Brad Sewell wasn’t always destined for the furniture business – he acknowledges he followed a “nontraditional” path to becoming a furniture designer. Brad started out in product manufacturing (primarily in the automotive industry) before transitioning to Apple, where he worked on the iPhone and the iPod. Sewell’s experience working with global supply chains and learning howApple’s legendary designs are manufactured would later influence his approach at Campaign.
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Sewell was initially inspired to rethink furniture shopping after experiencing the frustration of trying to furnish his new student apartment when he left Apple to pursue his MBA. Like many young urban professionals, Sewell had an eye for design on a student budget. What he discovered, however, was the frustration of trying to shop for quality, affordable furniture – especially online. As Sewell put it, “There’s not much in between IKEA and competitive lifestyle brands like CB2 and West Elm.”
Tired of seeing cheaply made furniture ending up in the dumpster, Sewell thought about creating furniture that wouldn’t get thrown away every couple years. Acknowledging the fact that Americans are more mobile than ever, frequently moving from city to city, Sewell wondered if he could create pieces that were packable. Sewell collaborated with his father, a carpenter, to design a desk for his room that could be broken down and rebuilt easily. He then took the idea a step further when he asked himself: “Could we essentially mail someone a couch? – and the idea for Campaign furniture was hatched.
A newly minted entrepreneur, Sewell located a workshop and manufacturing space in Emeryville, California, just across the bay from San Francisco, where he and his partners spent hours puzzling over how to create low-cost furniture pieces that require no tools to assemble and that break down to fit into a shipping box.
A product’s environmental impact can sometimes be a bit hidden from consumers, so we asked Sewell how he integrated sustainability into Campaign’s DNA. He noted that sustainability and the life-cycle of Campaign’s product was part of the plan from the beginning – from sourcing to final delivery.
But isn’t everything made in China these days? How could a locally manufactured product possibly be competitively priced? As Sewell said: “It’s hard to compete with IKEA’s economy of scale.” Instead, Sewell decided to focus on sourcing materials locally or domestically, and basing manufacturing out of Campaign’s new workshop in Emeryville.
While the operation is admittedly more expensive than overseas manufacturing, Sewell noted the myriad benefits to Campaign’s approach. Not only has quicker design tweaking and iteration been possible at their local workshop – Campaign has also been able to oversee the manufacturing process, dramatically reducing waste and overseeing the sourcing of quality local materials. Finally, Campaign is generating significant emissions savings by avoiding overseas shipping and logistics, and by delivering its products in smaller, lighter-weight packages that can be easily be delivered by everyday domestic shippers like UPS or FedEx.
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The result of the iterative design process and low-waste manufacturing cycle is a chair, a loveseat, and a couch that are simple, clean, modern, and, according to Sewell, “built to last”. The designs for the furniture pieces, Sewell noted, were inspired by classic mid-century modern designs, with a commitment to natural materials. A hidden gem of Campaign’s furniture design is the frame inside of the chairs and couch, which was created from laser-cut industrial steel (inspired by Sewell’s time in the automotive industry). This sturdy “skeleton” underscore’s Campaign’s commitment to creating pieces that will stand the test of time.
The actual upholstery of the chairs and couches is customizable, and can be swapped out for new slipcovers that will instantly update the look of the piece (or ready it for resale) at the fraction of the cost of re-upholstering.
Finally, customers can look forward to Campaign’s online experience, where they will be able to easily swap out custom options on their furniture like leg finishes and slipcovers, and complete an order online that could be delivered domestically in as little as three days. Sewell hints that Campaign will be expanding its line in the future to include more pieces, so stay tuned to hear more from this innovative new furniture company.
All photos via Campaign