Q&A: Rebecca Hossain

On 24 November 2016, the Design Museum opened the doors to its new home on Kensington High Street. A complete remodel of the interior by architect John Pawson has created a series of calm, atmospheric spaces ordered around an oak lined atrium, with the Designer Maker User exhibition stealing the show. It features almost 1000 objects, viewed from the perspectives of designer, manufacturer and user with the standout pieces including a 1:1 scale model of the new London tube train, the British road signage system, an AK47 and an interactive digital fashion display. Three months on, we sat down with Head of Retail Rebecca Hossain, to discuss her career, favourite pieces and the future of design.

How did your career path lead you into your current role?

I have always loved, as I call it, 'selling for a good cause'. After I graduated from LSE I went to work for an NGO in Bangladesh developing their fair trade retail outlets. On my return to the UK I set up a fair trade partnership called ‘Off The Beaten Track’. In 2003 I started working at Tate Modern and loved the world of artistic and cultural heritage, so after five and a half years at the National Portrait Gallery I joined the newly relocated Design Museum in Kensington to deliver their retail strategy.

Which piece in the Design Museum would you most like to steal?

Tough one - I would get into trouble for sure. I am in awe of the hyperbolic paraboloid roof, but I think it would be noticed if it went missing!

What would you like to see exhibited at the Design Museum in the future?

I am a huge fan of Issey Miyake, so I would love a show on his work and contribution to fashion and design. I would also love an exhibition on design from South Asia: it is so rich, visually stunning and diverse.

We’ve just seen that a flat-packed refugee shelter won the Beazley Design of the Year. With recent world events is there an increased consciousness of global issues by designers, or has this always existed?

It depends on the designers - it goes in and out of fashion, but there does seem to be a growing movement behind addressing global issues affecting people and a recent concerted effort to solve the multitude of problems we face. I think it's a great thing for designers to focus on.

Which design themes (if any) that have so far come out of the 21st century will influence design for many years to come?

I think sustainability has become increasingly important not just on a small scale, but in terms of where, how and why things go into production. In design the big question of 'do we need it at all?' is key. Another theme is the idea of super-local design. However, I guess the most important design theme and one that triumphs every year in our annual Beazley Designs of the Year exhibition is design that improves people's lives and solves an actual problem.

Who are the designers to watch?

My favourite designers are Paul Smith, Camille Walala, Bethan Laura Wood, and Morag Myerscough. But there are so many more I watch - these four I have chosen because they never disappoint in their creativity and their love and understanding of colour.

If money were no object, what piece of furniture or art would you buy for your home?

A Rothko mural

What does luxury mean to you?

Not being stressed timewise, and the opportunity to relish nature; it has all the answers.

Words by: Chloe
All photos courtesy of Luke Hayes