When Felix Blanc and his business partner Leah Mentzis set out to create a homeware brand, they mainly thought about stories. In a world oversaturated by things, how do you make a product that stands out? Something that will remain after a particularly ruthless spring clean? In the age of Marie Kondo, how can you justify production? For Blanc and Mentzis it’s about creating with intention. That and telling a good story.
We’re a society obsessed with stories. From the one million books that are published each year to our multi-billion pound film industry, talking about the world around us helps us make sense of it. A well told tale will often result in emotional investment and a level of attachment that can even produce a fierce sense of loyalty (see: this list of devoted movie fandoms) – all of which are also key ingredients to creating a solid customer base.
æstory was born after Blanc received his MA in Industrial Design at Central Saint Martins, where he learnt about designing for enterprise. “We felt that homeware often lacked depth. We want to give people the opportunity of purchasing products with an extra dimension, an extra layer of meaning.” He tells me.
The environment has also been a key motivator for Blanc and Mentzis. “We do think that fast design is a real problem and we hope this leads to more careful and selective purchases; buying less but buying quality products. We do this by giving consumers the opportunity to connect to a product with a compelling story.”
But how can an object tell a story? First, Blanc and Mentzis find inspiration through real world architecture. Then once a design has been decided on, they create an entire three dimensional layout that relates the product back to its original inspiration. Re-contextualising the homeware in this way gives it an origin, a backstory.
Of course, their narrative-centric design process is more artistic than literal and so it doesn’t guarantee an emotional reaction. But what product can? I put it to Blanc: “We don’t aim to manufacture emotional attachment and we can’t control the reason for which people will buy our products, but we offer objects that can trigger curiosity and deeper attachment.”
As far as advice for the younger generation goes, Blanc’s words of wisdom are simple: “Don’t wait for everything to be perfect because it never will. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and be perseverant. Trust your instincts.”
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