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Natural Selection: "I enjoy working with natural materials like wood, stone and also leather."

On Gabriel: Cotton longsleeved shirt, cotton printed NASA T-shirt and calfskin leather boots, all by COACH.

One-Of-A-Kind: Handle Stool: A chair designed by Mr Tan that can be carried with a handle.

Hangin' Tough: Mr Tan designed this Stove compact chair that can be hung on a wall peg or peg rail when not in use.

Unique Touch: Coach sweatshirt with shoulder patchwork details.

Drawing Board: Some of Gabriel Tan's product sketches.

Design Purist

Mar 30, 2018 5:50 AM

"I NEVER REALLY THOUGHT that this profession existed until I read a book about product design during my national service days - and that changed my path," says Gabriel Tan, who is regarded as one of Singapore's most progressive designers. Besides having his works exhibited in Milan, New York, Stockholm, London, Paris, Tokyo, Barcelona and Singapore, Mr Tan is also the creative director of a Japanese furniture brand, Ariake. Here in Singapore, he runs his eponymous design practice - Gabriel Tan Studio - which designs furniture, spaces and lifestyle goods.

Since establishing his studio in 2016, the 36-year-old's firm has amassed an impressive portfolio of more than 20 products, with clients like Design Within Reach and The Conran Shop.

Despite working in this digital age, Mr Tan believes very strongly in human interaction, making it a point to encourage candid discussions and fresh ideas on "the factory floor". He feels that such interaction helps to enhance the design process and ultimately, the end product.

MY BIGGEST CAREER ACHIEVEMENT… is working with international brands such as Bla Station (Sweden), Design Within Reach (US), The Conran Shop (UK), Ariake (Japan) and Authentics (Germany) and have them produce or retail my products.

I LOOK UP TO… Alvar Aalto who is a great designer and architect. He is also, unknown to many, an entrepreneur as he founded the furniture company Artek, together with his wife, to produce and distribute his own work.

A MAJOR INFLUENCE IN MY LIFE IS… my father. He was great at connecting people and creating informal collaborative networks, and it all stems from his genuine interest in making friends and getting to know them beyond a superficial level.

MY PERSONAL STYLE… generally focuses on comfort.  I also prefer darker colours which is why this Coach cotton long-sleeved shirt is a wardrobe winner. It's versatile (I can layer it or wear it on its own) and despite it being long-sleeved, the material is soft and breathable.

WHEN SHOPPING FOR MYSELF… I like to buy something that I can relate to with a certain memory or experience.

MEN SHOULD STEP UP THEIR GAME IN THE SHOPPING ARENA… I think people in general, should own fewer, but better things. It does not necessarily have to be expensive, but it should be of superior quality, comfortable and unique. I particularly like this blue sweatshirt from Coach. At one glance, it looks like any other sweatshirt, but if you look closely you will notice the shoulders have a unique patchwork design.