Founded in the UK, Yellow Diva (an “almost anagram” of its founders Walley and Davis) enjoyed 15 years of success on foreign shores before turning its attention to the Australian market.
Felicity Joll, the company’s creative director, explains the company ethos and the reasons for its success. “Most people have an immediate and emotional response to the forms and fabrics we present,” she says. “The designs are inviting and tactile, encouraging interaction. There is nothing stand-offish or aloof about Yellow Diva.” Certainly not, taking any cues from the name. Instead, colour and a familiar, narrative form feature prominently in the company’s design aesthetic. A communion of timbers, fabrics and familiar shapes can be seen throughout the whole collection, and it appears that as the company becomes more confident in its skin, the designs are allowed to mellow a little bit more while retaining the same poise.
The M Series won a Home Beautiful Product of the Year Award, and the latest, more sophisticated version in black linen with black Japanned legs has only the tiniest hint of frivolity in blue cross-stitched buttons. This recent refinement is also evident in the OTTOman stack of cushions with sled base and the abundantly appealing WBS stools. “What inspires you?” can be one of those questions that evokes a tirade of sentiments based around what someone thinks will sound good to the reader. However, it is one of the surest ways to find out a company’s authenticity. Felicity lists “nature, history, experience, real life, pragmatism, and a desire to do things better” as the driving forces behind Yellow Diva’s journey, all easily identified manifestations within their work. “There comes a point in the design process where the essences of each product seem to emerge. This revelation of an object’s unique personality and inner vitality is always an exciting and defining moment, when you finally know you’ve got it right. I suppose that is what compels us to keep exploring new ideas and designing new things, a sense of perpetual evolution that somehow commands our attention.” The transition from the UK to Australia has been a relatively smooth one.
Explaining the benefits of their space in Abbotsford, Victoria, Felicity says, “The company now operates as a design studio, where skills and past experiences can come together in a very creative way to inform a wide variety of projects. The opportunity to present our work in a showroom setting has given us enormous artistic freedom. It is quite a luxury to use a ‘broad brush’ in terms of product presentation. In the past our products were available only through other shops, which gave us little control over the integrity of the collection as a whole.” And the collection keeps expanding. A collaborative, limited-edition range between Yellow Diva and Melbourne graffiti artist Phibs was launched in 2008 as an extension of their early work and has prompted commissions for limited-edition items. “Our early work celebrates the notion of skin stretched across an armature,” explains Felicity. “The idea of embellishing this skin with tattoos had been of interest to us for a long time… in those days(late ‘90s)in London, street art and fashion felt very relevant, inter-related to life. The Melbourne scene when we arrived was very on the up and Phibs’ style just sat comfortably with our work.” But she quickly ensures we do not see this as an egotistical venture. “We have never intended our work to be seen as elitist but rather a succession of inter-related pieces, designed for production, accessible and available to all.”