A conversation between Proof Of Concept and The Canvas
Briefly tell us about how you entered the crossroads of product design and apparel.
I started at Nike when I was 22, which I interned earlier during college -- definitely my dream job. I loved how Nike is a cross between art and science. The science behind what we designed really resonated with the industrial designer in me. Then I began to struggle with Nike being a nine to five job, because I missed the design school culture where we lived and breathed our work. I felt the nine to five, or the corporate system, everything was compartmentalised limiting our exposure to varied components of the design process. However, Nike established my standard due to the accessibility of quality being unparalleled to anywhere else. I would visit material shows on campus, or email a vendor and had anything I needed at my fingertips. After a few years with Nike, I then relocated to LA, to begin Proof of Concept. The new venture was a rude awakening, due to the level of quality and professionalism that I was used to at Nike was not how people deliver out in the real world: people take advantage of you, people over promise and under deliver. You have to build your infrastructure of vendors, manufacturers, collaborators, etc.
Building infrastructure and community just takes time due to the creation of trust and reliability.
Yes, absolutely. Product development requires a community consisting of factories, vendors to source materials or hardware, dye houses, fulfilment services, the list goes on. The biggest challenge is forming a community with the same standard in quality. At Nike, I never worried about a sample coming back in poor quality. When starting your own products, particularly experimental work, you’re working through ideas that may be great or poor, but then you have this wildcard element of a range in quality from each of your vendors. Poor quality in a vendor can incidentally turn a great idea into a poor product.
You experienced the pivotal difference between designer and then designer as entrepreneur. It’s clear Nike enabled you to focus solely as a designer, while not exercising the entrepreneurial skill set inherently required in delivering repeated quality products.
Absolutely, and I didn't realize that until I started Proof of Concept. When it comes to an entrepreneurship approach, it is so much about the infrastructure that you build for yourself, and how you use your infrastructure to talk to the world. In most corporate roles, you just have to show up and be absolutely incredible at your craft. And that's it. But I love the challenge of a holistic expression: working on packaging, marketing, art direction, product development, relationship building and engineering.
One of the main drivers of a consistent aesthetic over time is the brand’s philosophy - what is your philosophy with Proof of Concept?
Our approach blends the two worlds of form and function with style. Design can be very, very technical. Style ensures we consider the immediate and long term implications we have on culture, broadly speaking. In industrial design as a whole, I don't think there's enough consideration for the nuances of culture. And that's really something that I picked up at Nike and kept as part of the DNA of Proof of Concept.
Can you share recent work and vision of Proof of Concept?
Proof of Concept is about remastering industrial design in a way that leverages both the human experience and the human expression. When you put out apparel, which falls in the human expression silo, it's a double edged sword because for one: apparel is accessible. And it's a great marketing tool. Once you have people wearing your name, it starts to become memorable. People can buy into a piece of the dream for 90 or 200 bucks. However, the issue then becomes that the brand becomes positioned as a “streetwear label”, which is not where we’re trying to compete. The streetwear marketplace is so much about the heat of the moment: who's wearing what, where did they wear it, how did they wear it -- not the longevity of the brand and the all encompassing lifestyle created for its followers. We will expand into furniture, homegoods and footwear. Focusing with elevated thoughtfulness, consideration and rhyme or reason on where the product lives and how it’s supposed to function; which is the industrial design DNA. Proof products seamlessly integrate, “think for you”, with great attention paid to the subconscious experience that we have with the things that we use.
So there's a brand you can collaborate with? Who would it be?
Oh, what a question... Chuck Close. I love his approach, there's something scientific about how he creates and I think that that resonates with my approach. However, being a 2D artist, his sensibilities are going to focus on details that maybe I don't have an eye for. Would be interesting to create furniture together, to then explore the kinds of forms and thought process about where the piece lives and how it lives, you know, in the home, workplace or public sector.