Ask a Retailer: Soft Square

In the movement to support original design, retailers hold a key role: they are the bridge between manufacturers and consumers, bringing designs from the production floor to people’s homes. To find out more, we asked our member Soft Square to tell us about being a retailer that supports original design. 

Tell us a bit about how you got started in the design world.

We first started selling furniture out of a small warehouse. We gradually took steps into expanding the ever-evolving Soft Square. To be in the design business, you have to have a passion for what you do along with tenacity and grit. Modern furniture & timeless design is something we have always loved.

How do you choose which designs you want to represent in your store?

When we go to Milan, Paris or Cologne for trade shows, we must always consider our clients & what makes sense for our market. We are very meticulous with the brands we bring into our store and they have to be original designs. The quality of the product is one of the most important aspects. At the end of the day, we only choose what we love. When clients come in the store they can see the passion behind each carefully selected item.

In your experience, what are some common misconceptions consumers have about authentic design?

One of the misconceptions is that people think they can get a similar item for a lesser price. When you buy a knock-off, for instance, it is not going to be the same quality as the original and won’t last as long. It’s worth paying a bit more and having the original piece, which will wear better and longer.

Continue reading “Ask a Retailer: Soft Square” »

Be Original Americas’ Summer Fellowship: Looking Forward

Photo Jul 14, 11 05 50 AM_Alexander Kusak

As rigorous research and experimentation lead to better, original design, Be Original Americas believes that a hands-on, immersive design education can lead to a well-rounded designer. The Be Original Americas Summer Fellowship program was created to offer just that opportunity: real-world experience to support an informed and creative start to a career in design. As the first-ever Summer Fellowship draws to a close, we talked with fellows Sarah Ahart of Virginia Tech and Karina Campos of Syracuse University about how their experiences in the program will shape their futures in the industry.


What’s next for you in your senior year at university this fall?

Sarah: I am going to be working this semester to prepare for my thesis in the spring.  This semester is about continuing to figure out who I am as a designer, what my interests are, and expanding my knowledge of the design world.  I want to base my thesis on a current problem for which I can design a meaningful solution.

Karina: Whats next? Well, completing my design thesis! This upcoming year will be full of trials and tribulations, sleepless nights, but also full of moments of success and design inspiration. Although the word “thesis” is a little scary, I am actually excited to get started! I have gotten so many preliminary concepts during the fellowship.


How do you think you’ll approach your schoolwork differently in your final year, as a result of your experiences during this fellowship?

Sarah: Now that I have a much broader understanding of the steps needed to create a final product, I will be able to design in a way that keeps the full process in mind.  Prior to the fellowship, I was designing based on my limited knowledge of industry.  The fellowship has made me aware of the many considerations needed to bring a product to market, as well as all the steps that a product needs to go through before being market ready.  I can now include these elements that I have learned throughout the fellowship in each of my future projects.

Karina: After this incredible experience, I have learned to approach design a little differently and think beyond the confines of my own discipline. It makes for a more holistic and meaningful way of designing. Also to continue being curious and never settle in your design work.


How has your view of your future in the design industry been changed or influenced by the Be Original Americas Fellowship?

Sarah: I realized that there are so many different paths that I can go down once I graduate.  I had an idea of what I wanted to do just based on what I knew existed. Now that I have been exposed to so many different options, I realize there are many more opportunities for me than I had originally thought.  It makes me feel like I can pursue anything that interests me, and that wherever I end up working, I will be able to contribute my own valuable skills .

Karina: One thing that became more apparent during the fellowship is that in order to sustain the design industry, it is vital that we challenge the way in which knowledge is passed from established design professionals to young designers–especially since we are the future of the industry. We can influence change.  Although there is only slight correlation between school and the real world, that rigidity in school teaches essential basics that come in handy in an office setting, at least from what I saw during the past seven weeks.


What key learning from the fellowship are you most excited to share with your peers?

