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Design alumnus dials Italian connection

Antony Perry

9 May 2017: Browsing Rene Linssen’s Instagram page, it’s easy to think he’s just returned from gallivanting around Europe.

But the 23-year-old’s recent trip abroad was more about professional gain than leisure.

Mr Linssen, who graduated with a Bachelor of Industrial Design from the University of Canberra in 2015, was in Milan, Italy forging a relationship with renowned Italian design company Alessi.

It was one of the perks of winning the 2017 Alessi Design Award – an opportunity to pitch his winning design, a sleekly functional oyster shucker, to the Italian manufacturer in the hope of having it produced.

“Unfortunately, my oyster knife is not being taken by Alessi, not because they didn’t like it but because they are just about to release an oyster knife of their own,” Mr Linssen, who won the Vogue Living Alessi Emerging Designer Prize in 2015, said.

“Put it down to bad timing. I designed my knife when Alessi didn't have one, but by the time I got to Milan, they did. The silver lining is that I now have a relationship with the company.

“We aren’t strangers anymore and I have contact with them, so there could be opportunities in the future to design products they need. Fingers crossed.”

Mr Linssen said his design, the Pearla, was inspired by Australia’s love of the ocean and his own desire to create a beautiful version of a product he felt hadn’t been done justice.

“I see oysters as a sophisticated and elegant food and the knives on the market didn't reflect that,” he said.

“I wanted to make the oyster knife more beautiful and I wanted to design something that reflected where I am from. Oysters are very popular in Australia and the coast is a big part of Australian life.”

The item’s aesthetics, he said, takes its cues from sea shells and sea creatures to amplify its connection with the oyster and the ocean.

It’s not the first time Mr Linssen’s work has had a quintessential Australian feel to it.

The local designer was rewarded for months of hard work last year when his Parliament House-inspired bike rack design was chosen among the winning entries in a competition run by the ACT Government.

The Government recently ordered an additional 50 bike racks, with the first production run expected to be completed shortly.

“I’ve refined the design of the bike rack over the last few months,” Mr Linssen said. “It’s still a surreal feeling to see my design in places around Canberra.”

Mr Linssen is busy collaborating with a fellow local designer on a new furniture collection slated to be launched later this year. He juggles his personal projects with his job at Formswell Design in Canberra.