The American brand is freeing designers from mass-production and connecting consumers with affordable products.
BY NIKKI EKSTEIN
The future of houseware design is arriving, and it’s courtesy of 3-D printers. Today, entrepreneurs Joe Doucet, Dean Di Simone, and Evan Clabots are launching Othr, a home-goods disruptor set to liberate designers from mass-production and consumers from the premium costs of limited-run products. (Full disclosure: Surface editor-in-chief Spencer Bailey is an advisor to and investor in Othr.) “3-D printing has just reached the point of viability in terms of price versus quality,” says Doucet, a designer who formerly used the technology to model his designs in different types of polymers and resins, but still had them manufactured in high-end materials the old-school way.
“Now we can produce products in 3D-printed metals, porcelains, and on-demand textiles,” he says. Luxurious materials and methods like 3-D knitting will shape Othr’s 13 initial product lines, unveiled at Manhattan’s New Museum on May 11. Beyond that, a new one will come to market every two weeks—an unheard-of pace, but not a surprising one. “It seems breakneck, but once you remove all of the hurdles of traditional manufacturing and all of the complexities of the supply chain, it’s actually quite leisurely,” Doucet says.
Not only does 3-D printing shorten the creative process, it eliminates the need to choose between mass-manufacturing and high production costs. Now, designers can take greater risks—objects will be printed individually for each customer rather than pre-fabricated and stocked in a warehouse. Nothing is made until it’s sold. That explains how the founders have roped in elite names like Claesson Koivisto Rune and Luca Nichetto to design their initial collections, which include candlesticks, vases, breakfast trays, and birdcages.
The individual merchandise might be small, but Othr is a company with big ambitions. “Technology allows us to bring more exceptional design to the world with minimal impact on the environment,” Doucet says, highlighting one advantage. Another: the opportunity to take chances on emerging talent, a deep focus for the company. “Having been in the game ourselves, we understand how difficult it is to break through. We’d love to become a source for not only the greatest designers, but also for what and who comes next.”
It all adds up to something that has the potential to be truly game-changing. “We believe there’s an opportunity to become the first important American design brand in decades,” says Doucet. “That’s what we’re striving for."