Sarah: I am most excited to share with them my answer to the previous question.  In school, I feel like a lot of us think that we need to go work for consulting firms and get the traditional ‘industrial design’ job.  Because of that, I see some of my classmates being discouraged when their interests and skills don’t line up with the traditional jobs that we hear about.  I think that it is extremely important for students to know that there are so many different options once they graduate and that our major is extremely flexible, allowing us to fit into many career paths.

Karina: I am looking forward to sharing those mind-blowing moments I experienced, anything from incredible manufacturing processes to how design professionals behave in an office setting.  I think I am going to talk about the more intimate moments I experienced that some students often don’t get while doing a traditional internship.


Based on your experiences this summer, if you were to design a tool for designers, what would it be?

Sarah:  I would design a platform that helps connect schools and students with companies in the industry to do collaborative projects.  I have worked on a few projects with actual clients, and these have been the most successful and beneficial projects in my time at school.  With that said, not everyone gets the chance to work hand in hand with a real company before they graduate, and I think that is a shame.  The knowledge you gain from working with a real client for a real company is invaluable, and I would like to create a way to make that a possibility for everyone.
Karina: It would definitely be a pen, specifically a Pilot BeGreen B2P Gel pen.  Being a tactile person, I naturally love hand-writing. It’s the most reliable way of keeping track of my notes–especially when inspiration strikes and I have to make note of it!  During the fellowship I filled two small notebooks of information, random thoughts, and ideas and my Pilot pen is the best for taking hand-written notes on the go. It allows for smooth writing and for some reason I can always read my chicken scratch, hieroglyphic writing the best with this pen. Of course, this is personal preference (every designer that I know has specific pens for specific purposes) if I am filling out a document or drawing my writing utensil needs change.


Authenticity in design begins with intent. Be Original Americas is committed to creating access to the kinds of design education that foster a creative future for the industry at large. Many thanks to our fellows Sarah and Karina for a successful inaugural year for the Summer Fellowship program, and to our participating members and media sponsors for their support. You can read more about the Fellowship experience on and

The Originals: Harry Allen



What does “original” mean to you?

As a designer I make “original” happen every day. It’s part of my DNA. I am always seeking out new design territory — all of my products must forge new ground aesthetically, conceptually, and/or functionally. Otherwise, why design? Only original design is design.


How can trusting the intelligence of your audience lead to innovation in design?

For me, it’s not about dumbing down a product to fit a current trend, or copying something that has been done. I see it as my duty to lead, not follow, and it’s the best premise for design.  A good design mind is trained to see beyond what is already out in the world. It’s the definition of creativity — to create something new, and that is ultimately what consumers want — to be challenged, to bring great new products into their lives, to have their lives bettered by design. That is where consumer intelligence comes in — they can recognize a winner. Sometimes it takes some time, but if you design a great new product it always gets recognition — because people are basically pretty smart.


How effective is the use of new materials in helping to deter copycats?

I love new materials for all they can bring to a design. Right now I am working on a project with Ecovative, a material company that grows a wood-like product out of mushrooms, Designtex, who have developed a compostable fabric, and E2E who make a soy-based glue. I brought them all together in a new acoustic tile called” Weave” that will be manufactured by Ecovative. It is beautiful, functional, and environmentally sound. In fact, they are completely compostable. So in this case, the design of the product is great, but it is the materials that make it amazing. And I am pretty sure no one will be copying them anytime soon.



Harry Allen is the founder and president of Harry Allen Design. He has designed furniture, lighting, products, and interiors for a wide variety of international clients. His long-standing interests in art, new materials, and systematic design approach have led to some of the most intelligent products and interiors in the world today. Allen’s work is in the permanent collection of Museum of Modern art (NYC), the Brooklyn Museum of art, the Denver Museum of Art, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. His awards include the Brooklyn Museum of Art’s Modernism/Young Designer Award and two Industrial Design Society of America IDEA Awards. 

The Originals: Nani Marquina



What does “original” mean to you?

For me, original is something unique. It can be a piece, a product, or a work of art that offers an idea, a new concept that changes what we are accustomed to experiencing.


Has being an entrepreneur encouraged you to take risks in your designs?

