designer mike durante

Lauren Boyce and Mike Durante of Basil Bangs

Given that Australia is (usually) the land of sun and surf it's a little surprising that it took as long as it did for a good-quality sun umbrella to appear on the market. However, it did and it came to us via Basil Bangs, a company founded by three friends who live in and around Bondi Beach. Mike Durante is the designer behind the triumvirate, which includes Lauren Boyce and Nicholas Chapman. The umbrellas are based on vintage designs, but the hinge mechanism is purely modern. The fabrics, which they design themselves, are marine grade and have even been given the thumbs up by Missoni, who agreed to collaborate with Basil Bangs.

Which five words best describe you? Love sand between my toes.
How did you get your career start and what path have you taken since? I studied industrial design at UNSW and did a year in Europe, studying in Milan and Stockholm. They were immersive inspirational experiences and opened me up to very different modes of design thinking – I recommend it for anyone studying design. After uni I held various roles but being a very passionate surfer, when a job came up at Surf Hardware to design FCS fins and Gorilla Grip I jumped at it! I’ve been there now for nine years and worked my way to my current role of design manager. I work with a great team of ruffians; it’s a great job. Basil Bangs started out of this love for the beach and beautifully designed functional products. It also happens to suit my lifestyle - I can stay out in the surf a bit longer because my wife’s protected under the brolly. So you could say that it’s a win-win!
What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way? Don’t be afraid of hard work. I firmly believe that putting in the hard yards will pay off down the line. It’s all about patience rather than instant reward, which although nice, seldom happens that way. And that a bit of chutzpah and initiative goes a long way sometimes.
What’s your proudest career achievement? Seeing my first products, a range of backpacks, in production.
What’s been your best decision? To marry Hubes.
Who inspires you? After a bad day: President Bartlet. The rest of the time: my dad.
What are you passionate about? The beach, design, food (I’ve got Italian heritage so it’s inescapable), learning new things, my family and friends.
Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? Chevy Chase.
What dream do you still want to fulfil? There are so many: taking Basil Bangs international, growing tomatoes in a backyard veggie patch with chooks, learning to bake sourdough, more exploring and adventuring overseas.
What are you reading? We always have lots of books on the go in our house and I have a bad habit of starting them and not finishing them. I love non-fiction, and have recently been getting into audio books & podcasts (loving This American Life) - they’re so good for my commute! Some books on the bedside table are Cradle to Cradle, Small Giants, and Glimmer. Inspiring reference books are also important to me, with Slim Aarons’ photography books and print and textiles references at the desk. My wife’s obsessed with jam making at the moment so we’ve got a few of those books lying around too. We really need a built-in bookshelf. There are just too many books in too many piles!

images courtesy of basil bangs; portrait concrete playground