MEET EVAN CLABOTS
Evan Clabots' eye for detail has been honed over the course of fifteen years in the design industry.
Studied under famed designer Ilkka Suppanen.
Was SVP of Design at Fab.com.
Founded Nonlinear design studio in 2010.
"It's really understanding multiple perspectives that lets you evaluate your own ideas and choices in life, that leads you to a more well-rounded solution."
Looking at it simply as a new manufacturing technique, it affords different opportunities than any others, and that’s really exciting from a material standpoint.
Over this tenure, Clabots has picked up manufacturing, production and merchandising skills from which less innovative (or more practical) designers might have chosen to shy away, all of which have informed his broad portfolio and diverse range of work.
Perhaps not surprisingly, nothing is out of place at the designer’s tidy Williamsburg, Brooklyn home—that is, except for an old TV. (“All of the men who come over comment on that,” he says). From the bedroom to the expansive roof deck, it’s a space that displays smart, no-frills design balanced with a biting awareness that nothing is too precious. This is not a man who takes himself too seriously, a fact made evident the better one gets to know him. Sitting at his table on a bright spring morning, he elaborates on his personal design history—which found its beginnings with a homemade slingshot holster—and the ways in which that journey only continues to expand.
What’s your earliest design memory?
I was watching my mother teach my sister how to sew. Then, when she went to work, I sewed a little suede pouch and holster for my slingshot. It had a little drawstring and a pouch for rocks. The drawstring had loops that fit on my belt so I could run around outside with my slingshot, armed with pebbles.
How did you get your start in the industry?
I interned at Studio Dror for three months and worked over at Bodum across the street at the same time. After my internship, Dror hired me to be a designer and I spent five and a half years working on a lot of amazing projects for clients like Cappellini, Alessi, Tumi and Puma. After that, I started Nonlinear Studio, which I ran for about four years before moving to Fab. Bradford Shellhammer asked me to come start an internal design studio with their resources, which sounded awesome. That was probably in the spring of 2013. We worked for a year and a half to develop a range of home goods, hard goods, upholstery, lighting and a soft goods program, as well. Then in the summer of 2014, Fab restructured and we ended up moving the remnants of the private label over to Hem in Berlin. At that point, we decided to part ways and I started my own studio, where I’ve worked for the last year and a half.
Of all the things you've designed, what’s been your favorite?
Well, it’s kind of like getting tattoos. When you get each one, that one’s your favorite. And then you move on or your perspective changes, and you get more tattoos. You don't necessarily like the new ones better, but you look back and you remember who you were when you got the old ones. I can remember with all of my tattoos exactly who I was then, and how I looked at the world. They're really great for marking time.
I think the same way about the designs I've accumulated. I look back and remember who I was and how I was thinking about design at the time—was I really influenced by concepts or by practicality or manufacturability? Was it a really technically-driven piece, or was it driven by the market and commerce? I can look back and understand who I was as a designer, and because of that, I can't pick favorites. They all sort of encapsulate what I was thinking and doing at the time.
You’re both a designer and Chief Design Officer for OTHR. What excites you most about the platform?
I think the evolution of manufacturing techniques is super interesting, and I think that 3D printing is finally coming to a point where we can produce viable, usable products that have the strength and durability a product needs. Looking at it simply as a new manufacturing technique, it affords different opportunities than any others, and that’s really exciting from a material standpoint.
How did you get involved as CDO?
I’ve known Joe Doucet for quite a while. While I was the SVP of Design over at Fab doing a line of private label home goods, he was one of the external designers that we were working with on one of our pieces. Then, as I moved away from Fab, Joe approached me to take a similar role at OTHR. He told me that if I was great at convincing him to change his design in a way that he didn’t want to—but ended up being quite happy with in the end—then he needed those skills over at OTHR. I’ve been working with him on it now for about year.
What’s the most pivotal thing you’ve learned in your professional career?
I’m always trying to see the bigger picture from different points of view. It's really interesting to go from working at a consultancy to working in-house at a large retailer to working on art direction, to working on products, working on collections, working on merchandising. I've developed a process of designing from understanding creative access into the world from a lot of different points of view. It's something I still seek to do, even in the work I've been doing in my own practice—being able to amalgamate all of those perspectives to offer up a bigger-picture solution for clients while still seeking out new perspectives. It's really understanding those perspectives that lets you evaluate your own ideas and choices in life, that leads you to a more well-rounded solution.
What about feedback? Have you ever received feedback that really stuck with you?
The feedback from the market, from consumers, is really interesting. To understand what you value as a designer versus what those who are consuming the products value, what things resonate with those who are consuming your products or graphics or messaging—that is a really amazing interaction. Designing in a bubble never really works. It’s always about bouncing ideas off of other people, but especially those the products are meant for. You learn so much about which parts of what's important to you resonate with others.