In a way, I think that designers have an entrepreneurial essence, as their contributions are novel and contain large doses of imagination, vision and daring. These are just some of the necessary elements it takes to build a business. I was always clear that my goal was to surprise people with my products and to achieve this it has been necessary to take risks and break the mold.


How does authentic design support ethical business and social responsibility?

Design is unquestionably a factor in social transformation. One of the primary goals is to improve the lives of people; I believe that design is increasingly sensitized to ethical and social responsibility. In our case, our products are 100% emotional design that presents an additional intangible value. We are committed to surprising and captivating our clients, passionate about improving the living conditions of the workers involved in the manufacturing process of each rug, paying the utmost attention to the care and maintenance of the environment around us.


True to her design roots, Nani Marquina launched her namesake brand in 1987, a time in which contemporary rugs were non-existent in Spain. After studying industrial design at the Escuela Massana of Barcelona, Nani launched nanimarquina, a brand dedicated to the design, creation, and distribution of rugs and textile products for the home, based on values such as observation, innovation, and enthusiasm, with the goal to use traditional craftsmanship and techniques to create contemporary pieces. In 1993, Nani Marquina  moved manufacturing facilities to the north of India. to further incorporate o craftsmanship and tradition as a new design concept and consolidate the brand. Throughout the years, the brand has garnered numerous awards such as the National Design Award and the Premi Cambra a la Gestió Empresarial (Chamber Award for Design Management) in 2005, as well as several nominations for the Príncipe Felipe Award for Company Excellence. Nani Marquina has also recently received the International Women’s Entrepreneurial Challenge Award from the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce, a personal achievement that led to the 2007 FIDEM Award for Entrepreneurial Woman of the Year. She has enjoyed tenure as the Chairwoman of ADP (Professional Design Association), and of Red (Reunión Empresas de Diseño). Starting in 2014, Nani Marquina is the President of the FAD, (Foment de les Arts i Disseny), in Barcelona.

Meet the 2016 Fellows

The Be Original America’s Summer Fellowship Program begins this week, as 3rd-year students Sarah Ahart of Virginia Tech and Karina Campos of Syracuse University arrive in New York City for the first leg of their 7-week experience in all it takes to make, distribute, and sell authentic design. We spoke with the two Fellows about their backgrounds in design, their expectations for the program, what they’re most excited to learn.

The Fellows


Sarah Ahart is an accomplished, top-ranking student in Virginia Tech’s industrial design program. She currently has a product on the market through Swiss toy company Naef, and recently participated as a finalist in the Stanford Center on Longevity Design Challenge 2016 with her in-home workout station for the elderly. While pursuing her desgree, she also works as lead designer at start-up Park and Diamond Incorporated, where she is creating an ultra-portable bicycle helmet for college commuters.


Karina Campos is an award-winning industrial and interaction design student from Syracuse University. Campos has a background in service design, having worked with the Syracuse community’s Connective Corridor to create public billboards highlighting local people, organizations, and programs that have a positive impact on the city. More recently, she worked with Welch-Allyn to design possible solutions to promote workplace wellbeing for health professionals.

The Questions

What drew you to apply for the Be Original Americas Summer Design Fellowship? 

Sarah: I loved the idea that I would get to be exposed to every aspect of the design, manufacturing, and marketing processes, as well as work with several prominent companies.  I saw it as a great opportunity to gain a variety of experiences in order to help me figure out what career path I want to follow.

Karina: I am enthralled yet lost in world of design; there is just so much to it, my interests go in many directions! When I came to know about the Be Original Americas Summer Design Fellowship, one look at the description and I was hooked. I knew the opportunity to get an up close and personal look at different facets of design was right up my alley.  As a young designer, my thought process is constantly evolving and this immersive program will allow me to explore areas of design I haven’t seen or done before.

What does “original” mean to you? 

Sarah:  To me, original means that something is unlike anything that has come before it.  It has to have some feature or aspect that is novel and sparks interest.

