NY-based industrial designer Todd Bracher creates furniture, lighting, and home accessories that are handsome, engaging, and strikingly simple in form. Named the New Designer of the Year at ICFF in 2008, he was previously the head of Tom Dixon’s design studio, as well as the Creative Director of Denmark’s Georg Jensen. Several of Bracher’s home goods are currently available on Fab, including some beautiful pieces he created for Fritz Hansen, Cappellini, HBF, and more.
Todd was kind enough to chat with us about his influences and share some photographs of his studio, which is located in the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
Can you tell us a little bit about your process?
When you first see our work you may think of minimalism or some process of reduction. I like to see our work as ‘essentialism’, or meaning in an additive way… We add one element at a time, just enough to communicate our idea and nothing more. I am not interested in complexity, I am interested in simplicity, however, it has to be simplicity with soul and richness.
What are your current inspirations or influences?
I am most inspired by travel. I prefer experiences that I have never had before. Food I have never eaten, music and sounds I have never heard. This for me is the fresh air I need to find inspiration. When the simple aspects of the world appear new again.
You have worked in Copenhagen, Milan, Paris, London, and now Brooklyn. Do you feel like your surrounding environment has an impact on your work?
I would say yes and no. Depends on the work we are doing. I can say the destination for the work is most important. We tailor our approach to suit which culture is intended to live with our work. There is something to say however for the context we are in while working. I prefer to think all of those cities are my ‘studio’. It is not like we only do the work from a single point in the world… with the travel and the collaborators, the space in which we work from is truly global.
What are your favorite types of projects to work on?
Projects that we have never done before. We are currently working on a public vending machine, a wall panel system, new lighting technologies, consumer electronics, and so on. I hope to continue our growth in new avenues and adventures. This is how we learn… we research these new projects and become experts rather quickly. Life, and therefore work, is so much more interesting this way.
In other words, I would love to design the food on the menu as much as designing the restaurant itself.
If you could collaborate with anyone, from the past or the present, who would you pick?
I would love to collaborate with Charles Darwin. We share similar ideals about the world around us. I like to think that I approach my design work with the same approach and processes that Darwin had in mapping out his theory for evolution. That logic aligns to the ‘essentialist’ approach I’ve developed for my work.
Over the past 2.5 months I’ve been to parts of Asia 5 times for work. That’s a lot of travel. More on why later.
All this travel has forced me to manage a lot more by email than I would normally prefer.
It has also led me to develop a new system for inbound and outbound email communication with the Fab team.
Here it is. I’m curious your thoughts.
On all emails that are sent to me, I now ask that Fab’s team members put one of the following in ALL CAPS in the subject line:
I have then setup filters in my gmail such that I first review all URGENTS, then all DECISIONS, then all DISCUSSIONS, then all UPDATES.
On emails that I send, I’ve also started creating a standard structure for what I put in the subject line:
And, my favorite of all, is a simple 2 words that I use most frequently in response to emails from members of our management team:
Go = 2 Words that = the ultimate empowerment.
GO! means run with it.
GO! means take that idea of yours and make it happen.
GO! means take risks, invent things, make mistakes.
GO! means get shit done.
Listen up, gentlemen! Tomorrow, we’re selling the most exquisitely dapper cufflinks you’ll ever come across, courtesy of Monsieur Fox. We were curious about the mysterious muse behind these handcrafted gems and asked Kevin Miller to investigate.
Dashing, daring, with enough panache to go around the whole forest, he just might be the most interesting fox in the world. Monsieur Fox is the allegorical animal that represents the suave accessories brand by the same name. His likeness and limbs are ever present in the brand’s sterling silver cufflinks, so we thought we’d ask the sly devil what makes him so dapper. We got a whole lot of wisdom back, channeled through Monsieur’s human counterpart, Adrian Azodi.
What makes accessories like cuff links and tie clips so crucial to an outfit?
It’s one of those little details that put the bow on the gift, so to speak. It’s easy to wear a blazer, shirt, and tie. But, when you add in a few key elements, these accessories add a sense of panache that can’t be beat; it’s the difference between someone who likes having their time taken from them and someone who takes time for themselves.
How can men of intrigue connect with their fashionable side in a masculine way?
