SYDW 2014 Session Highlight: The Newcomers

Fiona Diamond and Wayne Parker
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Q and A of the two designers during SYDW 2014

Although the market is growing every year, the world of superyacht design remains a niche corner of the design world. As such, landing a position at some of the industry's top design firms is on the wish list of most new graduates. But what happens when you've done your time and decide you can hack it on your own? The Q&A Time with Designers on 26 June will focus on "The Newcomers" and see Fiona Diamond of Seymour Diamond, and Wayne Parker of March & White share their own experiences with making that leap.

How long have you worked in the superyacht industry? Can you share a bit about your background?

FD: I have been working in the superyacht industry for over 18 years. Before that, having studied both creative and technical aspects of interior design at Chelsea School of Art, I spent three years honing my skills before setting up my own Interior Design company working with leading architects specialising in residential and commercial property. After eight years on my own, I joined a small yacht company, which I had planned to be short term, however after almost 15 years I had remained, expanded the team and had accepted a directorship! This position gave me the perfect opportunity to combine my enjoyment of client liaison with luxurious design concepts at sea, in the air and on the ground and enjoyed being involved in the company’s growing success. Determined to go it alone once again, I founded Seymour Diamond some three years ago where I remain happily immersed in the ultimate luxury of exquisite interiors for the superyacht world and innovative top-of-the range residential and other interior projects. Having a good knowledge and understanding of the industry, including the skills that are required to run a company have been immensely beneficial to my setting up of Seymour Diamond.

WP: I’ve been working in the industry for over 20 years. Originally from Durban, South Africa, I studied Interior Design & Project Management and after which I was approached by an IOC, BMS (Bradgary Marine Shopfitters) to join their company. I got great experience working on various projects ranging from luxury private homes, hotels, oil rigs, gas platforms, diamond mining vessel for DeBeers and Oceanco when they were still building hulls in South Africa. In 1999, I moved to the UK and started working for the design studios of Donald Starkey Designs, Aqualuce and then Terence Disdale Design before joining March & White. My background is varied and makes me a rounded designer. My knowledge of high-end joinery, construction and lighting design, learned early in my career, I feel adds to my strength as a designer and the overall style of my work.

What project are you most proud of?

FD: I don’t think I can pick one, there have been too many of exceptional quality I have had the opportunity to work on. At the time of course it is always the last yacht you worked on, knowing how much has been achieved. Each project moves to new levels as technology and innovation develop. However, all the projects awarded to Seymour Diamond over the last few years have given me a great sense of personal achievement, so I am extremely proud of these.

WP: Every project I’ve been involved with has had great highlights; however, I think my work on the 85m M/Y Sunrays, built at Oceanco, was a particular personal highlight and will always have a strong presence on many levels. Knowing and working with the late Bjorn Johansson was a great pleasure. Bjorn was responsible for the exterior and a great talent, who is still sorely missed in the industry.

What is your design philosophy?

FD: It's very simple: it's giving the client so much more than they first dreamt of!

WP: Here at March & White, our philosophy is to push boundaries in exploring and hand-selecting the best and most interesting materials to create elegant and practical designs. We take a holistic approach and we treat every project as a unique brief with a unique client whose lifestyle is the pinnacle of the design solution.

What attracts you to the world of superyacht design?

FD: The amazing opportunity to design and create exceptional interiors in the most challenging and demanding of industries. The sheer scale of the projects really allows you to get involved to an extremely detailed level over a long period of time, which also gives you the opportunity to really understand your client and how you can fit the design to best suit their lifestyle. It also gives you the time and opportunity to continually explore new finishes, design bespoke furniture pieces and, when being encouraged by clients, to really push the boundaries of design to ensure their yacht is unique! To then have that made and manifested by craftsman passionate to deliver the very highest standard, really creates teams that want to deliver the best of the best at all times, makes It a truly satisfying and fulfilling environment to be in.

WP: Every project is unique and I have the opportunity to work with the best crafts people in the world. It ensures as designers we are always pushing the boundaries and at a personal level, it’s challenging and a great industry to work in.

What aspect of SuperyachtDESIGN Week are you most looking forward to?

FD: I am looking forward to having the chance to share my news and views with some of the world’s top designers, architects, suppliers and contractors. I will be particularly interested in hearing their feedback and varying approaches to deal with the constant changes in the way this industry has developed. The global recession has had a significant impact on how designs have to be more cost efficient and competitive, and it would be most interesting to know how other people are rising to the challenge. I am also very excited to be introducing Seymour Diamond to the event.

WP: Being a part of SuperyachtDESIGN Week is a wonderful opportunity to introduce March & White to the industry, and of course to find out what’s new and emerging in the business. It’s really inspiring to listen to other designers and industry experts about their vision, strategy and how they approach their work.

Why do you think events such as these are important for the industry?

FD: These events are vital as they give all of us the perfect opportunity to meet, hear and see all the latest news within this inspiring and rewarding industry. The industry is very International, so to be able to all meet in London at such a great venue is fantastic for us.

WP: As I said before, having thought exchanges around what’s new and emerging is important. March & White is one of the few land based design studios who have branched out into superyacht design and hopefully, we are seen as bringing a new design approach.

What can guests hope to hear about/take away from your session?

FD: Inspiration and motivation, that we are all working in unison with innovative, highly creative concepts at every level from creation to completion. People need to recognise what it takes to maintain this constant striving for ultimate quality and innovation and to understand the demands for perfection. The aim, of course: a masterpiece.

WP: I’d like guests to get a sense of while there are the traditional yacht design studios, there are new companies like March & White who with their land based projects and unique design approach, can bring something fresh and exciting to the industry.

Fiona Diamond and Wayne Parker
Fiona Diamond and Wayne Parker