Sean Brown’s home decor line, Curves, entered the chat in 2020 with vinyl-shaped rugs that were imprinted with album covers like Lil Kim’s Hard Core and Outkast’s The Love Below.
Over the last two years, the millennial-centric brand has expanded to include things like a pond-shaped floor mirror and archway chairs. Now, Brown has designed a line of inflatable furniture, another throwback that he believes will speak to the millennial sensibility, which is increasingly infused with nostalgia for their childhood years.
“The consumer we’re catering to has a strong sense of what they do and don’t like,” says Brown, who, at 36, is squarely in the demographic. “They largely live in cities, they may rent instead of own, and may be on a budget. What we’re starting to see is that people who used to save money for that really expensive pair of shoes are now saving for a rug, a chair, or a nice cutlery set.”
He credits the pandemic with bringing about this sense of spatial awareness for millennials, as home took on new meaning, and many jobs became permanently remote. He’s capitalizing on the nostalgia push, which is permeating everything from entertainment to fashion, with this new line, called Ego . . . a nod to something you inflate.
The Toronto native’s design approach harkens back to the early 2000s, but it’s a point of view he has developed over time. “The T-shirts I was making in high school were a tribute to artists who passed away young, like Aaliyah, Tupac, Biggie, and Left Eye,” he says. In 2013, he launched the now defunct Needs&Wants, a sports apparel brand. Later, he worked as creative director for R&B singer Daniel Caesar. Now, Brown is making sure millennials can be a part of the home decor conversation and decorate their spaces with stylish, unique products.
“We wanted to work with a material that could ultimately be inexpensive but still infuse design and be taken seriously as a piece of furniture that can be practical and functional,” he says. The chair, which will go on sale in October, will cost $200; later this year, he plans to release an inflatable ottoman.
The new Ego line is inspired by French-based Vietnamese designer Quasar Khanh, who pioneered inflatable furniture in the ’60s. In the mid-’80s, Ikea carried a line of inflatable sofas, daybeds, armchairs, and footstools from the Swedish industrial designer Jan Dranger. Unfortunately, the furniture went bust—leaking air, resulting in pieces blowing around the room. In the early 2000s, Ikea again attempted a line of inflatable children’s furniture, this time with a better valve. But it just didn’t take off.
“I don’t think it was a failure,” says Brown. “Some things are just about timing. It happens in art a lot. I felt like now would be the time because there is such a wave of young people interested in home decor, designing how places look, [thinking] beyond just what they’re wearing and sneakers.”
While his inflatable furniture designs, like his rugs, stem from a place of nostalgia, they’re more about learning from the past and preserving it versus being stuck there.
“A lot of it is about keeping history alive so that a younger generation can carry it forward, just so that our culture doesn’t die,” he says. “Nostalgia is great, but it’s also dangerous because dwelling on it means that it’s time for something new.”