  

What did you do when you left school?

I left Wellington Design School in order to make music. I was playing in a few bands in the early 90s and I started a mural painting business on the side. This developed into portrait painting for clients and then eventually a career as a New Zealand painter, which is still going – although it’s not my main focus these days.

Eventually I joined my family’s interior design business and made the transition into furniture and interior design.

The years at design school gave me a good grounding and an understanding of balance, colour and composition etc. All of these things are very important for any creative industry. However, my most relevant and important training came from working on the job in the family business. There are so many lessons that can’t be taught in a learning institution.


Describe Christchurch in three words.

Resilient, pragmatic, evolving.

Tell us about some of your past creative projects.

There has been plenty of music (playing in bands and duos) and a number of painting exhibitions over the years. There have been some architectural collaborations and the building of a couple of housing duplexes and a lot of house renovating. There is also another property development on the horizon. For me it’s more about creating something tangible that will hopefully be around long after I’m gone.

Why Sydney?

To be honest, Melbourne was my first choice but now that I’m here in Sydney I love it. We decided it was time to move on after the earthquakes in Christchurch around six years ago. I have an ex partner and a daughter and we all needed to be in the same city. My daughter’s mum wanted to be in Brisbane and I wanted to be in Melbourne so we decided to meet in the middle.   

What inspired you to begin Nonn?

I was modeling up my father’s designs in CAD and 3D Max and decided I had my own ideas that would work in various situations. It wasn’t initially easy to persuade my father to make the pieces so I would order them on the sly. If they turned up and he liked the piece then it would go on the showroom floor. This went on for a few years until a large percentage of the showroom pieces were my own designs. I figured it was a good time to start my own thing.

Why the name Nonn?

Nonn stands for no nonsense. I’m a Kiwi and we don’t muck about much. We are practical, we have a can-do attitude and we can fix anything with a piece of number 8 wire.

Nonn was really just a vehicle for presenting my work. It started as a multi-disciplinary design studio that encompassed everything creative that I was doing at the time; from commissioned works of art in commercial spaces to graphic artwork through to product design.

Around 11 years ago, furniture became my main focus and Nonn morphed into a furniture brand at that time. Some of the Nonn pieces that were designed around 11 years ago are more relevant in the market now than they were back then.

How would you describe your design aesthetic vs your father’s?

I guess we have a very similar aesthetic. We both design pieces that are quite masculine, and without decoration, and I believe we are both very practical in our approach. I think my pieces have always been a little finer or elegant where his designs tend to be more sober… it depends on the way you view things.

Can you talk me through your design process?

I think I have the world’s largest scrapbook of furniture imagery containing some of my own photographs taken while traveling as well as found images. I make sure I see everything that’s going on elsewhere.

I observe and absorb everything I see that I like. I can play with an idea in my head for years before I put pen to paper. I also utilise AutoCAD and 3Dmax as well as Photoshop to create a presentation of sorts for my manufacturers.

Where is your furniture made?

It’s all made locally. My original New Zealand manufacturers have been making pieces for my family’s business for around 30 years. Initially all of my designs that were sold in Australia via Living Edge were imported from the same manufacturer in Christchurch. They are still producing my pieces for the New Zealand market but I have managed to find some great Australian makers. After moving to Australia, it took me a long time to find the right regime and the right fit. 

What materials do you use?

I’m open to using anything really, although I would prefer to avoid plastics. 

I do love working with oak, steel, leather and marble. Lately I have been using brass and copper a little but so too do many other designers. I think there will be a swing away from those materials soon because there is just so much of it out on the market.

What has been one of the biggest challenges you’ve faced since starting this business?

The fact that everything takes so long in this industry can be very frustrating.   Getting prototypes made is often the biggest hurdle. Most of the time, I’m designing for retailers, from the time they sign off on a concept to being able to see the piece in the flesh can often take a year or so. From that point, the product may take off instantly or it can take a few years building before it sells well. The return after producing a design can come years later. It can be a little frustrating when you have school fees to pay.

What about one of the biggest achievements?

I think there have been a lot of smaller achievements. Relocating to Australia and essentially starting again was certainly an achievement. I’m sure the biggest achievements are yet to come.

What are you working on at the moment? 

I’m always working on a number of designs at once. Right at the moment I’m most excited about working on a design for Cult. It’s a sofa design primarily but the same detailing will be used in a number of items. 

What does your dream Sunday involve? 

Hanging out with my daughter, and probably drinking coffee down in Beare Park in Elizabeth Bay. 

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The Nonn Liaison Chair is currently on display in our Martin Place store. More pieces are on the way.