Fiona Lyda is something of a paradox: a retailer who is instinct-driven and follows her heart over her head; a straight shooter, who doesn’t suffer fools gladly, who has sustained tremendous long-lasting relationships at home and abroad, and an early supporter of sustainable product who understands that aesthetic appeal and desire has to lead the way.
Fiona’s impetus for starting Spence & Lyda 25 years ago was somewhat elemental. “I came into it wanting to showcase things of beauty, pieces that had a real connection and conveyed longevity – something to pass on generationally, not to throw out in five years,” she says.
She walks the line of passion tempered by a dose of common sense and acknowledges that she might never have started if she had known what she was in for. “Retail is utterly relentless. I thought I understood hard work from my time in the film industry, but this is next level” she laughs.
Spence & Lyda is defined by her philosophy – both aesthetic and humane. “I gravitate to family-run businesses”; a partly pragmatic decision as she admits; “quite honestly, we were never big enough to be able to hit the big players.” But in time, this has become a strength as brands have evolved and gained profile and prominence. And indeed, when you look at UK-based Pinch, Portuguese furniture brand De La Espada, Italian company Molinari and Colombian PET Lamps, there is a thread of craft, care for the environment and thoughtful evolution that underpins them all.
This extends to Fiona’s deep appreciation of textiles. Hence, on the one hand, there is a long and fruitful association with iconic brand Missoni. At the same time, on the other, she sources small run textiles such as those by Case Studies, manufacturing with a community of artisans in Romania. “It is all about the way light interacts with woven fabrics and how a skilful designer can take the most unlikely colour combinations and magically make them work,” she says. The Spence & Lyda showroom in Sydney’s Waterloo is a testament to her love of art, craft and lighting, with a curated, layered feeling to the space – part furniture showroom, part gallery.
Fiona is not a person to sit still and the recent success of Futures Collective, a series of installations at Melbourne’s Villa Alba for Melbourne Design Week, showcased, Innate, the latest iteration of her collaboration with designer Jon Goulder. This foreshadows a more permanent presence in the city; later in the year, she will launch a new retail concept that merges kitchens and bathrooms with the decorative and furniture brands she has nurtured. “People now think of these spaces holistically,” Fiona says, “and we aim to collaborate with some great interior designers, such as Fiona Lynch, to draw the visual language together.”
The new Melbourne Winning x Spence & Lyda Showroom is slated to open later this year.
Spence & Lyda’s Melbourne Design Week 2022 exhibit ‘Futures Collective’, featuring INNATE 2.0 by Jon Goulder in collaboration with Fiona Lyda.
INNATE 2.0 by Jon Goulder in collaboration with Fiona Lyda.