The future of Nordic design is in safe hands, if ÅBEN has anything to do with. Founded by former entertainment lawyer David Harrigan in 2019, the studio nurtures and champions emerging product designers from the Nordic regions acting as a ‘Soundcloud for designers’.
With a guiding ethos that focuses on environmental impact and transparency as much as it does aesthetics, the platform connects product designers with a conscious international clientele. ‘It is not an aesthetic which necessarily guides us when identifying our designers’ says Harrigan, ‘it’s more about determining whether their products serve a purpose or solve a problem. If a chair isn’t designed to be comfortable or has a limited lifespan, then you won’t find it in our store.’
Meaning ‘open’ or ‘openness’ in Danish, ÅBEN aims to promote slow-craftmanship, breaking down the wall between customer and maker. Every piece on the online platform is made to order – the client is invited to follow the journey of their piece, becoming more intimately involved with its design. ‘People don’t want what everyone else has: they want something that is unique, and has a story behind it’ says Harrigan. ‘Our customers love that they are able to work directly with the maker, and have a hand in the design process.’
The ever evolving ÅBEN collective so far encompasses 11 designers including Icelandic designer Hanna Dis Whitehead, Copenhagen-based duo Frederik & Gustav, Finnish cabinet maker and designer Antrei Hartikainen and Stockholm based glassware designer Veronic Ronn. The search for new talent has seen the team meet over 130 designers in the last 18 months, many of them coming fresh from world-leading design institutions such as Konstack, Aalto University and KADK.
Just over a year since its founding, the studio has developed a cult following among tastemakers for its unorthodox approach. ‘There’s a popular misconception that Scandinavian design is just white and wood. We’re changing that by taking a fashion-led approach to design. Our art direction takes inspiration from Acne Studios, Ganni, Comme des Garcon and Off-White, to name but a few.’
The platform encourages co-creation and collaboration between designers, with a regular Designer-in-Residence program that offers mentoring – Swedish designer Erik Olovsson is taking the helm this season.
‘Our Collective is as much about community as it is about bringing bold and innovative products to market’ says Harrigan. ‘Being a designer can be awfully lonely, so we encourage our designers to share their ideas, and occasionally their frustrations! Each of the designers within the Collective believe in innovation, considered craftsmanship and long-term sustainability. We all believe in less, but better.’
Written for Trendland by guest contributor Fiona Mahon