Life in New York is one of hustle, and it’s crucial that your footwear supports you through any journey. In the final portion of a three part series, The FADER teams up with footwear brand KEEN to profile residents of the five boroughs that thrive on the pace of the fastest-moving city in the world.
Despite what our constant obsession with our smart phones might suggest, the real world is still rather appealing. For artisans who prefer creating with their hands, now is perhaps as good a time as any to tap into customers’ increasing desire for items made with a human touch. 26-year-old Greg Buntain, one of the founders of the Brooklyn furniture brand Fort Standard, understands this first hand. His company is known for bringing an unexpected flair to designs which feel as if they’re in direct conversation with their inspirations. These might include a simplistic side table with legs that reach outwards like tentacles or intricately crafted wood stools that look like rare crystals built at human scale.
When Buntain and Fort Standard co-founder Ian Collings joined forces after graduating from Pratt, they had no idea what direction to take, they only knew they wanted to create items that communicate. In an email, Buntain told me that every piece Fort Standard makes is “inspired by a real life conversation first.” The idea has caught on, too. Over the years, Fort Standard’s Red Hook-based design studio has become a much sought-after provider in handmade one-off furnishings by following a pretty simple mantra: if you build it, they will come.
How do you handle the pressure of running a brand?
The most stressful thing about our business is trying to meet deadlines. We essentially have three different parts of our business with our small home goods products, our standard collection of furniture, and our limited edition gallery represented furniture collections so we are busy year round. Fortunately I really love what we do and usually the pressure pays off with an even greater reward of satisfaction from completing the latest project. It’s taken some time but over the years we have become much better at translating some of those satisfying projects into profit as well.
What inspires you to create?
Conversation. Our design has always stemmed from the many conversations we have almost everyday. And for me, personally, I like to travel as much as possible. Motorcycles offer a fun way to do that even if it's just a short weekend trip to clear the mind and escape the city. I like to ride off road the most because you really get to just immerse yourself in exploring, getting to see really deep and hidden natural treasure that you wouldn’t otherwise get to.
You mentioned that you like to ride motorcycles. What are ideal qualities for shoes when you're going from riding your bike to building in the studio?
The best qualities in the shop are very similar to those on a motorcycle as they are mainly rooted in safety. Having good grip, durable protection and comfort are all important. Having a shoe that does all of those while looking good both in the shop and on a motorcycle is hard to come by, so it’s really great when you find a pair that you can always go to. The Citizen Keen boot works that way for me.
How long have you been riding?
I bought my first street legal motorcycle when I was 18 but I grew up riding quads and dirt bikes off road, which I think instilled a lot of respect for the danger of riding while providing a strong base knowledge that you get from riding off road.
How did you get started making furniture?
I've always had a passion for making things and grew up taking things apart just to see how they worked and then putting them back together. I went on to study Industrial Design at Pratt Institute here in Brooklyn and immediately took a liking to product and furniture design. Everything in my life sort of clicked once I figured that out.
In your view, what makes a good piece of furniture?
A good relationship between materials, their use within a design and the way the design addresses the function. The balance usually sways in one direction more than others to express a singular idea, but some of the best designs are those that achieve perfect balance.