Sebastian Wrong in conversation with EST Journal
Sebastian Wrong is a man with a mission. Since rejoining Established & Sons in 2017, he has been tasked with figuring out what this much-loved, eccentric, experimental British brand might be able to offer to the wider world that isn’t already being delivered by other design brands. Wrong was part of the team that launched Established & Sons back in 2005. He oversaw a heady period, where new and established talent flocked to a brand that was willing to take risks and knew how to throw a good party. His vision, mentorship and excitement for new manufacturing techniques helped build the company’s unique identity. But, more than a decade later, the world is not the same, and the expectations of a design brand are very different. Older, wiser, but with the same dedication to creative collaboration and production, Wrong opens up about the new collection and the challenges ahead.
EST: How would you describe the 2018 collection?
Established & Sons has provided a platform for experimental, contemporary design since 2005. We have collaborated with five talented international designers to create a bold yet accessible 2018 collection that is true to the spirit of our longstanding commitment to outstanding design, materials, craftsmanship and innovation. Each piece has been designed and crafted to tell a story and stand the test of time, whether on its own or as part of an ensemble alongside other pieces. We want people to fall in love with these timeless new designs and use them in their homes today, tomorrow and for years to come.
EST: What would you like the brand to represent going forward?
WRONG: The way I work is very intuitive and instinctive. So, I tend to avoid the kind of big manifesto, or the big picture, and rather focus on what we can do in a relatively tangible period of time. So, we’re considering what the collection has been historically and what the collection has become today and how to then build a collection for the future and what our next steps should be. It’s a combination of past, present and future and an incremental development of the collection. We need to protect the freedom for expression of creativity, but also ensure that the products are accessible, that they have a real purpose and can become part of people’s lives. We have a duty to deliver a product that is made to a particular standard with a prominent character. That’s really our DNA.
EST: How do you balance being design director and the curation and development of this kind of collection with actually designing products? Is the thought process very different?
WRONG: The balance between the two is something that I’m not always comfortable with. Very often in the role of design director I would just see a gap in the collection that I could fill. Sometimes it was right, sometimes not. We are lucky to have, let’s call them contemporary icons of design –they are important pieces. And I am also really lucky because I was part of the evolution of those from day one. That means I’m not coming in with that legacy hanging on my shoulders and having to work out how to manage that in the right way. I don’t have that guilt. But I don’t have a clear answer to your question. Over the course of time, perhaps it will become clearer, this wholeissue of how to operate on a number of different levels. I don’t exclusively design for Established & Sons now, so I am opening up and this is a different approach, being much more pragmatic, and working to a brief. We still want to give our designers huge amounts of freedom and we have an open mind, but at the same time, we are much clearer than we used to be about how we want to evolve and what that means for the collection.
EST: One of the founding principles of Established & Sons was to work with respected names – the ‘established’ – and with new talent – the ‘sons’. Putting any product into production is a risk, so how do you select the young designers who you think can deliver?
WRONG: Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. I like to work with people who I think are doing great pieces which will stand the test of time. We are always trying to find and develop an icon. To get a piece that you would love today but also your kids would really enjoy. That is an achievement.
EST: A lot of brands have become very risk-averse in recent years.
WRONG: Yes, absolutely, because the world is increasingly controlled by numbers and that means everyone is going to try and work out what’s the least risky – to try and guarantee a winner every time. Perhaps that is the advantage of Established & Sons in this particular moment, that we’ve got this legacy of products that are very loved, but we also have an opportunity to do something different.