From their studio in Downtown Manhattan, designers Joe Doucet and Dean Di Simone are creating the heirlooms of the future. OTHR, the design company they founded alongside Evan Clabots, makes a range of stunning homeware exclusively with 3D printing technology, a radical concept many years in the making.
In 2013 Doucet, described by Forbes as the ‘living blueprint for the 21st century designer’, ordered a 3D-printed steel fork. It was an unappealing and overpriced object, but he recognised that the technology was improving so fast it would soon be feasible to make gracefully designed products at achievable prices. When that time came, the three joined forces and together they assembled an all-star cast of the world’s best designers, including Claesson Koivisto Rune, Fort Standard, Everything Elevated, as well as emerging talent, to create homeware that is at once beautiful, useful, and unique.
“We are not using technology for technology’s sake.”
Salle Privée met with Doucet and Di Simone in New York to discuss the philosophy behind OTHR’s vision. As we begin Joe admits that 3D printing is typically slower and more expensive than conventional mass production, so why use it? “We are not using technology for technology’s sake,” insists Dean. The advantages of this disruptive technology, it turns out, are revolutionary for the design world and its impact on the environment. 3D printing avoids mass production and leaves behind absolutely no waste. “Nothing physically exists until you buy it,” Joe adds. There are no bowls and jugs sitting idle in storage, gathering dust until enough orders come in to clear them out. Instead every product is made on demand, exclusively for its owner, with a unique number and certificate. “It allows you to have a really intimate relationship with your customer.”
View products: Lothar T-shirt Cotton, Cesaire Cashmere Crewneck Sweater
Eschewing mass production also frees designers to concentrate on the development of their ideas and take creative risks that were simply not viable in the past. Whereas it sometimes took three to four years for a product to go to market, OTHR is now, as Dean points out, “allowing designers to bring products to market every two weeks.” This encourages fearless experimentation. The studio also makes a point of celebrating the designers it has collaborated with. “It’s about different points of creativity coming together that make something bigger and I think that is part of the DNA of the company.”
“There is no seasonality to what we’re doing in an industry
that has a typically sophisticated and mature seasonality.”
OTHR’s disruptive approach to design, Dean notes, shares clear parallels with Salle Privée’s mission when it comes to classic menswear. “There is no seasonality to what we’re doing in an industry that has a typically sophisticated and mature seasonality.” Instead of limited-edition runs, OTHR’s products are “accessible all year long in a constant flow.” Furthermore, mirroring Salle Privée’s vision for a man’s wardrobe, their aim is not to create an entirely new (and perhaps gimmicky) product for every design fair, but rather to refine the staples of the home to a degree never before seen. “It allows us to create very simple things that become iconic.”
View products: Evron Light Poplin Slim Fit Shirt, Ewen Harrington Jacket, Lothar T-shirt Cotton
The result is that everyday items, usually hidden away in drawers, become beautiful objects crying out to be displayed, all while retaining their utility. Joe picks up the extraordinary-looking ICO Bottle Opener, designed by Fort Standard and printed with 3D bronze, to illustrate his point. “It opens a bottle of any size, it’s the easiest you have ever used, and it’s aesthetic in the sense that it has presence and it’s unique.” An instantly iconic piece of design that could not have been made as a casting, it takes 2-3 weeks to produce and looks like no other bottle opener in the world.
“We will continue to find ways to evolve them towards a state of perfection.”
Other acclaimed items include Michael Sodeau’s graceful porcelain Coffee Maker, and the sought-after Cru Cake Spatula and Knife Set, designed by Joe Doucet himself. These objects will only improve with time, he says, as the technology of 3D printing becomes more sophisticated. “The techniques used to manufacture our products are improving every year. We will continue to find ways to evolve them towards a state of perfection.” While the essential form and design of every item will remain the same, their finish and feel will be very different five years from now. Perfection in the 21st century is an act of distillation. Holding the bottle opener in his hands, he adds: “So it really is a living object.”