Karina: For me originality is a concept that goes beyond “innovative” and “new”, where it core values lie in the reinterpretation of concepts and forms already in existence; an allusion to pre-established archetypes. Originality finds its voice based on visual observations, human intuitions, needs and struggles and pushes the boundaries of what is in existence but nevertheless has its roots in familiarity.

What are you most looking forward to learning about during the 7-week program?

Sarah Ahart: I am most looking forward to learning about design and manufacturing processes and seeing it first hand.  I am also looking forward to visiting some of the big name companies that I have learned about in school, such as Emeco and Herman Miller.

Karina: I am so excited to uncover the hidden nuances and insights in the design industry as well as observe, learn and connect with design professionals that will challenge my own design thinking and re-define what it means to be a designer.


You’ll be travelling to New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and Michigan – which location are you most looking forward to and why?  

Sarah: I am most looking forward to New York.  I have never lived in a big city before, and I am looking forward to experiencing city life!

Karina: Honestly? All of them! This program will really expand my knowledge of design, each state we will be visiting offers different perspectives of design and ways of interpreting the design process. I am looking forward to those mind bending moments!

When you are not studying – orapplying for fellowships- what do you do for fun?

Sarah:  In my free time I enjoying doing ceramics and woodworking.  I also love to be outside and go hiking or boating.  I have always been very sporty and stay occupied with a variety of intramural sports with my school throughout the year. In addition, I am an assistant coach for a youth soccer team.

Karina: Besides my passion for all design, I am an avid cook and a reader. You can always find me on food blogs looking at recipes, experimenting with ingredients in the kitchen or on the couch curled up with a good book.

Follow along with us here on the blog and @beoriginalusa on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to stay up to date on Sarah and Karina’s experiences during the 7-week program. They’ll share exclusive images from site visits to Bernhardt Design, Carnegie, Chilewich, Designtex, Design Within Reach, Emeco, Flavor Paper, Herman Miller, Ligne Roset, and Vitra, and be checking in on about all they’re learning along the way.

The Originals: Jon Sherman

Jon Sherman Headshot 2016


What does “original” mean to you?

Something new and fresh.

Where do you see the line drawn between inspiration and imitation?

It’s a fine line sometimes, but as long as there is an individual’s obvious twist to an inspirational piece that renders it into a different realm than the original it is not an imitation. An imitation only rearranges aspects to make something differ enough to be classified as new, but the object or idea does not have its own life and inspire a different reaction than that of the original.

What makes a designer or artist a good collaborator for Flavor Paper?

Someone who thinks about engagement via walls from a different perspective than others and creates an atmosphere of beauty, humor, fun, transcendence or awe.


Check out Be Original America’s member Jon Sherman and Flavor Paper’s latest award-winning designs ShweShwe and Waynetopia from NYCxDesign and ICFF.


With an entrepreneurial MBA from Tulane University, Jon Sherman began his business journey in real estate development when he heard of a unique wallpaper company in Oregon going out of business. The West Coast producer offered Sherman the large silk screens and equipment–if he promised to remove them within 24 hours. Sherman’s initial overnight investment has grown into a profitable, print-to-order business that produces as many as 1000 rolls of custom paper a month, mitigating waste and optimizing resources, including time. Always looking to “push the envelope” in design, Flavor Paper goes beyond the traditional way architects, designers and end users think and use wallpaper. Flavor Paper can be seen in a wide variety of projects by the who’s who of the creative community, including Tibi fashion house, Kravitz Design, Milton Glaser, and Mike D from the Beastie Boys, and clients such as the IAC Building by Gehry in New York, Nike, Steve Madden, the international W Hotels and more. Recently, Flavor Paper entered into an exclusive, worldwide agreement with the Andy Warhol Foundation. Sherman’s Fishnet wallpaper is in the permanent collection of the Brooklyn Museum, where he has recently been named to the Board of Advisors, and Flavor Paper is also part of the permanent collection of the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum and The Louvre Museum in Paris.

The Originals: Joe Doucet

joe headshot


What does “original” mean to you?
Original design, by definition, is a work which begins with a process and not another design as a reference.


