Design:

“A Good Collection Is So Much About Telling a Story”—Sebastian Brauer

In a very special bonus edition of More Than One Thing, Athena Calderone sits down with the very talented creative innovator and retail leader, Sebastian Brauer. Across his 12-year career, he has been the driving force behind multi-billion-dollar businesses. We’re talking Anthropologie, Williams-Sonoma, Inc., J Crew, and now as the Senior Vice President of Product Design at Crate & Barrel.

While building mega brands is certainly impressive, it’s Sebastian’s purpose-driven leadership that really sets him apart. Guided by his passion for sustainability and social activism, Sebastian spent the early part of his career as a fashion and home design consultant, connecting brands with artisan makers to help local communities around the globe. This formative experience has guided his decisions ever since.

Athena experienced this intentional approach first-hand when she collaborated with Sebastian on their Crate & Barrel collection. A true co-creator throughout the entire process, Sebastian helped to workshop her ideas and bring their vision to life. 

If there is one throughline in Sebastian’s hyphenated career, it’s that intention is always at the heart of everything he does. And as we discover today, it has been a grounding force on his non-linear path. We’re so excited to welcome Sebastian to More Than One Thing. Keep reading for some of our favorite quotes, then listen to the full conversation HERE

Photo: Adrian Gaut for Crate & Barrel
Photo: Adrian Gaut for Crate & Barrel

“Fear can always be overcome, all it takes is a little courage.”

On his non-linear career path:

“You think that you learn a lot in school, but what you learn in school is really more about how to be as a person.”

“I was always surrounded by that (art) and I felt like it was my purpose to support those communities and celebrate their art.”

“It was very early in my career, I was still living paycheck to paycheck but I decided to just take a risk, to leave my job, and carve out this space to pursue my passion. I would say it was probably the scariest moment of my life and career because I didn’t have any savings.”

“For me, a career isn’t linear. When I start feeling too comfortable in what I’m doing, something inside of me says, you’re not evolving. You’re not growing, you’re not learning. You’re not experiencing life’s richness really. And I guess that curiosity paired with humility and the gratitude to say, ‘thank you next’, I guess, was something I found really difficult to come to terms with because in your head you’re always sort of navigating and balancing the gratitude with what’s best for me too.”

On the power of intentional leadership:

“I learned very early on the power of teamwork. That has always been an important driver to me. love working with people. I love supporting people and being surrounded by people that are incredibly talented.”

“One of my strengths was helping people connect, connect with each other but also just helping them to thrive, and providing the right tools for designers to create. That was something that fulfilled me. Seeing my peers, seeing my team create masterpieces was something that always left me speechless and in awe because I didn’t necessarily have that.”

“When I started my career, vulnerability wasn’t necessarily something we saw as a value in the workplace. It was often mistaken for a weakness, not necessarily a strength. But I would say that being vulnerable has allowed me to overcome a lot of challenges.”

“I’m so grateful I get to wake up every morning and create beauty with a group of creatives. I don’t take that for granted.”

On the power of being yourself:

“The only opinion that matters is yours so take that and build it as a strength.”

“Just be the best that you can be and transform the opinion of what you think about you, and find that inner strength, find that confidence.”

“Sometimes we are so ambitious and committed to our dreams and it’s important to never lose sight of that. Because when those dreams become real, there’s nothing more special than knowing you made those dreams happen and feeling that you’ve climbed that mountain.”

On Collaborating With Athena:

“This collection is an incredible extension of your vision (Athena). We are also familiar with your home and your projects and the way that you live beautiful and cook beautiful and your fabulous books, but you and I both were very intentional about this.”

“Seeing how pure your design vision is and how true you are to yourself allowed us to experiment and I think that’s going to have your followers, your community, and the design world looking at you. Not differently, but looking at how strong your brand is.”

“It’s (the collection) built beautifully, it’s accessible in price point, it’s elegant, it’s sophisticated and it’s modern and relevant. It’s how people want to live today.”

“I have to say that this is one of the, if not the best design collaborations I’ve seen out there. And I think it’s really going to make a difference.”

“Creating a collection is really a synchronized dance between so many different functions and so many different parts of a brain that make up one mind. That’s the beauty of the process—that it’s not siloed and it’s about the combination of so many experts coming together to deliver something that’s going succeed in the market.”

“You were very intentional and detail oriented in guiding the team, in finessing and refining.”

“A good collection is so much about telling a story.”

“All we want to do is create beauty without compromise.”

“Create and barrel is a brand that reaches millions of customers in millions of homes and we help them to bring beauty and purpose into their lives.”  

On Career Advice:

“Fear can always be overcome, all it takes is a little courage. And if you’re at a crossroads where you feel scared or powerless or confused, take that risk: It’ll only make you stronger, it’ll only push you into new territory, and it’ll only expand and add to your life.”

“Don’t confuse confidence with arrogance. It’s incredibly powerful to have confidence in yourself and what you’re doing. And it takes time! Be proud, be proud of your work, embrace it, and enjoy it.”

On What’s next:

“I’m centered on designing with purpose and intention. Going back to that personal purpose of mine and being inclusive by designing socially responsible design, creating beauty, meeting the customer where they’re at, and continuing to build this brand into the future.”

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