Liliane Fawcett & Tom Dixon

Article excerpt

How we met 'I'd make something, drop it off and she'd give me Pounds 50 cash for it. It was a lifeline'

Tom Dixon 53

Best known as the creator of the Pylon chair and the S-chair, the industrial-style designer has created objects and interiors for the likes of Terence Conran, Vivienne Westwood and Habitat - for which he also acted as creative director for 10 years. He runs his own, eponymous, design firm, and lives in London

I knew Liliane initially as this interesting local French antiques dealer whose shop [Themes & Variations] was the only one in the area selling interesting design objects, mainly from the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. Her shop was on Westbourne Grove [in west London] and my studio was just two blocks away.

For a long while, though, she wasn't very interested in what I was doing. She was far more interested in an artist I was sharing a studio with, Andr Dubreuil, who was more classic than me, and she started to buy his work for her shop. During that period, around 1985, UK galleries weren't really interested in the kind of rusty industrial chic I was doing.

Back then there was little interest in design in the Sunday supplements and no design museums, so her shop was a splash of colour and culture that didn't exist elsewhere.

On a Saturday I'd walk down Portobello Road, pass the vegetables, do the shopping, pass the knick-knack and vintage shops and end up at Liliane's, where we'd have conversations about the pieces in her shop. Then I'd look at some of the books and go home; I treated it more as a coffee shop than anything else.

Once she started to appreciate what I was doing, she was very generous. If I ever needed money I'd make something, drop it off and she'd give me 50 cash for it. It's a lifeline when you're starting out, having people to support you. And she became a great person to do the dirty work of selling; unlike most people in sales she was very honest. Now I don't consider her a collector, but a friend; I don't push her to buy anything any more.

It was many years later I discovered that she was a countess with a fabulous chteau in the South of France - she even has a museum there dedicated to the Knights Templar. She hosted her 40th birthday there and had a fairy-tale party. She comes from a very old family, but whereas most families in the French aristocracy are distant, she is so warm.

Liliane Fawcett 55

A French countess, Fawcett first set up her London-based shop/ gallery Themes & Variations in 1984, at the time promoting work from up-and-coming designers such as Tom Dixon and Israeli artist Ron Arad, as well as selling decorative arts and furniture from the 1960s and 1970s. …