DOD Preview: Dror for Target

By Alissa Walker
The multidisciplinary designer Dror Benshetrit specializes in what you might call "sleight-of-hand design." With a twist of the wrist, a little audience participation, or maybe just a change of perspective, his work for clients from Levi's to Cappellini transforms right before your eyes. This year, the Tel Aviv-born Benshetrit joined the ranks of Phillippe Starck and Michael Graves as the latest creative to be corralled into the Target designer stable, with the launch of Dror for Target this month, to be featured at Dwell on Design. We called him at his studio, located on 39th Street in New York's bustling Fashion District, to ask about working with Target, how designers should look to the fashion world for inspiration, and why it's important to touch your possessions every once in awhile.

You work in everything from architecture to art direction, how do you describe what you do?

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It's always been my interest to design in a completely multidisciplinary way where I can practice in products, architecture, interior design and art direction as four main categories, and from there, explore some middle ground between all of them. My biggest passion is in transformation and movement. I divide it into physical transformation and metaphorical transformation, which are the key words I use to describe my work. Some of the pieces do physically move and change and adapt to different scenarios—collapsibility for the purpose of storage, collapsibility for the purpose of dual function—or, of course, for practicality. But sometimes the transformation is really done more in a metaphorical aspect, which is evident either in the process of the creation or in the conceptual approach. For instance, the Vase of Phases for Rosenthal is probably the best way to describe it: Taking an iconic form into the worst experience a vase can have. Another example is the Peacock Chair for Cappellini. It's more about the way it's created: The movement that's in taking flat sheets of felt and holding it in place with tension using this piece that doesn't require any glue or traditional upholstery techniques, it's just the pressure of the metal frame.

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You also have a long list of very diverse clients who you've worked with throughout the years. How do you decide which ones to work with?

I've been working with a range of companies, but I would say that they all are interested in innovation. They are companies that either have mass volume and capability to create a large number of products, or luxury companies that are really pushing innovation to show beauty through the research of the materials. It's an amazing time: In the same month we launched both Target and Cappellini, which to me represents the whole spectrum of the market, which I feel is very relevant to today's trends in general. We see it more and more in fashion, and I think that fashion has always been more progressive in trends than architecture or industrial design. That was also one of my reasons in moving my studio to the Fashion District. That, and, as hard as I work, they always work harder than me! But mixing a Dior jacket with H&M jeans, for instance, that ability to mix high and low allows you to create more personalization.

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What's the biggest draw towards designing something that's affordable and available widely?

When I started working with Target, I realized I had been preaching something that I hadn't been practicing yet. I've been talking about well-being since I started my studio, even though I didn't have a mass-market, affordable product. But I was always talking about well-being and it's been my major motivation in design. Of course, designing for well-being doesn't always have to mean a practical solution or an affordable solution, sometimes it can be by inspiration, and not necessarily related to consumption. But for the first time, I really thought about every home. Every American home. Of course there's an age group and niche category in mind, but I think it's wider than ever. I think that's what excites me so much working with Target, also understanding that some of the manufacturing and price point challenges that we had are advantages that I can use in creativity. It can be pushed further to be more logical for manufacturing and transportation methods. I think that the transformation really played a very important role in my way of thinking for Target. What I've tried to do for some pieces, the largest pieces, was to consider the transportation and storage—from the manufacturer to the warehouse to the store to the home. The way we package things, how small we can package them, can they be assembled with no tools or effort, applies to all those things. Including the fact that we're moving around more than ever and it's easy for us to buy furniture that we can take with us and not have to leave it behind or worry that it's going to get ruined.