London-based industrial designer Benjamin Hubert isn’t interested in becoming ‘a design poster boy’. In 2015, his eponymous studio – once furniture-led and now rebranded as Layer – turned its attention to experience-driven, innovative design for the physical and digital worlds. Instead of creating the ‘next best chair’, its sights are trained on disrupting markets and affecting design change.
We sat down with the firebrand designer, to discuss his foray into men’s grooming...
W*: The prototypes for Offset, your contemporary shaving accessories collection, were unveiled last month. How have they been received?
Benjamin Hubert: Really well. It’s a smaller project than we normally take on, but it felt like the right time to do it. There has been a return to a kind of ritualistic tradition around beauty and facial care, and there has been a huge boom in traditional shaving.
Tell us about Follicle & Limb, your hair-care collaborators.
They’re a little bit underground at the moment – they will appear, but they wanted to release the product first, to see what the reception was. They come from a barber family, and have barber shops across London. Drawing from the family business, they wanted to do something slightly more disruptive; to shake up the shaving industry. Together, we started to rethink the traditional shaving brush experience. There will be a retail launch later this year.
How does Offset disrupt the shaving industry?
The traditional shaving market is pretty stuck. Despite male grooming’s recent surge in popularity, the associated accessories are still very conventional. Our contemporary product designed brings the experience of the barber shop shave home.
What inspired the collection?
The post-Apple generation has been growing up with interactive devices. We saw a space to see how this can influence our designs – it was a space that was crying out to be filled. So each product is interconnected – the shaving brush’s case transforms into a stand, and a dish for the razor. I think there’s an emerging youth that a product like this would appeal to.
So, is it younger people that Offset is aimed at?
I wouldn’t say that age is ever a driver particularly, it’s more about point of view. I think that ‘post-Apple generation’ can mean your gran to your niece. Either way, we’ve all come to expect a certain interconnected approach to our lifestyle design.
You work on such a range of designs, from physical products, to app development, to UX – does the same kind of design philosophy underpin them all?
More or less. It obviously does change a little bit depending on the nature of the client and project, but we’ve got a growing digital team here and they subscribe to this experience-led work. They do a lot of research and the quality and craft that goes into this digital work is no different to what goes into a piece of furniture. We consider form, feeling and function (and materiality and colour where relevant), whatever medium we’re working in. I think it’s really profitable to see these different sensibilities working side by side in the studio.
For more information, visit the Layer website
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Elly Parsons is the Digital Editor of Wallpaper*, where she oversees Wallpaper.com and its social platforms. She has been with the brand since 2015 in various roles, spending time as digital writer – specialising in art, technology and contemporary culture – and as deputy digital editor. She was shortlisted for a PPA Award in 2017, has written extensively for many publications, and has contributed to three books. She is a guest lecturer in digital journalism at Goldsmiths University, London, where she also holds a masters degree in creative writing. Now, her main areas of expertise include content strategy, audience engagement, and social media.
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