In 2020, you might have came across the work of Toronto-based designer Sean Brown when he created rugs based on vintage compact discs, which you may have seen on Instagram.
Curves, which began as an exhibition in a Toronto gallery, has quickly expanded into a global lifestyle brand selling hip-hop-inspired home goods such as a color-changing umbrella with lyrics from Mobb Deep and Missy Elliott and a grocery tote with stills from music videos.
But Brown, now 35 years old, did not have the conventional designer upbringing that would have included frequent visits to museums and galleries.
He had been raised in Toronto’s foster care system after his parents’ divorce sent him to a group home when he was 14 and then to another foster home when he was 19. ((He claims that he has subsequently made up with his parents.)) He never finished high school, so he began making T-shirt designs instead.
He would later finish a year at a design school, when his passion in fashion and hip-hop grew. He attributes a lot of his success to Diddy.
He claimed to have studied the rap mogul’s “every suit, every walk, and every chain.” “Everything about him I studied. Cover design. Visual style and direction. The shimmying suits, the jiving. How I view beauty is mostly due to his influence.
Brown and his business partners launched NEEDS & WANTS, a men’s athletic label, in 2015. Prior to that, in 2013, the duo opened a pop-up vintage store. Its varsity jacket even made it into GQ.
Brown started doing wardrobe styling, photography, graphic design, and directing for Canadian R&B musician Daniel Caesar. As a result, he entered the music industry and went on to work with musicians like SZA and Baby Keem in various design capacities throughout his career.
In the meantime, he has released a variety of design goods, such as a throw blanket and a puzzle set. I don’t think it’s going to get normal anytime soon, so let me settle into this new flat,” he said, referring to the time before the pandemic. I need a rug and a coffee table. Then it became a fad in interior design. The Archway Chair and Puddle Mirror were just released by Curves.
Brown spoke enthusiastically about making design accessible, the influence of the video director Hype Williams, and his very brief stint in Diddy’s universe during an interview in Brooklyn, where he was shooting and interviewing subjects for a new biannual magazine, tentatively set to release in early 2022. These are paraphrased quotes taken from the actual discussion.
Can You Describe the Curves Brand for Me?
The goal is to get individuals thinking about the place they live or their origins and how those things shape their lives. A modern twist on commonplace items. In most cases, the initial point has cultural underpinnings.
I can’t help but sprinkle in cultural references. Always honouring and praising African-American heritage in all its forms (food, music, and art). The third facet of Curves is its ability to introduce design to those who have never had any exposure to it before.
So far, you’re perhaps best known for your CD-shaped rugs. Do you fear that they may detract from your more recent efforts?
Keeping doing things that people care about, as well as being inventive and inquisitive, is crucial.
This is why I proposed we incorporate mirrors, incense hands, shelves, and seats into the design. Like a smash hit, it’s almost there. When you have three Top 40 singles, people know you’re here to stay.
How does One Go about Bringing a Concept to Fruition?
So he’ll be thinking, “OK, I really want to do a puddle mirror,” and then Iva Golubovic [his manager, co-owner, and creative producer of Curves] will say, “I feel you, slow down.” She will first select a manufacturer who is capable of producing the item, consult with them about the technical details, and then hire an engineer.
We’ve recently teamed up with a group of guys who work in the mill and find their work to be as fulfilling as our own. Bed frames, tables, and other pieces of furniture are next on the agenda.
You have quite the Vibe magazine collection. Just out of curiosity, what is it about printed materials that so fascinates you?
Since I began acquiring material at my own pace online, I stopped borrowing books from the library. When I finally reached a point where I felt like I couldn’t process any more information, I wanted to slow things down and remind myself, “Hey, remember when you used to collect all those magazines?”
Do you recall when information was available in physical form that you could flip through? I always read the liner notes, if that helps clarify. In my opinion, that is being seriously diluted at the moment. Most people have extremely limited experiences from which to draw, and they also don’t dig deep into any given topic.
