MILAN — When talking to Matchesfashion founder Tom Chapman and Nicolas Pickaerts, its former e-commerce director, one gets the feeling the duo is having a lot of fun outside the frenetic world of fashion.
Just nine months into its first year, their latest project, London based online shopping destination Abask, is gearing up for design-forward activations. This fall they will launch a series of collaborations with interiors designers — kicking off with globally recognized interior design expert Pamela Shamshiri of Los Angeles’ Studio Shamshiri.
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In an interview with WWD, Pickaerts said the company will debut a line of cashmere blankets, and a portion of proceeds will go to a charity of Shamshiri’s choosing.
Pickaerts and Chapman are working together to make beautifying the home a fun, seamless experience. Given their logistical expertise, they make it possible consumers worldwide to shop their home design objects and gifts with the guarantee that each item will be shipped in 48 to 72 hours no matter where one is in the 165 countries where the e-commerce site is available.
Chapman has already worked with Studio Shamshiri on decorating his own estate, a process he said that opened his eyes to the inviting world of design.
“I was working on a home design project in the States, and was relentlessly searching for objects, design pieces and accessories for the space. It was then that I realized how exhausting it is to try and source beautiful objects that also have an interesting story you can connect to and of course an aesthetic that aligns with your vision. Very quickly, I realized that I wanted to fill this gap in the marketplace, and thus Abask was created,” he said.
Abask is set up in a way that allows visitors to explore and discover new makers, peruse pieces that will hopefully become forever heirlooms in their home, or find the perfect gift for a loved one — or that person we all inevitably know who has everything, they said.
The site taps into some of the best brands in the design world — silent luxury names like Loretta Caponi for table linens, Venini’s Venetian glassware, Laboratorio Paravicini plates, Lucas Castex’s oiled walnut serving boards made exclusively for Abask, games by Linley and hand-carved pieces by Qäsa Qäsa Carvers, a firm that preserves and financially supports the skills of Tanzania’s Makonde tribe.
Most recently, they launched a special one-of-a-kind collection with fashion designer Emilia Wickstead, with whom Chapman has a long relationship stemming from his time in the fashion space. They produced an exclusive collection of table linens with Wickstead in two different prints that were further expanded into an exclusive collection of dinnerware, flatware and glassware.
“At Abask, we very much respect her as a designer — both in fashion and interiors. We especially love the wonderful prints she produces which have this beautiful femininity and lightness of touch about them,” Chapman said.
Early on, other exclusive collaborations set the pace, such as the limited-edition Z.d.G. by Zoë de Givenchy tableware made in the same ateliers as her uncle-in-law, Hubert de Givenchy, made his original faience sets — yet another great story.
Abask, which derives from the British English word that means to bask in sunlight, was chosen as the brand name to shine a spotlight on the craft and passion that goes into each piece. It is also perhaps a metaphor for an epiphany the two fashion veterans had when they made the crossover from fashion to design, a welcome change.
“I came from the world of fashion, which is a roller coaster with constantly packed schedules, daily appointments and fast turnaround times to meet the demands of fashion’s frenetic timelines and deadlines. Though once I transitioned into the design space, I felt refreshed,” Chapman reminisced.
One of their first experiences with Abask was a trip to Vienna to visit the workshop of bookshelf maker Carl Auböck — whose pieces are also available on Abask. The two fell in love with the discovery and potential for storytelling each piece offers.
From the beginning Abask sought to set itself apart, right from the landing page, with an assortment sorted into four design aesthetics — modernist, classic, minimalist and bohemian — and a by-room vertical with categories specifically for the Flower Room, the Bar Room, the Study and the Outdoors.
The latter surprised the two entrepreneurs: Outdoor as well as the Games Room are emerging as key sales drivers. An ebony game compendium by Agresti and handmade in Florence, as well as a vintage mahjong set from China circa 1920s, are among the one-of-a-kind curiosities the site offers.
Looking ahead, the team is exploring more physical activations in key markets following their presence at Salon Art + Design, a New York-based fair that features leading galleries in art, architecture and design. The firm is also constantly on the lookout for market gaps, as it did with games and antiques, that could be potential successes, Pickaerts said.
“We’re definitely interested in exploring the U.S. West Coast, the Middle East and Asia. Another big focus for us will also be on collaborations with brands that are exclusive to Abask and looking into strategic distribution partnership opportunities,” he added.