Men of intrigue are rare these days, although there seems to be resurgence in the past few years. From the 1500s onwards, those with the ability actively sought rare, unique items to furnish their wardrobes, collections, or manor houses with worthwhile little treasures. For the modern man, a sense of mystery and desire can be evoked in those around him, by wearing something truly unique or unusual, giving him just the right touch of the eccentric that will rouse the interest of a passing lady to spark up a conversation.
You seem to have lived a full life. What’s your advice for men looking to get the most out of their life, and looks?
Ah, well thank you, to be honest, for me the secret is serendipity. Time and time again I’ve found that had I not done things of my own accord, acted on my wishes, life would be far more dull. Many people get into the “I can’t because…” trap; all we need to do is to think “Would I want to re-watch this life being lived?” If the answer is no, it’s time to go out and do something about it.
What is about your name that is representative of men’s fashion? Plainly put, why a fox?
Well, the House of Fox goes back many generations, and the story is bit of a tale, but we’ve felt the Fox is a keen allegory for the modern man. He is known for his adaptability, for his cleverness, for that rather dapper reddish coat and white breast, with blackened nose and ears (second only to the Penguin within the animal kingdom, I might add), he has a suave and debonair look about him. Men really connect to this and women are always attracted to a man that is put together, but a tad disheveled, too; if he was completely safe, it would be boring!
Name one of your fashion icons.
The style eras I consider iconic are the ’50s Italian Riviera, and the early, roarin’ ’20s in the U.S. Both of these periods were filled with wonder and excitement over future possibilities and an exuberance that I think we have yet to match, and both occurred very shortly after World Wars. Oscar Wilde is another favorite (arguably the first “dandy”, and quite the dresser), so I’d say he’s an icon.
Where do your cufflinks get their names?
The names for each piece for this collection come from mainly French characters that I’ve read or known about, from princes and kings to paupers and farmers. They each had at least one daring story or small local legend about them, and that really attracts me, as those kinds of folk tales usually go missing from our collective histories, but they often, in my opinion, provide the most color to humanity.
Today we’re selling United Nudes’ architecturally inspired footwear. Sarah Fones investigates the connection between buildings and shoes.
For the past oh, eight seasons or so, chunky, clunky, vertiginous, (as in painful,) footwear has dominated designer runways. Said wedges and platforms have often been dubbed “sculptural” and “architectural,” when in fact they’re essentially just “high”. What separates the truly chic from the weak? Well, the easiest answer would be a bonafide architect-as-designer. Consider Zaha Hadid for Melissa and Lacoste; Frank Gehry for J.M. Weston; or Rem D Koolhaas (perhaps you’ve heard of his uncle?), for United Nude.
Zaha Hadid for Melissa. Photo by David Grandorge. Courtesy of www.zahahadid.com
So what’s the connection, here? How come these oh-so-serious master builders are all of a sudden interested in fashion? Well, designing a shoe and designing a building is actually not that different. Of course the scale and technicality is much greater in a building, but many of the same principal tenets come into play: equilibrium, surface volume, materials, and of course, aesthetics. And since the past decade has ushered in a much more form-driven and experimental attitude to footwear, it’s all of a sudden a rich medium for forward-thinking architects.
United Nudes’ Eamz shoe
And this is where United Nude comes into play. Design history, more so than any trend or designer whimsy, drives the construction of the brand’s shoes. Take the Möbius: A sleek, open-toe slip-on style, it’s created like the titular band, with one strip forming the upper, heel, foot bed, and sole. Or the Eamz: A classically curvaceous shoe whose heel closely approximates a leg of the iconic chair made famous by Charles and Ray Eames.
The Eamz shoe by United Nude
If fashion isn’t always accorded the respect it deserves, it might be because it’s often spawned from less-than-original ideas. Legitimately inspired brands like United Nude are helping to counter this trend, melding the worlds of fashion and architecture, one historically influenced, sculptural heel at a time. The sky’s the limit.
John Derian has a rare talent for taking bits and pieces of vintage imagery and reimagining it as an enchanting object. His decoupage plates, platters, paperweights, coasters and bowls, which are on sale on Fab today, are rich with mystery and history, and all tell stories of their own. His interiors display a similar magic.
His New York City shops are filled to the brim with his own designs along with vintage and antique imports, bed and table linens, stationery, plate-ware, vintage and new lighting, and an ever-changing assortment of one-of-a-kind curios, which all come together to create an otherworldly environment, kind of like stepping into a fairy-tale. We were curious about his inspirations and the way he sees the world, and were lucky enough to get a quick chat.
