Footpatrol Discussions | Counterfeit Studio

01.03.24 Footpatrol Discussions

Footpatrol: Hi Murray, we hope you and the team are well, thank you for having us. For those who aren’t aware, can you tell us a bit about the team and what it is you all do?

MA: Hello! 

We’re Counterfeit Studio and we are architectural, product and spatial designers specialising in the design of brand spaces and places. Essentially we translate our clients brand into a physical expression for their customers or audiences to experience IRL. Whatever form that takes, be it the design of a building, an office, a store, a piece of furniture, or a sculpture etc. 

FP: What are your earliest influences and memories of design? And what ultimately led to you opening your own studio?

MA: Two very different ends of the career spectrum.

I knew very little about design when I started my design degree, which was my first proper introduction to the field. I sort of stumbled into the course so was not at all informed about the industry, which I think helped me build a foundation for drawing influences from anywhere, not just the world of design. During the early to mid-nineties, before the era of the internet, I would collect The Face magazine. Like for many others, it was my window into the world, and The Face was great at capturing the myriad of weird and wonderful things happening at the time.

There would often be pieces about industrial designers or design trends mixed with fashion editorials that would catch my eye. Designers outside the fashion world were beginning to gain traction and celeb  status, and the eclectic approach set by The Face became a precedent for the types of things I would gravitate towards. My references have since continued the same sort of eclectic approach—a mix of music, art, culture, fashion, media, design, and architecture.

Fast forward nearly 20 years to the start of Counterfeit around 2017. It had a fairly organic beginning. Over the years, I had the privilege of working at some amazing design agencies and, while I was fortunate enough to work for many of my dream clients and brands (including the previous iteration of FP in the Berwick Street location), I reached a point where I was considering the next chapter in my career.

I had been fortunate enough to establish lasting connections with great people who were client side along the way. Now and then, these people would come to me directly with projects that didn’t necessarily fit the mould of the design agency I was working for at the time (due to budget, scale, style etc), so I started to take on side projects. After a year or so, these evolved into larger briefs that could sustain not just me but also a team of designers. I quit my full-time job soon after to turn that into Counterfeit Studio.

FP: Can you describe the counterfeit style in 3 words?

MA: Why The Pigeonholes?

FP: Understandably each project will be different from space to space, but are there elements or design philosophies you’ll try to consistently keep in every brief? 

MA: Well, as you say, one size never fits all. However, we have definitely developed some basic drivers along the way that help us add value for our clients. We summarise these as ‘Unify,’ ‘Simplify,’ and ‘Amplify’—three guiding principles that can be traced throughout our body of work. These principles are rooted in listening to people and achieving consensus, providing straightforward clarity, and understanding the benefits of turning up the volume.

FP: Some of our favourite works from you are of course Carhartt WIP, a client you’ve worked with on a few instals now. Can you tell us about the importance of developing relationships like this and what is it that keeps you dreaming big and pushing the boundaries store after store?

MA: They’re good ones, and a fantastic client. Arguably the success of a project hinges on the strength of a relationship between all the people involved, so developing relationships is a really crucial part of what we do. It comes down to growing trust over time. The guys at Carhartt WIP are testament to that. As we’ve gotten to know them better over the years, we’ve also gotten a much clearer understanding of what works and what doesn’t. So there’s much less time exploring ideas that aren’t right, and much more on making our responses sharper. 

That’s probably part of what keeps us going – the unexplored potential and the opportunity to try something new and interesting. 

FP: For those unaware, you’re responsible for both our London re-fit and Paris store designs. Can you tell us about the challenges [if any] from both these spaces during design/construction?

MA: There were a couple of main challenges: the compact size of the FP stores was as constricted as the build budgets. So a lot to cram in for a relatively modest cost. However, necessity is the mother of invention, and I believe that if it hadn’t been for those constraints, our responses might not have been as clean and eye-catching. I think that’s the sign of a good result—when a challenge has been transformed into a positive that defines a project. 

FP: Are there any projects that really stand out for you or your team? 

MA: Proud of all our projects, though both the Footpatrol projects were highlights! Also our latest work for Carhartt WIP in Melbourne seems to have had a lot of great responses. It’s easy to see why, there’s a lot of good elements to it which we are really happy with. It’s a good size, great mix of materials, the detail was expertly executed by the contractor and the logo sculpture is the icing on the cake. 

FP: Are there any creative areas in which Counterfeit haven’t ventured yet? Or plan to do more in 2024 and beyond? 

MA: We’re keen to do some work that’s less commercially driven and more a chance to express ourselves, so potentially some further self-initiated work this year. Also looking to do some work in the outdoor sector as there are lot’s of interesting newer brands coming through that are innovating and shaking up the marketplace. Ideally we’d like to capitalise on the success of our recent work in Australia and expand our network in APAC (Asia Pacific Region) so hopefully we’ll get some travel in. 

FP: We usually ask if YOU were a shoe what would you be and why? But do you think its possible to describe Counterfeit in a single silhouette haha? 

MA: Always a different rotation, although the rotation probably has a bit of or animal skin in there somewhere. A current personal favourite is the Mizuno Wave Mujin TL GTX or their Wave Rider Beta.  As a killer older outlier brand, doing lovely new things that are too slept on – you could draw comparisons to where Counterfeit is. 

FP: What piece of advice that you’ve received has stuck with you throughout your career and what would you pass on to the younger audience who are trying to get into the industry?

MA: Sure, although it’s probably more like anti-advice, but maybe that’s makes it more motivating. 

I did work experience when I was probably about third year at college. I was there for about a week – it was an old school architects office. Suit and tie affair. The guy who ran it must have been in his 60’s and at the end of my time there he called me into his office for a debrief. He told me I held a pencil incorrectly, I couldn’t draw and I’d never be a designer. I was mortified! That has stuck with me to this day. It’s probably installed a lot of drive in me to prove him wrong in some way. I learned to use a computer instead, so his opinion was completely irrelevant anyway. Moral of the story is don’t listen to miserable old dinosaurs! Do the new thing they don’t understand yet. 

FP: Thank you for taking the time to chat to us Murray, we look forward to seeing future works and hopefully in ways we can work together too. If there are any final shoutouts or words of wisdom, then the floor is now yours…

MA: Final words? Just to reiterate the point above I guess. Use your youth and energy to your advantage. It makes you more influential than you may realise. It’s healthy to be anti-establishment despite what they would have you believe. So doubt the default. 

Shout out to the Core Counterfeit Crew: Sam Johnson and Roxy 

Stone and our broader network of freelancers. You know who you are. 

All the best, TEAMFP!

Make sure to check out more of their work over on their website and Instagram!

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