podcast | Jun 5, 2023 |
Asad Syrkett wants Elle Decor’s A-List to make a statement

When annual lists like the AD100 or Elle Decor A-List are revealed, there’s always a ripple of excitement throughout the design industry—especially these days, as Instagram feeds are flooded with posts celebrating the industry’s top talent. Each year, these magazines shine the spotlight on whom they’ve identified as the best of the best—but with great power comes great responsibility. “The ‘A’ in A-List doesn’t stand for Asad, but it doesn’t not stand for Asad,” jokes Elle Decor editor in chief Asad Syrkett on the latest episode of The Business of Home Podcast, discussing how the list reflects the moment and his editorial vision. “It [includes] people doing interesting, thought-provoking work, having conversations about sustainability, labor practices and materials, and [who] are letting their work be a way of bringing new communities and people into the conversation about interior design and architecture.”

Syrkett began his role at Elle Decor in 2020, just months after the killing of George Floyd ignited nationwide protests and kicked off a reckoning on race across all corners of the country. When it came time to choose his first round of A-List designers, he asked his team: Why do we put this list together? “[These] lists across the industry were established to entrench a certain message about who is important in the industry, and everybody has their own agenda in terms of who they discuss as important or not,” he says. “My agenda happens to be exposure for diverse talent working in places that don’t generally get the spotlight and celebrating the people who really engage with us.”

In addition to emphasizing racial, gender and geographic diversity, Syrkett hopes the list is a tool and resource for readers to connect with design talent. This year’s A-List includes Los Angeles–based architect Luis Fernandez, British-Nigerian designer Miminat Shodeinde and Mexico City–based designer Mark Grattan. When it comes to art direction, Syrkett also likes to keep readers on their toes, often picking less familiar-feeling images. “I don’t like to think of myself as a contrarian, but sometimes I look at what I feel is oversaturating the zone on Instagram and I say, ‘How do I do the opposite? How do I keep people surprised and excited about what we’re doing?’” says Syrkett of his decision to put Paris-based designer Elliott Barnes’s minimalist spa and indoor pool on the cover of this year’s issue.

Under Syrkett, the magazine has also made strides reporting on the sociopolitical underbelly of the design world, including stories about the racist origins of chinoiserie and an exhibit of offensive Murano glass figurines at Milan Design Week this year. “There’s been some anxiety and hand-wringing about poking at the things about this industry that are not about beauty, glamour or comfort at home, but are about why we decorate the way we do and what it says about us socially and culturally,” says Syrkett, who believes there’s still a lot of work to be done to create lasting change. “I don’t relish having to educate other people to make the progress that they need to make in their specific zones in the design industry, but internally my team has made a lot of progress, and that’s all the meaningful progress that I can be responsible for.”

Elsewhere on the podcast, Syrkett discusses how he thinks it’s important to engage with TikTok, why Elle Decor implemented a paywall, and the role AI will play in the design industry.

Listen to the show below. If you like what you hear, subscribe on Apple Podcasts or Spotify. This episode was sponsored by and Loloi Rugs and Room & Board.

The Thursday Show

Meanwhile, on the latest episode of The Thursday Show, Scully and BOH executive editor Fred Nicolaus dissect the latest news in the design industry, including LVMH taking its employees to sustainability school, RH’s earnings call, and a new wave of designers getting into the vacation rental business. Later on, Peloton CEO John Foley joins the show to discuss his new direct-to-consumer rug brand, Ernesta.

Listen below. If you like what you hear, subscribe on Apple Podcasts or Spotify. This episode is sponsored by Crypton.

Homepage image: Asad Syrkett | Courtesy of Elle Decor

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