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
BEHIND THE SCENES
Chen Chen and Kai Williams Show Off Their Screw-Ups
Make no mistake: These guys make mistakes.
Get Outta TownHead to the Valley of Ashes With Chen Chen and Kai Williams
Talk about an unlikely spot for inspiration.