A/D/O | Benjamin Edgar elevates the mundane

Benjamin Edgar elevates the mundane

The creative entrepreneur behind Boxed Water explains why this is “the year to step into object design”.

“Furniture seems to be having one hell of a moment right now,” says Benjamin Edgar Gott. Which is lucky for him, since he’s launching his first furniture design, The Sculptor's Stand Stool, at The A/D/O Shop this week. But luck has little to do with it, because the creative entrepreneur from Chicago has had his finger firmly on the pulse since before his professional career started.

Gott, better known without his surname, has had a varied journey up until this point. Each step has involved disrupting one product or service after another, taking a different approach to what is expected at every turn.

As a teenager, his curiosity about how things work led to teaching himself computer programming at the time of the dot-com boom, which resulted in his involvement in several start-ups, and gave him a taste of entrepreneurship. And like many of his creative-minded peers, Gott received his design baptism through customizing apparel – namely T-shirt printing.

But he was sidetracked when his first product, Boxed Water is Better, took off in 2009. The idea was to enter the highly competitive bottled-water market, against some of the world’s largest companies, with an environmentally conscious alternative made from paper packaging. Emblazoned with stark and simple black lettering, the carton’s design stood out against the rows of blue-tinted plastic bottles on grocery store shelves. “We wanted to be the IKEA of water,” said Gott, adding that the aim was to make the product as cheap as possible.

Gott eventually stepped down from Boxed Water in 2013 to pursue Benjamin Edgar, an object company, which has grown into a diverse collection of design items. One of the earliest was a marble clothes hanger – a good example of Gott’s concept of elevating an everyday item by producing it in an unexpected material. Other pieces in his line range from clear ball-point pens filled with 250 stainless steel ball bearings to concrete incense holders. There is also a set of key chains based on warped Chateau Marmont logos, and T-shirts printed so that the motif on the front is repeated in reverse on the back – coming full circle back to his early design experiments.

“My end goal is full living environments, so potentially a building one day,” Gott said. “I'm taking these gradual steps from where everyone kind of starts, because clothing is ubiquitous.”

An object company is just one of his many endeavors. Gott also set-up Th-oughts – a peer-to-peer education service that allows creatives to share knowledge – and co-founded culture blog The Brilliance with Chuck Anderson and Virgil Abloh. Collaborations like these are the key creative success, says Gott, as demonstrated by the trajectory of his longtime friend Abloh – who stepped out from Kanye West’s shadow and quickly rose up artistic director for Louis Vuitton menswear via a series of clever partnerships. “You can't talk about collaboration without bringing up Virgil,” Gott said. “He is a total art movement, in my opinion, and we're seeing companies open up to it.”

Both Abloh and Gott share a background in skateboarding, which has infiltrated deep into every area of luxury design in recent years through the careful rebranding of mundane items – in a similar vein to Boxed Water and the object company pieces. “We were at an event and [Virgil] was introducing me to someone like ‘this is Ben, he started the first streetwear water company’. He said it as a joke, but it's true...”

According to Gott, the success of the streetwear movement’s elevation of everyday items is partly due to the global and political instability of our time. And since this it is likely set to continue, so will the reinterpretation of parts of daily life. “When things get stressful, people like the familiar, and then it turns into a cool context to express new ideas,” he said. “The streetwear movement is going to birth a lot of other forms of design.”

But for now: “This is the year to step into object design.”

The latest collection by Benjamin Edgar, an object company is on view at The A/D/O Shop from June 8 to July 8, 2019.

Text by Dan Howarth.

Photography by Trey White.