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Do you know fab.com? We speak to Bradford Shellhammer – co-founder of the biggest design shop in the world.

This is the first year fab.com has been seen in Milan, but that’s not such a strange thing if you take into account that this giant portal of online design retail was only founded two years ago in New York. Now its an internet phenomenon, with 12 million members, and a trip to Milan was called for Tom Dixon convinced them that they had to go. Fab’s debut was celebrated together with Dixon through an exhibition in MOST, Milan’s Science Museum.

We has the pleasure of meeting one of Fab’s co-founders, the charismatic and enthusiastic Bradford Shellhammer, the company’s Chief Design Officer. He explained to us why he was here; “We have come to look for young talent with the objective of either selling their work in fab.com, or designing pieces for us.” The company has a large ‘fab family’ that acts as ‘cool hunters’ in each city, seeking out trends and the names that drive them. On top, they have organised a competition for young designers. The prize? The three best designs get to produce their piece and sell it through fab.com.  

Bradford Shellhammer in the Young Designers Competition 

“We want to attract young talent, and offer them new experiences via our web. Above all, Fab is a retail experience. We offer discounts, but the price isn’t everything. In fact, our mix of flash sales and catalogues at full price will change very soon. Our goal is for a good selection of pieces at attractive prices as opposed to being an online discount shop.” Presently, fab.com offers 15,000 products for sale daily. 

Founded by Shellhammer and Jason Goldberg,  the company was born two years ago in New York. Today it is a giant in the US, and has started with a bang in the European market, principally in the UK and Germany. In 2012 it sold 4.3 million pieces. “We know that we are still not that well know in Spain, but that will soon change. I adore Spanish design – it’s fresher than Italian design and colourful, like us. It has a constant sense of humour. I am a big fan of Sancal and nanimarquina. I have the Float sofa, which Karim Rashid did for Sancal in my bedroom and all my rugs are from Nani. I am also a big fan of Camper“.

Jason Goldberg & Bradford Shellhammer, cofounders of Fab

In the near future, Fab hopes to expand into Japan, South Korea and Turkey. “There are two key factors that govern our expansion; ease of on-line credit card payment and a good infrastructure for distribution. For the moment, this leaves out countries like Russia, which is a huge market but more accustomed to paying in cash, Mexico and other Latin American countries because their distribution network is not that agile. It’s only a matter of time before we expand into the Middle East, but in the long run we want to be everywhere. We have the same spirit as Ikeadesign for everyone! At good prices. Democratic design – but online.”

This ‘design for everyone’ philosophy has been the driving force behind the Brillo Project, which was carried out with the Andy Warhol Foundation and presented this year in Milan. Fab created a pouf which replicated Warhol’s famous sculpture – the one that turned a packet of soap powder into a work of art. The new Brillo pouf for Fab has been produced by the Belgian Quinze&Milan studio and sells for 380€.

“We developed this project because pop art shares the same spirit with Fab. It was, as its name suggests,  popular, but also fun, colourful and disruptive. Having this iconic piece produced for us has been a dream come true.” The Brillo Pouf was on show in MOST, a space dedicated to #disruptivedesign. “Fab is inherently disruptive, in the way we present our products on the web, in the large selection we have, from home accessories to clothes and jewellery, and in the prices we offer. In short, fab.com is a new way of buying, it is a shop where lovers of design find what they are looking for.”

 

The Brillo pouf is part of the new in-house brand that Fab is getting off the ground. “We are never going to stop selling such marvellous products as those created by Tom Dixon, for example. But we strongly believe in design and our own production, in creating our own brand. The first range of products created entirely by Fab consist of textiles, carpets and home furnishings created in countries such as Turkey, India, Morocco and Guatemala. Right now, we have 10 in-house designers working on 1,500 new products in our New York offices.” This is a modest sum, considering Fab has 600 employees.

Escher carpet,  Zigzag cushions and Stripe cushions from Fab’s own collection

Tableware from Fab’s own collection

As well as presenting the Brillo Pouf in MOST, a selection of Fab’s Favorites was on display – or some of the best pieces from their extensive catalogue. Highlights included Lego storage boxes, t-shirts with animal face prints from The Mountain and red sports shoes from PF Flyers, in which all the Fab family was dressed for the occasion.

 

Center Hi Red Sneaker de PF Flyer

Cat T-Shirt from The Mountain

The best-selling products in fab.com are home accessories. This category makes up 50%, whilst the rest is shared by such diverse categories as fashion, electronic products and gadgets and jewellery. Furniture makes up 10-15%. “When talking on-line shopping, confidence is key. We know that people will start off buying a t-shirt for 15€, then if all goes well, they will later buy products of greater value. On top, 55% of our customers are under 35-years old. We are confident that, with time, their purchases will increase in value, not only because they will have more money to spend but because their confidence in Fab will increase. This is why we expect sales in furniture to increase in the future.” It it also worth mentioning that two-thirds of their customers are female.

We will be watching closely Bradford and Fab, already an iconic company for all those who love design on the internet.  

Olivetti typewriter modernised by Kasbah Moderne – on display in MOST

The Burnside, from Sole Bicycles, on display in MOST

Classic Rug, Fab’s own collection

More About Fab

Launched in June 2011, Fab was founded by Jason Goldberg and Bradford Shellhammer, It’s goal is to sell everyday design on the internet. Currently, it is the largest design shop in the world. It has 12 million members in 26 countries who bought 4.3 million products in 2012. This signified an overall sales increase of 500% in relation to the previous year. It has 600 employees, 200 in its Berlin HQ. Amongst others awards, it has won the 5th Most Innovative Company for Fast Company Magazine (Feb. 2013) and the TechCrunch Crunchies Best E-Commerce Company in 2011 and 2012. In 2012, it won the Webby Best Mobile Shopping App.

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