What are your main inspirations right now?
I seem to be mostly inspired by nature, and at the moment I’m inspired by spring. I am working on opening a third shop, a sort of furniture showroom, and that has been fun. I have recently come into a lot of images of nests and eggs and am having fun using them in my next collection.
If you could live in anywhere in the world, where would it be?
A house in the country by the sea with a lot of land to roam around on. I love the ocean and I love to be outdoors. The house could be a cottage with fireplaces, sunny rooms, and from the 1700s.
What makes an object beautiful to you?
Its purity; how I instinctively react to it, its patina, texture, and history.
Is there anything that you find beautiful that other people find ugly?
I have a great selection of people imagery but people images are not very well received.
What is your fantasy design project?
My fantasies seem rather dull, but I would like to redesign the for-sale recycled shopping bags at Wholefoods (I think I could do some pretty ones), and also design some wallpapers for StudioPrintworks.
Behind the scenes on the Fab redesign was a purposeful effort to bring the best of Fab’s iPad app experience to the web. We had found for a long time that our iPad customers have the highest engagement and conversion rates to purchase. So, we redesigned Fab with the iPad experience in mind.
Today we’re launching a quick follow-up to our big redesign by rolling out a new header for the Fab website that is 100% iPad inspired.
The Fab design style is all about getting out of the way. Clean. Simple. Purposeful.
Here is the new Fab header in normal state.
Then, clicking on the top left icon reveals the navigation elements — just like on an iPad.
What do you think?
We’ll continue tweaking it as we go.
Smile, you’re designed to.
Fab was first designed over a dinner in February 2011.
There, Bradford Shellhammer and I drank some wine and drew on a napkin and decided to throw out our year-old social network and restart as a new business focused on the one thing we’re both mutually passionate about: Design.
My passion is user experience design.
Bradford’s passion is to design the stuff people live with.
Nishith, Deepa, and Sunil — our co-founders in India whom I’ve now had the pleasure of working with and starting companies with for nearly 7 years — are passionate about designing scalable technology.
Collectively, our one thing is Design.
I’ve known Bradford now for 14 years. As the story goes, we randomly met in a nightclub in 1999. The story is true. We remained friends over the years. I was always inspired by him. Everyone I know has always wanted Bradford to help them design the stuff in their lives — their homes, their interiors, their accessories, their apparel, their art, their style. Bradford just has that unusual and uncanny knack for finding greatness and beauty in everyday things. He helps people embrace color. He’s fun.
I looked across the table at Bradford that night and I said: “Let’s design a beautiful website and app that brings your taste to the world.”
So we did.
People called it a “pivot.” We called it a complete restart. We threw out the old and started anew.
And it took off fast. Really fast. We re-launched Fab on June 9, 2011 and before we knew it we were tracking to $100M in sales and working with tens of thousands of designers and connecting with millions of consumers.
We were on to something big. We knew it.
So, in January 2012 we did what came naturally to us: We planned to Pivot. Again.
This time, we would do it gradually — over 16 months it turns out, and with 600 amazing teamates alongside us — but methodically, from our start as this interesting flash sales website for design to The World’s #1 Design Store.
We planned this pivot and mapped out how to do it over the course of these 16 months because we realized that we were on to something much bigger and more long-term sustainable than flash sales. You see, it turns out that Fab was always different from those other flash sale websites. We had created a marketplace for design, bringing together more then ten thousand designers who previously never had a rich platform on which to reach consumers. We were selling first-run merchandise at everyday good prices, not inventory liquidation at a discount. We had seen a groundswell around Fab on both the supplier and consumer side of Fab that is seldom seen around commerce. We were becoming a lifestyle brand. A horizontal play. We were more mobile, more social, and more addictive.
We planned to pivot towards creating one of the next great iconic shopping brands. (We hope). We told ourselves and our team: Think big. Plan to be big. Focus every day on what will wow our customers most in the long term. We’re in the wow business. If we make lots of wow, plenty of sales and revenue will happen over time. But first, focus on making wow.
Over the course of 2012 and into the first few months of 2013 we dramatically moved and transformed our business, while still growing sales by more than 500%.
