After years of working as an industrial designer, Petrus Palmér had become frustrated with his industry. “The products are beautiful, the culture is amazing, the people are great, but how business is being conducted is old-school,” he says. “So, instead of complaining about it, I took matters into my own hands and started Hem to be a more progressive design company.”
Now entering its seventh year, the Stockholm-based furniture and accessories brand, which recently opened a New York outpost, continues to reflect that goal. “Most brands,” says Palmér, “are operating in a traditional business model, partnering with middlemen. That makes them distant, put on pedestals, merchandised and sold by other venues.”
Such frameworks, he feels, limit customer feedback and the opportunity “to create a culture and a community” around brands and products. Hem made its debut entirely online, allowing it to operate under this paradigm from the get-go. And connections were made both easily and immediately.
“The D2C [direct-to-consumer] phenomenon existed when we started out in late 2014, but it was still in its infancy,” Palmér recalls. “It was [really only] Casper and Warby Parker [at the time], but now it has exploded.” Beginning with a small roster of close collaborators, Hem’s network grew organically as positive word of mouth spread. Soon the brand made the foray into bricks and mortar — first with a Los Angeles studio, then with the one just opened in March in New York. This airy SoHo space perfectly captures Hem’s philosophies.
“The core of Hem is to be a platform and an enabler of creatives,” says Palmér, who commissioned Brooklyn duo Chen Chen & Kai Williams to conceive a site-specific installation for it. Made of mirrored glass and steel, the sculpture adds a dynamism to the showroom’s entry, setting the tone for creative consultations, hands-on workshops and product launches.
And in lieu of simply carrying established products, Hem works with designers such as Anderssen & Voll, Max Lamb and Luca Nichetto to develop original pieces just for the brand, showing them off in the sleek new space.
“It’s not trend items, but rather things the designers have been pursuing in terms of materials or aesthetics,” Palmér says. “We like to see a consistency in their language so they have authorship over the work.”
Fed up with the status quo, the Swedish furniture brand’s founder set out to shake up the design world with Hem’s direct-to-consumer model.