An interview with Jordi Ribaudí.

In our most recent issue of  ONELOOK magazine, we interviewed Jordi Ribaudí, the Spanish designer behind TORU, a young craft and design company that produces beautiful, simply designed furniture in a non-conformist way. In the words of Ribaudí, “TORU is the mythical point of convergence; the end of the rural world and birth of the industrial revolution.”

Ribaudí shares his emotional connection to his grandfather and gives deeper meaning into the pillars of his brand. Inspired by Barcelona lifestyle –he elicits feelings though intricate, non-replicated, hand crafted pieces. Inspiration can also be found in the selection of the powerful name TORU, and his work with exquisite organic materials.

Was your family a part of your inspiration behind developing TORU?

My grandfather and my great grandfather owned tanneries. They played a major part in instilling in me the desire to create TORU. I have always felt emotionally attached to my grandfather and his many stories from around the world. The leather, and specifically the tannery district along with its people, have made a very strong imprint on my city. Building relationships is significant to our business. TORU is a mythical point of convergence; the end of the rural world and the birth of the industrial revolution. My great grandfather started his company during the first World War when all of Europe was in a crazy mess. The war required a lot of boots, jackets, helmets; all needing leather. This lead to a great opportunity for growth during those years. Thus began the story of my family’s business here in Igualada.

Can you talk about working with local artisans?

I am very lucky to have set up my studio in the district of Rec in Igualada, just 40 minutes from Barcelona. Thanks to the work I, and others, have done to preserve the neighborhood, many doors to many tanneries have been opened for me. This is what I consider to be the differential point of my work. The friendships that I share with these artisans go back many generations. Right now, I am still learning and will continue to learn all there is to know about the wild, primitive and exciting leather industry.

Why did you choose the name TORU?

The TORU name has two meanings. The first refers to the word for bull in Spanish. Many things in our culture come from the bull. The second meaning refers to an incredible man I met when I lived in/visited Japan. His name was Toru. It means working with organic materials and appreciating the imperfections, using them in resourceful and expressive ways.

Describe what your design process is like.

The world of design, as linked to industry, is very focused on rational decisions. I look for my pieces to elicit feelings. I do not pretend to do intellectual work. I try to reach the sensitive part of people, whether that is through memories, ideas, and images or through the senses. My design process is guided by my most irrational and sensitive part. For example, when designing the pony stool, I wanted to produce an object with an “idea of furniture” or a product with an “idea of leather”, the history, the memories, the feelings, and at the same time I wanted to produce an object that explores an atypical use or meaning. The pony stool is not only to be used in the typical way we sit on a stool. When you sit on a stool your stomach is closed. The way I propose to sit on the stool is with your feet on the floor. It is more like support and less like a seat. There is also another story, about the archetypes of men and animal and leather. The pony stool is a symbol of a half man, half horse.

What determines when a product should stay unique or be produced in a limited series?

We define our company as a producer of small series or unique pieces because we want to have the freedom to design pieces that are intricate and unable to be replicated.

What do you think sets you apart from other unique brands?

I think that starting a project from an emotional perspective can produce unique results. Approaching the materials in a non-conformist way, re-thinking the way an object can be, often generates changes that produce simple but distinct forms.

What does the future of TORU look like?

Each person lives one life but if you are open to change and new ideas you may discover new perspectives. The idea of TORU is that it presents the opportunity to make a change in your way of living. I want people to live with my pieces and to discover the creative possibilities that live inside them.

How do you keep up with consistent changes in our industry? What is your best advice to be unstuck creatively?

I believe the best way to adapt to the changes in our industry, is to be ourselves. The formula to be a disruptor is to detest monotony and look for opportunities to reinvent ourselves. As I did when I created TORU.

Learn more about TORU in the latest issue of ONELOOK magazine.

Interview by Ivy Cheuk and Chloe Hughes