We went from 2000 products on Fab to 15,000. Every day.
We took on inventory.
We built permanent collections.
We invested in search.
And Fab exclusive collaborations and design originals.
The result of which was profound. Before we even make today’s 5 big announcements, less than 40% of Fab’s revenue today is from flash sales. Most of our sales is from search and browse of products that live on Fab.
So today, we move forward. Towards a new Fab.
A new Fab that helps people find what they love, buy what they love, and love what they love, easier than every before.
This presentation and video spells out our evolution and strategic direction.
The announcements are:
As always, we’re not done.
We’re always reinventing and reimagining what Fab can be. We won’t rest until we’ve created the global brand that is synonymous with design for years and years to come.
We want to extend a special thank you to the now 600+ amazing people who work each day tirelessly and passionately for Fab. You are incredible. You are making WOW every day.
Smile, you’re designed to.
Screenshots of the New Fab, The new Fab Retail Experience, and details around the Fab acquisition of MASSIVKONZEPT follow.
Additional details about our acquisition of MassivKonzept follow.
Beginning in the middle of 2012 Fab began exploring and putting resources towards ways for us to develop Fab-exclusive products, particularly in the home and furniture categories.
Furniture is a space we are particularly interested in disrupting over the next few years. Broken supply chains. The model of consumers going to physical retail showrooms and having to have a professional designer work with them to customize their furniture — in terms of size and material and color — is ripe for disruption.
So, about 6 months ago we started to think really hard about how to disrupt the market for custom furniture. We think this can be brought online efficiently over time.
We looked at a couple of companies innovating in the online custom furniture space and we were most impressed with MassivKonzept.
The MK team is super impressive. They’ve been at it for a couple of years now and have already bootstrapped themselves to a $10M revenue profitable business. They have built impressive technology and supplier relations with high quality craftspeople in Europe. They’ve created a seamless and fun way for people to go online, customize their ideal table, bookshelf, or sofa, and then have it hand-crafted to their specifications from high quality craftspeople in Europe.
The products they develop — that their customers customize — are of the highest quality, entirely user-customizable, and because of Internet efficiency, ship to customers at a fraction of prices similar products would sell in physical retail stores like Bo Concept, Crate and Barrel, and Habitat.
Today, Fab is announcing the acquisition of MassivKonzept in an all-stock transaction.
Massivkonzept by the numbers:
We’re excited to now relaunch MassivKonzept as Fab, Designed By You, also known as Fab DBY.
Fab DBY will be available immediately to Fab’s customers in Europe. Fab DBY will be prominently featured on the Fab Europe website.
In addition, customers can access Fab DBY directly at dby.fab.com.
Fab’s U.S. customers will be able to purchase a collection of DBY best-sellers immediately on Fab.com. We’ll be working on integrating the full suite of Fab DBY customization tools into Fab.com in the future for both our U.S. and European customers.
As part of this acquisition Fab is also acquiring its first retail presence, as MassivKonzept has maintained a showroom in the Stilwerk design center in Hamburg. At that showroom potential customers are able to explore the MK range of products but all customization and purchases are still done entirely online. The slogan for MassivKonzept has always been “designed by you” and that will stay the same under Fab.
Today the MassivKonzept showroom is being transformed into a Fab showroom. There, people will be able to discover and explore Fab Designed By You as well as the broader range of Fab everyday design products.
Fab will be opening up additional retail showrooms in the near future. Our next target market for a Fab retail presence is in Berlin, near our European headquarters.
We believe that part of disrupting design is disrupting it across multiple channels. We’re working on Fab store concepts that reimagine and reinvent how people buy design products by merging offline & online experiences in entirely new ways. We’ve always said that Fab wants to be where its customers are — be it smartphone, tablets, web browsers, or even physical retail stores. And, with less than 5% of home products purchased online today, we think that physical retail has an important role to play in the customer’s decision process. But, we plan to reinvent retail and help guide home product purchased online to 10%, then 20%, then 30% online as part of our disrupting the industry.
The entire MassivKonzept team is joining Fab as part of the acquisition. The two founders of MassivKonzept, Christoph Jung and Daniel Kollman will lead Fab Designed By You. Chris will head up the producer side of the business while Daniel will lead sales and marketing and service. Both of them will report to Matt Baer, Fab’s Senior Vice President of Merchandising Operations.