When we found out last month that one of our all time favourite designers was going back to his roots at Brit brand, Established and Sons, we knew we had to talk to him for you and find out more about his return.
His work is so inspiring to us with its playful use of shape and colour. We've even got two of his rare ceramic Kink side tables at home that we are waiting to use in our own bedroom (when it is finished). They were designed for Established & sons but are no longer in the main collection. Now we know that they are so rare, they are even more special. (Rushes to garage and gets them out of their boxes)
But we digress. As it turns out, when we meet up in person, Sebastian Wrong is a lovely bloke and was more than happy to chat to us about his passion for design and where we are right now in the design world.
Can you tell us about your relationship with established and sons?
Well, I founded the company in 2005 with 2 other colleagues and then I left in 2012 and I went off to work in a very different area of the market for 4 and a half years / five years and then the opportunity arose recently to come back into the company. The company's got new owners. It's a new setup, new structure. And I felt like it was a really interesting challenge, something I could really enjoy, because, in my opinion, 5 years on, where Established and Sons as a brand sits in the market is clearer than it was when I left the company and so as a design director to be able to go in and focus on a particular segment of the market and really explore and celebrate a special niche that this brand always was about and develop that is a good opportunity.
And what is that niche? What's changed in five years?
What's changed in five years is the middle market in the design industry has been filled by a lot of Scandinavian brands, which are producing good quality products, great design, but it's really very very competitive. Established is outside that. Established is not in the business of making furniture for £200. Established is in the business of making beautiful statement pieces with a strong identity, with a voice, creativity, and takes risks. It's always been somewhat of an outsider that has a sense of pride and to continue that mission is a great opportunity
When we heard you were coming back we were so excited because when we first started out in the design industry, Established and Sons was always a favourite.
Yeah, a lot of people have got a place...in their heart for the brand. Of a certain age, who have great memories of what we did ten years ago or so and there's a lot of goodwill to see the brand succeed. It's a British design brand - there's not that many of them - and we have a very strong voice, we appeared from nowhere very quickly. We made a lot of mistakes but we also made a lot of great pieces that have stood the test of time and five years on there is a core of product in the collection, that are here to stay. Iconic pieces.
Was there a part of you that wanted to ensure that legacy was maintained and looked after?
Absolutely - yeah very much so. It needs to continue and I'm very passionate about that company. It's a big part of me that company. And I want to see that succeed and grow and become something super special and I think there's not a lot of companies out there that work with such an array of designers, with such and eclectic collection. There are a lot of strong iconic pieces.
It still feels very unique; it doesn't feel like there is another voice out there like it. No ones filled that gap.
I agree with you and there's a place for this company and there's definitely a future for it.
So we were talking about the change that's happens in the last five years. Do you feel that there has been a change in the last year, a cultural shift? Is that affecting any of your designs? Or what you are choosing to design at the moment?
The answer is no. It's too early to say. Of course there has been a massive change. A lot of uncertainty... economically, politically - the Brexit scenario. It's not a particularly positive period for creative people, but on the back of that strong work will come out because when people are pushed into a corner they will react in a proactive way. A voice will be heard from beyond. Where that develops into anything...? I'm not into... how can we say it... political products. (Laughs) I studied sculpture so... I understand that there is functionality to a design, which needs to deliver, so satirical design…? I dunno… Maybe. Who knows.
So what is your approach? What drives you to design?
Good quality. Functionality. Comfort. Purity. And strong objects. Objects with character. It's as simple as that I think. And I think often with my designs they are very subtle actually. And sometimes they completely pass you by and you don't actually see that there's much going on.
I do have a tendency to work in a way on pieces that is a little bit slow, but has stood the test of time.
So do you feel any pressure? Or are you going to take a bit of time before your launch a new collection for Established and Sons?
Well, we've got a year. I've got ideas. We want to try to do 5 or 6 pieces. I've got in mind...most of them and it's very nice for me as well actually as a designer to come back because there is a lot of freedom within this brand which is not the case within other brands and that's nice to be able to explore ideas, to experiment a bit. But you know I've learned a lot in the last five years and to not take your eye off the commercial...the end user.
How is that weighted? Between the commercial and the creative?
It's always a tussle between the commercial and creative, but that's the game, that's life I think actually. No one's free of that. Even artists have the dilemma of, when they do have something that sells, they have to reproduce that genre or typology time and time again and it becomes a problem because of course they are not free of that. We are all dealing with that in one-way or another.
Are there any pieces for you or is there any one piece that you love more than any other?
In the collection?
No, (laughs) I'm too professional. I have soft spots for a lot of the products because I have a personal experience with them. You know, it's a struggle to get anything done. Different moments represent different experiences so you know if I was to identify anything id say future products are going to be very interesting. No pressure. Actually the owners are very open.
Very exciting. I suppose you don't have a 'house style'.
Exactly, it's very free. It's very free. And it's great because it's very much about the designer as well as the brand. It's a great platform to work with other designers. It's very hard. It's not easy as a designer. It takes years to become established. It's a slow process. But it's driven by passion. Not money. And that's what's great about design and it shouldn't be crushed.
So refreshing and honest and we couldn't agree more. We can't wait for next year's new launch and we are sure the future of British design is safe in the hands of Sebastian Wrong. With iconic pieces by other top designers like Philippe Malouin and Raw Edges still in their main collection they are set to explode in 2018. Go team Established! Keep breaking new ground. Keep experimenting.
Featured Pieces (all for Established & Sons)
- Font clock by Sebastian Wrong
- Kink side table in slip cast ceramic by Sebastian Wrong
- Wrong woods cabinet by Sebastian Wrong and Richard Woods
- Heidi Stool by Sebastian Wrong
- Stack drawers by Raw edges
- Molo armchair by Philippe Malouin