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chen chen & kai williams


OF chen chen & kai williams

Chen Chen and Kai Williams don’t have a name for their design partnership, and that’s because they don’t really see it as a third entity. It’s just the work they each do—but together. “We stared out collaborating on separate bodies of work, and eventually it just became obvious that we were doing everything together,” Chen says. “That’s one reason why our line’s name is just our names,” Kai adds. “The other reason is I hate those weird, hip names.”

Whether they’re making seriously unexpected home goods or far-out accessories—magmatic bookends, marble desks, stone bangles!—their don’t-overthink-it attitude carries through to their design process. “We like to leave a couple elements up to chance,” says Chen. “For us, you can learn so much from just doing it, from designing from your hands rather than trying to plan every possible contingency and forming it in your head and then making it. You never get what you think you’re going to get, so why not just do it? Whatever happens, happens.”

This kind of que sera, sera philosophy is something of a departure from the industrial-design mentality that brought them together at Pratt in 2006. “Because of our background, we’ve always been happy working with a stricter set of rules. Working without them can be difficult,” admits Kai. “But,” Chen is quick to add, “When you’re inventing the process yourself, it’s so much easier to fully own it.” —jane-claire quigley

chen-williams.com

Behind The Scenes

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    Head to the Valley of Ashes With Chen Chen and Kai Williams Talk about an unlikely spot for inspiration.All right, time to bust out your high-school copy of The Great Gatsby (or your Baz Luhrman DVD, no judgments), because that mythological Valley of Ashes? It’s a real place. In Queens. Chen Chen and Kai Williams, the guys behind the home-and-accessories line of the same name, sometimes make the trip to the spot—officially called Willet’s Point—to get a little perspective. “It’s crazy,” says Chen. “It’s seriously like a third-world country out there.”... READ MORE »
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    Chen Chen and Kai Williams Show Off Their Screw-Ups Make no mistake: These guys make mistakes.Chen Chen and Kai Williams don’t always get it right the first time around—heck, nobody does. And these two, who make everything from ham-hock-inspired coasters to intricate woven carpets, are totally cool with projects that just bomb. “I think we’re always open to coming back to them sooner or later,” Kai explains. “A lot of our products start their lives as failed tests of earlier projects.” Below, Kai gives us the rundown on some of the design duo’... READ MORE »