Celebrating 25 years in the lighting design business, Astro co-founder James Bassant tells Hospitality Interiors how he would sum up the company’s success –
What is Astro’s USP?
Astro is about creating decorative modern lighting, which we often describe as ‘timeless simplicity’. A contemporary British aesthetic that is elegant, refined, and has enduring quality. Internally we talk of the Astro difference, an attention to detail, a commitment to quality, and an integrity and honesty of the design choices we make. This is as important in our products as it is in the service we provide to our customers.
What’s the team dynamic and company ethos?
At the heart of Astro is a unified desire to design products that will stand the test of time, both psychically and aesthetically. We are passionate about creating lights that have real longevity, and this is sustained by our talented in-house designers, based here in our UK HQ. We have loyal teams across all the business functions, who embrace our core values – the pursuit of excellence, the importance of good design, always go further and, above all, be fair and decent. They are fantastic at identifying opportunities and they take great care to fulfil the needs of our customers.
What would you say have been the biggest contributing factors to Astro’s success?
These are always such difficult questions to answer because it is often a blend of so many different things. I believe that striving to design products we believe in and have quality we are proud of is vital, underpinned by a wonderful team of people that share the same values wherever they are based across the globe. This goes a long way in reflecting our success.
What has been the biggest challenge for Astro over the last 25 years, and how has the company adapted?
Successful businesses are often the ones who see the challenges and respond positively to them. One obvious challenge in lighting has been rapidly changing technology. When we started in 1997, lighting in our markets was predominantly tungsten or fluorescent, all of which has since been replaced with LEDs. Understanding and getting to grips with LEDs was a significant challenge at the time, but as always, it presented great new opportunities.
How is Astro celebrating its 25th anniversary?
Reaching a milestone of this kind, of course makes you reflect. Back in 1997 it was myself and co-founder John Fearon in the basement of my house, initially with just a handful of products and customers, to what is today a global business. It’s been quite the journey, and many of the original Astro employees are still with us, which is a proud achievement. We celebrated in the most simple and enjoyable way with a wonderful party at Astro head office on a beautiful June evening. A great celebration with champagne, wood-fired pizzas and dancing.
Can you tell us about new products you’re working on/about to launch?
There are always products I am excited about in every launch, and this coming season is no different. We are using some new technology for Astro, and have created a striking new bedside reading light that has both wireless and USB charging built in. I have also designed a sculptural desk light that is my reinterpretation of a classic banker’s lamp seen through a De Stijl aesthetic and made possible with LED technology – you’ll get it when you see it.
Where does the design team find its inspiration for new products? Is every design a group effort, or from one singular idea?
Inspiration for products is everywhere, if you are open to visual stimulation and how it can influence your design approach – the curve of a bottle, the shape of a tap, it’s all around. Some ideas make it, others remain as drawings within our sketchbooks, but to take those initial influences and capture them in a product that fulfils one of our briefs, is the great job of our designers. The product journey is then regularly discussed during our concept meetings, often refined or critiqued with the whole product development team until the vision comes to life. We’re lucky to have great on-site facilities, meaning we test everything we make, ensuring it reaches our exacting quality standards – it goes as far as the signature Astro drop test.
What measures is Astro taking to ensure its products and company operations are as sustainable as possible?
Sustainability must be at the very core of any responsible business. We’re conscious of our impact at both a local and a global level, and we view sustainability not just through a carbon lens, but across the full gamut of environmental and social factors.
Our approach has three distinct pillars – People, Planet, and Product – and our prioritised goals are underpinned by the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. These include: Light for All – our charitable partnership with SolarAid, an international charity that provides safe, clean and reliable solar lights to homes and facilities in sub-Saharan Africa; Astro Circular – being mindful of the whole lifecycle, making responsible design and engineering choices at every stage, from concept through to the end of the product’s life; and Net Zero – going further than carbon neutrality by actively reducing our emissions to as close to zero as possible by 2030 across our entire value chain. It is our responsibility that what we create is meeting a need and has as little impact on our planet as possible.
Can you tell us about any major hospitality projects Astro has been involved with recently?
It is exciting to see our hospitality business grow, particularly with success overseas. Two projects that stand out are our recent involvement with the refurbishment of the Four Seasons in Hong Kong with our Digit and Fuse reading lights, and the Sofitel Mexico that features our Ascoli desk lamp. Both a long time in the planning, but very worthwhile.
What are your hopes and aspirations for Astro over the next 25 years?
I hope we will continue to grow across the globe whilst maintaining the core principles on which Astro was founded -designing quality lighting we love.