In what ways do knockoffs affect the power of original and good design to improve our lives?
The creation of good and original design requires a substantial investment of time, resources and money from both the designer and company producing the work. When a company or designer chooses to simply copy an original design, it is intact stealing. Not just the “creative theft” often cited, but a material and substantial theft of time and money. If the hard work and financial support required to develop original design is systematically stolen by competitive companies, there is little incentive for companies to pursue original design. This would lead to a great reduction in original work, which would then lead to the same existing work self-perpetuating ad infinitum. A sad thought indeed.


 You design for such diverse companies. How do you insure your design is not compromised?
The fact that we design for such diverse companies and industries greatly increases the exposure to the risk of our work being copied. We are particularly vulnerable to copying as we are idea-led and less focused on a particular style. The truth is that legally there is very little protection for a new way of thinking about an object. We are reliant on companies to respect the intense work which necessitates original design, and begin their own process rather than begin with another design as a reference.


Don’t miss Joe’s takeover of the Be Original America’s Instagram during Salone del Mobile 2016.


President and Chief Creative Officer at Joe Doucet x Partners, Joe Doucet’s ability to fluidly cross the different disciplines of design have made him one of the most sought-after creative talents working in America. As a designer, inventor, and creative director, his work deftly hybridizes function and visual appeal while conveying layers of meaning and message.  His portfolio encompasses furniture, consumer electronics, corporate identity, jewelry, fashion, technology, children’s toys, environments and architecture delivering innovation for a variety of clients such as Bernhardt, BMW, Braun, Hugo Boss, Lexon, Moët & Chandon and Target. His work has been exhibited numerous places internationally, including the London Design Museum and awards include two Good Design Awards in 2012 and 2008. Surface Magazine named him the only ever AvantGuardian for Design, and he currently holds more that 50 patents for his designs and inventions.

The Originals: Michael Anastassiades

Portrait by Hélène Binet_reasonable size


What does “original” mean to you?

Original is something that is created from a place of freedom. Something that doesn’t  need to carry the weight of its predecessors to stand on its feet, where the historic references are only there  in confidence of what we’ve learned and not as an attempt to disguise in the face of the ignorant.


What unique perspective on design do you feel you’ve gained from your training as a civil engineer?

My civil engineering studies have provided me with the distance to view design differently. When I first entered this world, I felt I had a lot of catching up to do, most of my colleagues had already been exposed to at least four years of Design education. I graduated from the Royal College thinking that my path didn’t fit in any of the models that existed. It was only much later that I felt ‘what a great place to be!’


Your work has been included in leading museums such as the MoMA in New York. What can these institutions contribute to the fight against knockoffs?

It is important for these institutions to collect original works that have made a difference. A gesture to confirm the contribution a work of Design has made towards the bigger picture.


Michael Anastassiades launched his studio in 1994 to explore contemporary  notions of culture and aesthetics through a combination of product, furniture and environmental design. Positioned between fine art and design, his work aims to provoke dialogue, participation and interaction. Anastassiades’ work is featured in permanent collections at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Crafts Council in London, the FRAC Centre in Orleans, France and the MAK in Vienna. He has designed products with various leading manufacturers including FLOS, Puiforcat, Lobmeyr and Svenskt Tenn. In 2007 he set up MICHAEL ANASTASSIADES – the company to produce his signature pieces, a collection of lighting, furniture, jewellery and tabletop objects. The studio’s philosophy is a continuous search for eclecticism, individuality, and timeless qualities in design. Michael trained as a civil engineer at London’s Imperial College of Science Technology and Medicine before taking a master’s degree in industrial design at the Royal College of Art. He lives and works in London.

Design Perspectives: Women’s History Month


Supporting diversity in design is essential to fostering creativity by bringing a variety of perspectives and experiences to the field that deepen the conversation rather than maintain the status quo. To celebrate Women’s History Month, Be Original Americas spoke with three design entrepreneurs to get their take on the state of the industry, what they’ve learned in their careers, and what the future of authenticity has in store.  Jaime Derringer (Design Milk), Sandy Chilewich (Chilewich), and Felicia Ferrone (fferrone) each offer their unique reflections:


What is most exciting to you about the design industry right now? 

