Tony Matters started Faber Design almost 10 years ago with the idea of creating a design agency focused on the restaurant sector.
Originally from Grimsby, Tony’s father was a deep sea fisherman, so he started out working on the fish docks; as he got older he moved to working in restaurants and loved it. He later realised that whatever type of work he was doing, the world of food and restaurants was where his heart was.
After a few years of running a business and working in interior architecture, he decided to up sticks and come to Birmingham, fuelled partly by the beginnings of the Birmingham foodie boom.
For the Faber office, Tony looked around at various sites in Birmingham, but Zellig and Digbeth were very different. “As soon as I came here in 2013 I could feel the creative community was buzzing, and that sense of community has kept us here.”
On building Faber
“The first five years of Faber it was very busy in Birmingham, we came at the right time as the food scene was just bubbling up. I went to every networking event going for the 6 weeks before we moved into the office, it was really helpful and I’m still in touch with contacts made at that time. Over time I’ve grown from running my business on my own to having a much more structured team. Our work has expanded beyond Birmingham now as well, with clients in London, South Wales, York and even internationally.”
On Faber clients
“Client wise we like working with independently owned businesses. Everyone chases after big clients and you can end up being a lot more constrained. We like creating new concepts working with independent owners and operators.
One local client we’ve really enjoyed working with has been Vietnamese Street Kitchen. We do their new restaurant openings, their branding, graphic design and so on. It works well with us when we are partnered to our clients’ business. They are a real Birmingham success story, family-owned, weathered the storm well despite the challenges of the industry, steadily growing, adding new sites and moving forward.
We’ve also been proud to work with Andreas Antona, the owner of Simpsons restaurant, as the official design partners for the Bocuse d’Or; this is the world’s largest culinary competition which involves tableware design. We work with the UK team, helping them to compete on the global stage and build a platform for the future of the industry. It’s a great project which goes alongside my love of the food world.
On his proudest achievements
“Building the team is definitely my proudest achievement. It’s intentionally called Faber Design, not Tony Matters; it takes our entire team to build a project. We are quite unusual in that we are so heavily focused on one industry and have such a depth of service to offer. There was no blueprint to copy. Everything has been through our own trial and error.”
“I’m not sure we could have done it anywhere else. Zellig has always supported us through good and bad times. They helped us when we needed more space and enabled us to grow within the Zellig building 3 or 4 times. They also reduced rent significantly over lockdown, which a lot of other places didn’t do. If I have a problem I know I can always go to Michelle or Benny, they really care about their tenants and that is a rare thing.”
Creative partner to forward-thinking chefs, restaurateurs and entrepreneurs
Faber is a multi-disciplinary design agency specialising in the restaurant and F&B industry.
Services include branding, AMD (advertising, marketing & digital), interior design, kitchen design, tableware, packaging and publication design. From Michelin starred restaurants to neighbourhood cafés, we work across the full spectrum of the industry.
ZELLIG, set in Digbeth, Birmingham’s creative quarter – provides an inspiring, entertaining and commercially fertile environment for one hundred and one independent creative enterprises.
Zellig offers sparkling offices and studio space in a meticulous reconstruction of one of the most beautiful and historic buildings in Birmingham. Set around three top-lit courtyards garlanded with spectacular artworks and flying glass bridges. Populated by a vibrant working community of independent enterprises drawn from the worlds of art, music, information technology, the media, film, entertainment, creative commerce and more.
Interview by Mazzy Snape.