I have these publications as physical evidence that Foxy Brown ever appeared in a Calvin Klein ad, or that Erykah Badu once endorsed Gap. That stuff is mine, all mine. The real world, not just Tumblr.
If You Need Motivation, Where do you Look Outside Elsewhere?
Use classic works of art like music, films, and commercials as references rather than direct inspiration. What I mean is, how can I rethink this? True, but Tumblr is still the most popular.
Tumblr functions as a digital media archive for me. The interactive features of social media are missing. There, you may ignore everyone else and watch whatever you want according to your own preferences.
Hype Williams, who rose to prominence in the 1990s with music videos for musicians like Missy Elliott, Busta Rhymes, and the Notorious B.I.G., appears to be another director whose work you admire.
It’s amazing how he and [artist and filmmaker] Kahlil Joseph can make even a slum or a housing complex look stunning. When done by them, it appears artistic. As a child, I didn’t really understand what I was seeing, such as how the government takes disadvantaged individuals and places them in a housing project.
Of course, from that, musical styles like hip hop emerge. Since much of Black culture originates in oppression, I make it a point to honour it whenever I engage in conceptual design. The world has dealt us a [crap] hand, but we have the potential to fashion something exquisite from it.
You can trace its roots to a certain Hype, a devotee of Stanley Kubrick’s visionary style. If you watch [“2001: A Space Odyssey,”] you’ll see some parallels. If you look closely enough, you may hear samples from Missy Elliott and Busta Rhymes music videos.
Stanley Kubrick, however, most likely did not originate from a New York City public housing complex. That’s the missing piece, right there. Someone in the past must have been able to see the big picture. Everything seems to meet me in the middle.
Eight Months Was All the Time You Spent Providing Creative Guidance for Combs Enterprises, which is Owned by P. Diddy.
I was 34. I wasn’t a young person on the lookout for work; I wasn’t applying for an internship. The reality of who I was and why I was there was no mystery to me. And I suppose the goal was to secure his original work and then expand upon it.
Once we recognised it wasn’t a long-term solution, I refused to play yes man and go along with the group’s new strategy. Actually, I’m a cancer on the system of someone who wants things done a specific way and expects everyone to follow along with the programme.
I can’t help but be forthright. That’s too bad if it costs you a gig with him. The following day, I resumed wearing Sean John apparel. [A representative with Combs Enterprises did not want to provide comment.]
I get the impression that you’re not a bitter person.
No. Take into account that I am the little foster kid talking here.
Do you think Instagram has a Positive or Negative Impact on how we Decorate our Homes?
Because there is no social pressure, I feel free to pick and choose what inspires me, download it, and use it to adorn my home.
This is why I enjoy Tumblr so much. Similar to how Instagram works: Now that you can see how everyone else decorates their homes, you feel pressured to do the same, despite having access to an abundance of information. The act of sharing itself isn’t horrible, but I don’t like for the social aspect.
In My Opinion, it’s Awesome that You were able to Peek Inside So Many Different Houses. That’s Awesome in My Book.
Because of how costly furnishings may be, that may increase stress. Millennials may be tempted to say things like, “I want to show off my house, but I can’t afford all that.” Some individuals have a sense of inadequacy and a barrier between social classes.
Take baby steps. The big three-seat sofa isn’t required. Installing a shower curtain is the first step. The carpets on compact disc.
Do You have a Certain Monetary Goal in Mind?
Although I cannot put a price on it, I believe there has been adequate provision made. As a result, I don’t feel the need to pursue extreme wealth. As much as I’d like to own a basketball team, it’s not necessary.
I hope to one day be in a position to support my loved ones. I hope to one day have a savings account. I hope to eventually be in a position to help others through giving back.
In all its forms, the word “completion” refers to a state of wholeness: to having accomplished something, to feeling satisfied with one’s efforts, to realising one’s full potential.