Interview with
BCN Trading
Josep & Andrew at Federation Square Josep & Andrew at Federation Square Sian Moore

We're open and we think that we're fun. I think that reflects the design and Mariscal is a good example of that. But functionality is also very important for us.

Australian Andrew Boddington and Spaniard Josep Vallhonrat are partners in both their personal and professional lives. After spending time living in both Melbourne and Barcelona, they decided to set up BCN Trading, a company which sources unique furniture, homewares and accessories from top suppliers in Spain and imports them here to Australia. We talked to Andrew and Josep to find out a bit more about their story.

- How did you meet?
Andrew: At the time we were both living in Europe. I was living in Lyon, France and Josep was about to finish his third year of University and go to Gothenburg, Sweden to live, and we both happened to meet up in a little town called Sitges in Spain. We were both there just on holidays.

- What were you both doing before starting BCN Trading?
Josep: Andrew decided to study Interior Design and I finished my degree in Architecture. We moved to Melbourne, I would say around five years ago now, and I worked for four years while Andrew studied. He finished his degree and we went back to Spain in 2010 because we wanted to start our business together.

- Why did you decide to create BCN Trading?
J: Working as an architect those four years here in Melbourne, I realised there was a big niche for Spanish products. So I thought, why don't we go back to Spain and talk to Spanish suppliers and create an international manufacturers agency, but only dedicated to Spanish products. We ended up with a pretty good response from these suppliers and we started our business like that. Now we're representing furniture brands, homewares, floor finishes and lighting as well. Overall we might have nine suppliers.

A: Josep was living here in Melbourne and, as part of his work, specifying products that were mainly from France and Italy, and recognising in these products qualities that were similar to products in Spain - similar construction, similar finishes and similar uses – we realised that nothing was coming from Spain. So we thought why not try and link these two countries that I'm now so connected with. Linking Australia and Spain would also satisfy different challenges; maintaining contact with family, and of course home, those really important connections you might have with your home country, but at the same time opening up new avenues here in Australia. It's a really exciting concept to work on together.

- What are the differences, and maybe similarities, between Spanish and Australian aesthetics in terms of design?
A: I think Asian design is really strong here in Australia. I think Australia is very, and it sounds really cliché, but it's very multicultural in that sense of absorbing lots of different cultures at the same time, whereas Spain maybe has a much more Mediterranean outlook.

J: I think contemporary design nowadays is very similar everywhere you go. If you go to a contemporary design shop in Barcelona it would be similar if you went to one in Melbourne. So in that sense I would say it's similar. But I think what happens is that Australia doesn't have as many manufacturers as Europe, so that's why we thought here is where we can complement Australia.

- How would you describe Spanish design style?
A: I think there is a sense of play in a lot of Spanish design, while also digesting modernist principles. There is a post-modernist, playful aspect to a lot of contemporary Spanish design. And I think what is really representative of a lot Spanish design is that sense of colour.

J: Like Mariscal. Javier Mariscal has a very Spanish, or Catalan, way of looking at design. He uses colour and is a fun designer. I think that reflects how Spanish people are. We're open and we think that we're fun. I think that reflects the design and Mariscal is a good example of that. But functionality is also very important for us.

- How often do you go back to Spain and source suppliers?
A: We went back in September for about two and a half weeks and most of that time was dedicated to seeing suppliers and consolidating contacts that we've already developed in the last 18 months. We actually came back to Australia in February but we'd been in Spain a whole year before then.

J: We try to go at least once a year but we're actually going twice because we need to do that. It's good also to have a connection and personal contact with the suppliers. It makes the relationship easier.

- You've both spent a lot of time abroad. Where do prefer living, in Melbourne or Barcelona?
A: What I think is true for me is that I love being busy, I love working and being active and having constructive things to do. I would love to be able to live in Spain and do all that, but at the moment my work brings me to live in Melbourne. But I would love to be able to live in Barcelona.

J: In my case, the fact that I'm from Barcelona, its home. It's always lovely to go back but business wise I think Australia is where I want to be and where I want to do what I'm doing. I'm pretty happy being here.

- What are your plans for the future?
J: Now we have the keys for a showroom called Ajar opened at 15 Johnston Street, Collingwood, where BCN Trading will be supplying Ajar. We are done with the renovations so we are now exhibiting the products in the showroom. All the architects and designers will be able to come, and also people from the street, and buy straight from us. Our future is focused on helping interior designers, architects and developers to create European style flats and places to live.

A: We're looking forward to building up the business and being able to provide a real alternative in using Spanish design here in Melbourne, and of course, try promote that Australia wide as well.

J: In July last year a third partner came into BCN Trading and Ajar. The third partner is Richard Fanale and he is an interior designer as well who has been working a lot in Melbourne and Sydney. Now he is on board and we're looking forward to all working together. &

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