A Conversation with Shawn: Form•Function•Form

Let’s be honest, the wristwear industry though popular, is oversaturated. While many start-ups strive to jump on the bandwagon and make a quick buck, there are still people out there who want to make products for people like themselves. And when you take the mantra form follows function and turn it around on itself so that form and function are simultaneously prominent, you have a recipe for success, which makes Shawn Reed the master chef and form•function•form his pièce de résistance. Shawn’s affinity for fishing while growing up throughout the US, mixed with a lack of high quality, original leather made goods from top grade materials that fit his preferences were the founding measures of form•function•form. These ingredients have led to an upstart who is making a lot of buzz in the menswear community and Free / Man got a chance to speak with the man behind the work.

"There is definitely an eclectic nature to our products but that stems from my own varied interests and background. It is exciting to take a piece of hardware and repurpose it in a way that highlights its beauty."

Interview by Nick Grant
Photography by Shawn Reed & Travis Ludwig

To Shawn Reed & Form Function Form.


Give us a little background info as to why you were inspired to start your own line of goods, focusing specifically on the idea behind the Lure Bracelet?

I’m glad that, of the variety of our launch goods, you were so interested in that piece. You wouldn’t recognize the early prototypes but the Lure Bracelet was actually the earliest thing I started work on. I looked around and there simply wasn't anything that I personally wanted to wear. Certainly, I saw photos of men wearing bracelets and looking cool doing it, but everything was either too feminine or too over-the-top machismo for me. Simultaneously, I was spending a lot of time fishing and just started looking at the designs among lures. I've fished for as long as I can remember and recall my mother saying, "Some lures are meant to catch fish, some are meant to catch fishermen." That comment on the aesthetics of product design, coupled with an obvious attention to usability, stuck with me. The Lure Bracelet evolved over a period of months and several dozen prototypes with me adding other bracelet iterations and non-wristwear products, like our popular Architect’s Wallet and Button-Stud watchband along the way. Inspiration comes because I'm always trying to figure something out, asking how something can be done not just differently but better.

The use of Natural Chromexcel is a deal sealer in my opinion. Other than it being such a durable, yet majestic leather, what steered you in the direction of this particular type?

I actually know exactly when I realized that Natural Chromexcel needed to be featured prominently in our work. Valet had a post on George Vlagos' (of Oak Street Bootmakers) new penny loafers with Natural CXL last August. I'd looked at George's goods before and while I definitely liked their craftsmanship and obvious quality, I didn't have that immediate, core desire for them like I did immediately upon seeing that particular shoe in that particular leather color. I ordered them and among a VERY healthy shoe collection, those loafers have been my favorite to this day. I'd worked with pull-up leather before (more or less what Chromexcel is; how it changes color when it's stretched), but the day I got those loafers I got in touch with Horween Leather to make sure that particular variety was included in my next shipment.

You've obviously had some contact with some esteemed menswear bloggers, getting your product in their hands and getting big co-signs. Is there a certain type of person you're looking to get your product out to or way you want your product to be perceived?

I was honored that people have been so interested in and complimentary of form•function•form’s line of goods. I’m not focusing on producing a particular product for a particular consumer, so much as creating things that I appreciate– that I value and offering those goods to others. I realize that’s a subtle and perhaps only semantic difference but the brand is about sourcing and using the highest quality goods in intriguing ways; whether that be an iconic leather tannery, American fishing industry stalwart, boating hardware, or the company that made the pen that went to the moon. It seems that, apart from an appreciation of design and quality materials, the person interested in our goods could be from a wide spectrum of the population. There is definitely an eclectic nature to our products but that stems from my own varied interests and background. It is exciting to take a piece of hardware and repurpose it in a way that highlights its beauty. I believe that the more we can appreciate beauty in the everyday, the mundane, the more we will create demand for that beauty, one infinitesimal bit at a time and eventually be supplied with more beauty everywhere.

That attention to details, pushing to learn and create, is really about me always wanting to understand something new- not just HOW to do it but WHY it's being done and therefore what sort of signals it sends to others about who you are and what you value. As anyone who spends more than two seconds a day composing his or her wardrobe knows; your attire conveys something distinct, whether you intend it to or not. I believe that those messages are discerned subconsciously when people see you or what you’ve created, and that's why I'll spend obscene amounts of time tweaking a design; moving stuff 1/32 of an inch sometimes, making changes that the vast majority of people will not ever notice consciously. I reworked several Spoor Key Fob designs because I didn’t like the spatial relationships and curves of the leather piece before it was even assembled– and it’s only seen that way on paper or before it goes out the door. That particularly, was a long process to create something that looks so simple. I’ve got almost 50 prototype designs and probably another 50 sketches to prove it. I appreciate that simplicity; the intended audience will be the ones who appreciate it too.

What does the future hold for f•f•f? Are you looking to stick with bracelets, watchstraps and wallets or do you want to expand your horizons? Some people strive to become big and successful with a decent sized staff, while some want to stick to their roots, stay small and do enough to support themselves and stick with their passion. Do either of these fit you or somewhere in that range?

I’m not exactly sure that there’s an answer for that particular question at this point, except to say that in the end I've just got to be wise about decisions as days go by, understanding what this brand is about– what it is, what it isn't and just keep coming up with interesting products. Some of my intellectual icons are big on the idea that knowledge, particularly entrepreneurial knowledge, is created in the midst of the process and is unknowable ahead of time. I realize that a lot of people absolutely must have plans for the future of their lives, but I’ve embraced the uncertainty and will keep designing products that intrigue me as life happens and new knowledge is created. If form•function•form can't make something new, or markedly better than how someone else is making it, it won't get done. It's just not enough to hold my attention if we're making it day in and day out. That is one thing that I can plan on, regardless of where we go in the future.