Life Instyle sat down with the Melbourne 2020 New Breed Scholarship Winners, Thomas & Sureen Gouws from Too Designs to discuss originality and personalisation in art. 


What is your background? Have you always been designers?

We’re both architects. Before migrating to Australia in 2018 and settling on the Mornington Peninsula, we had our own architecture practice for 17 years, based in Pretoria, South Africa. When we started TOO Designs in April 2019, we shifted our focus from architecture to art and design, which has always been a great passion for us both. Our architectural roots however greatly influenced the brand's aesthetic and our design approach.

What was the spark that inspired you to start your own business?

As residential architects designing our clients interiors we constantly searched for modern geometric art but usually struggled to find it in the right colour schemes, compositions, or at affordable prices. That sparked the idea of creating a customisable art system where you can change your artwork to your liking and colour preferences. 


What were those first steps you took to launch? And what would you say was the scariest part/your biggest fear?

Our first steps after designing & refining our concept was to get our products manufactured locally at the highest possible quality, at a feasible price and in time for our launch. New to the country and the manufacturing industry in Melbourne it was a daunting but very exciting process with a steep learning curve. 


Tell us a bit about your art. What is your inspiration and style?

TOO Design's aesthetic is characterised by clean architectural lines, simple geometric shapes and bold playful colours. We aim to create interactive products that involve the customer in the creative process and leaves room for personalisation. A fresh, unique approach is important to us, we want our products to be innovative and not just copies of what is trendy and already on the market. We also emphasise the “play” element in our products; we aim to make our products fun to use.


Describe your customers and the community you have built/embraced.

Our customers are not only artists and design lovers, but anyone who desires to be creative and who appreciates minimalist and contemporary art and design.

What is it that you think your customers love about your art?

They like the concept of expressing their own artistic identity through our products and the fact that they can adapt it for their personal space.


How do you stay inspired and authentic?

Although we love keeping up to date with what is happening on the global design scene, we’re most inspired by our direct environment. Responding to the things we observe and experience around us leads to authentic and original design solutions.


Who would be your dream collaborator?

We would love to collaborate with one of the many amazing Australian brands for a ceramics, lighting, textile or even furniture range.

What made you decide to apply for the Life Instyle scholarship?

We needed to present our products to Australian retailers and the Life Instyle New Breed Scholarship was an extraordinary opportunity to do so. With the amazing exposure the scholarship provides and the guidance of expert mentors, it is really the ideal opportunity for any start-up business to successfully establish themselves in the industry.


Why do you think Life Instyle is a good fit for your brand?

We love that Life Instyle curates and supports brands that embody design integrity, originality and quality - all principles we value very highly. 


What has the experience been like so far and what are you most looking forward to at your first trade show?

The experience has been amazing so far, we can’t wait to work with the whole team and mentors to help get us ready and make the most of our first trade show. We're looking forward most to interact with retailers, getting their feedback and establishing lots of meaningful business connections.

Can you share any spoilers on what we can expect from your new collection at Life Instyle Melbourne?

We’re working on a new kids range, "Tiny TOO”, that we’re planning to launch at Life Instyle Melbourne.


Who are some of the other brands at Life Instyle who you love/admire?

There are many favourites, but some of the brands we love most are Milligram Studio by Telegram, Made of Tomorrow and Addition Studio.


Can you share one of your proudest moments in business so far?

We launched our first product, TOO D Art at DinDesign, an exhibition promoting young designers and new start-ups from around the world, during the Milan Design Week 2019. We were very proud that TOO D Art was chosen by international media platform DesignWanted as one of the top 10 highlights from all the many exhibitions of the entire Design Week.


What is the best piece of business advice you have been given?

That the most successful brands don’t just deliver a product, they deliver an experience.


And what advice would you give someone else thinking of starting out?

If you love what you are doing, you will be successful. Stay focussed and keep believing in your brand and success will come.


What exciting things are on the horizon for 2020 and beyond?

Exhibiting at Life Instyle Melbourne. Launching our kids range Tiny TOO and later in the year launching our TOO Art-wear range focussing on wearable art pieces.


When you’re not busy with the business, what’s your ideal way to unwind and give yourself a little bit of self-care?

Even though we can’t do it at the moment during lockdown, we love to take the kids for a late afternoon play on the beach close to our home on and watch the sunset over the water. Being close to nature and having quality family time helps to keep us grounded and to see the bigger picture in life. It’s all about balance.



Favourite Podcast?

We listen to podcasts from foundr magazine frequently, they have a lot of inspiring and helpful business content.

Guilty pleasure?

Have a great lunch and glass of wine at one of the beautiful wine farms on Mornington Peninsula.

Next holiday location?
We're not sure yet but it ould be somewhere local - we still have so much of Australia's beautiful scenery and towns to explore.


You can meet Thomas & Sureen and see their designs in persion at Life Instyle Melbourne, 28-31 July. RSVP to Life Instyle Now!