Sandy Chilewich:

The growing appreciation of artisanal craftsmanship.

Jaime Derringer: 

I love the design that’s happening in Mexico right now. Additionally, the Pacific Northwest is a rising star in the design world. There’s some great architecture going on in Canada. I love that we’re starting to see more pockets of great design in North American places beyond New York and LA.

Felicia Ferrone: 

The most exciting thing right now is that the traditional business of design is loosening up and that’s allowing people to shape their own destinies. It’s no longer only about traditional channels that are hard to break into, if not nearly impossible. Today you can create your own channel. It’s very exciting and limitless in terms of the possibilities.


Felicia, how has blurring boundaries created new possibilities in your work?

Felicia Ferrone_HEADSHOT

Felicia Ferrone: This blurring has allowed me to do a wide range of design work from architecture to exhibitions, to graphic identities to products in addition to being an educator and entrepreneur. I have been able to curate every aspect of my work from the designs themselves to the image of them and how they are portrayed to the intended use in a client’s home. While designing I am always considering the architecture in which they will reside. Each of these aspects support the design intent of an individual piece, like a stone thrown into water causing a ripple effect.


What do you wish you had known starting out?

Jaime Derringer: I don’t know! I suppose I wish I had more business training. Maybe there should be a mandatory business class for artists and designers in college that focuses on dealing with entrepreneurship, self-employment, startups, and social media.

Felicia Ferrone: That nothing is as it seems.

Sandy Chilewich: The importance of having an open mind to listen to well-meaning advice.


Sandy, in a career defined by exploration, has there been a touchstone that you find your work grounded by again and again? 


Sandy Chilewich: I speak often about how while I am very artistic, I am not an artist. A true artist never considers their audience when they create their own work, there is no compromise. I am always on the thin line between my own aesthetic and what people actually need and want… but this is where I like to hover. This is sometimes painful, but full of satisfaction and rewards.


What new opportunities do you see for women in design? 

Felicia Ferrone: There is a growing awareness of women in design which is fantastic for everyone, and not just women. I think with the opening up of channels, women can create their own opportunities that might not otherwise be there.

Jaime Derringer: I’ve noticed more dialogue happening around women in the design world and I’d like to see more women recognized for their contributions. I would like to see more outreach toward young women to go into the field of design and architecture. There isn’t enough knowledge or information about the educational or job opportunities in this industry.


Jaime, as someone with established careers in both art & design and design media, how do you think the two industries could better support each other to foster creativity? 


Jamie Derringer: I think women can do a better job of supporting each other, drawing attention to other women who are doing great things and sharing their work. We’re all fighting the same fight, so let’s remember what team we’re on and embrace a community spirit. In addition, I am a big fan of collaboration. So, celebration, collaboration, and community.


How do you stay original? 

Sandy Chilewich: When I look back at the 3 product categories that became the foundation of my businesses [shoes, legwear, textiles] I realize that with all three I was compelled to wake up a tired category. If something isn’t really new, then I’m not interested in making it.

Jaime Derringer: I keep one eye on what everyone else is doing, but keep my other eye and the rest of me focused on how I can stay fresh and ahead of the game. I appreciate trends, but prefer to spend more of my energy focused on what sets me apart. I look at everything and ask, how can I be different?

Felicia Ferrone: I can find inspiration in just about anything – from a manhole cover to an old fence – and it is that awareness and curiosity that keeps my work original. In questioning all assumptions about the function, form, and our interaction with the object or system, new designs develop. One last thought about “staying original”: It’s a choice! It’s a choice to get out of bed that morning and create something new.


About the Contributors: 

Felicia Ferrone

Felicia Ferrone graduated with a degree in architecture from Miami University, Ohio, after which she moved to Milan. Her international namesake brand fferrone was founded in 2010 and is based in Chicago. Along with producing and distributing her own design work under her brand, she also has created designs for Boffi and The Macallan. Ferrone’s expansive reach is informed by her early experience as an architect in Milan, where she was first taught to “blur boundaries.” Her award winning work is included in the Art Institute of Chicago’s permanent collection, is a recipient of a GOOD DESIGN Award, and is widely exhibited and published internationally. She is the Director of Graduate Studies in Industrial Design and a Clinical Assistant Professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago.


