How is a chair made, who crafts it and where do its materials come from? This search for provenance inspired Singapore industrial designer Gabriel Tan to start his own furniture brand, Origin, in 2020 in Porto, Portugal.
“We often do not know the origins of our products at the point of purchase,” he shares. “With Origin, (we wanted to) tell an honest story about where and by whom our products are made, educate the consumer about the process of making, and rebuild the relationship between objects and people.”
Before the Covid-19 pandemic hit, Tan was shuttling frequently between the US, Singapore and Europe to work with international manufacturers including Blå Station, Design Within Reach and The Conran Shop. Plans to relocate to Europe were already in the works for a few years at the time, pandemic notwithstanding. “I wanted to strengthen my relationships with existing clients while expanding my portfolio in Europe,” he says.
Of the countries he visited, Portugal stood out for its rich craft traditions. Although Tan first travelled to the country in 2014 to sightsee, he ended up visiting local artisanal workshops during the trip and was blown away by what he saw. “I was amazed by the amount of industry and craft that resides next to beautiful landscapes (in Portugal),” he says.
I was amazed by the amount of industry and craft that resides next to beautiful landscapes (in Portugal).— product and interior designer Gabriel Tan