Jaime Derringer

Jaime Derringer is Founder and Executive Editor of modern design blog Design Milk, which quickly became the “go-to” site for unique modern interiors, home furnishings, art & architecture and is now one of the most popular design blogs reaching millions of readers across the globe. Inspired by her love for dogs, Jaime founded modern design blog Dog Milk to expose dog lovers to pet design that fits their uniquely modern sense of style. Her most recent venture, Adorn Milk, is an online shop devoted to architectural and statement jewelry. In addition, Jaime has been noted as an expert on design trends, speaks on design, blogging and social media, and offers consulting.


Sandy Chilewich

The New York based designer Sandy Chilewich is founder and creative director of Chilewich | Sultan LLC, a company managed with her partner and husband Joe Sultan. For the last three decades and with two distinct businesses, Chilewich has reinterpreted underutilized and overlooked manufacturing practices. Since 2000, Chilewich has designed innovative textiles for numerous applications. Sandy launched placemats and floormats with her original signature textiles in 2000. Her designs have transformed the way tables are dressed in homes and in restaurants around the world. Her floormats provided a clean modern alternative underfoot.

The Originals: Marcel Wanders

International  designer, art director, and member of Be Original Americas through his acclaimed design studio Moooi, Marcel Wanders gave us his thoughts on what it takes to be original.


What does “original” mean to you?

Original means “there is at least a true unique differentiator between the new and the existing comparable.”

Knowing that in design new works are often based on recognizable archetypes, I am careful about blaming others for copying. The fact that I use an archetype does not forbid someone else of using the same archetype.  We easily find and point out things in the world and load our claims on them, humbleness is a virtue.

Let us designers not act as so many photographers do, who after taking a photo claim ownership over anything on it. Ultimately “you cannot be a leader if you are not being followed.”


Having created more than 1700 products for many premium brands, how much do you rely on manufacturers to protect your designs from copycats? Do you think they have the tools to do so?

Premium brands protect their designs, and yes, there are ways for us to protect ourselves against copycats. We help our brands by truly making differentiated products. Products that are unique when they are new, and we keep proof, of the making of, to support that. I would not advise a brand to go to war with a design that is not truly original and makes a lawsuit questionable. My designs have been the subject of more than 50 lawsuits, and we have never lost a single one!


Has the possibility of being knocked off ever been discussed during the design process with a brand or client?

It always is a subject in almost every design process, we design things that are preferably difficult or uninteresting to copy and make sure we really have a claim to win a process if we act on potential copycats. Unfortunately lots of great designs have never seen the light of day because they are too easy to copy. We have created a world where newness needs complexity and sufficient barriers of entry in order to be safe, it’s sad but its reality.



Dubbed by the New York Times as the “Lady Gaga of Design,” Amsterdam based Marcel Wanders (Boxtel, Netherlands, 1963) is a prolific product and interior designer and art director, with over 1700+ projects to his name for private clients and premium brands such as Alessi, Bisazza, Kosé Corporation/Cosme Decorte, KLM, Flos, Swarovski, Puma, among scores of others. In 2001 Marcel co-founded the successful design label Moooi, of which he is also Art Director. Regarded by many as an anomaly in the design world, Marcel has made it his mission to “create an environment of love, live with passion and make our most exciting dreams come true.” His work excites, provokes, and polarises, but never fails to surprise for its ingenuity, daring and singular quest to uplift the human spirit, and entertain. Marcel’s chief concern is bringing the human touch back to design, ushering in what he calls design’s ‘new age’; in which designer, craftsperson and user are reunited. In his process, Marcel defies design dogma, preferring instead to focus on holistic solutions rather than the technocratic. In Marcel’s universe, the coldness of industrialism is replaced by the poetry, fantasy and romance of different ages, vividly brought to life in the contemporary moment.