The Simple Life

A focus on products and their makers that are empowering simple yet aesthetic living.

The quality of an object by which we decorate our lives can have a profound bearing on the quality of which we live our lives. That's not to say that an object must be expensive or grand, conversely, a simple object oftentimes bears the best in quality—holding space for only what is essential. There's a long documented history of this practice. Perhaps most famously, Dieter Rams’ "non-manifesto" 10 Principles of Good Design expresses “good design is as little design as possible”. At the core of Milo & Dexter, those words are held tightly, designing our minimalist wardrobe to stand the test of time. And so too our lives, to reflect how we carry ourselves on the outside. From daily rituals to the objects we choose to keep inside our homes, to where we choose to make our homes, a good life is perhaps as simple a life as possible. 

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"The opposite of living simply can get very chaotic,” Anna Laskin said to me over the phone when we spoke one afternoon. Based in Toronto, she is the founder and creative director of the jewellery collection Vimeria. Anna is one of a handful of founders I spoke with this autumn to ruminate on the idea of simple living. The profound interest in maintaining a finespun way of life for those with a conspicuous eye has translated to a new crop of small businesses of singular craftsmanship. As a direct result of the maximalist nature of the 80s, 90s, and early aughts, the shift towards a more refined design today is widespread and reflected in each of the businesses I spoke with. Encompassing all facets of life, like how we spend our days, living simply and living well are near synonymous. 

For Anna, having a ritual is imperative. A slow start and leisurely breakfast is a luxury she affords herself each day. “Small things that I find myself doing first thing in the morning have had such an impact on the rest of my day,” she says. “That time gives me an opportunity to think about the day ahead—the calm before the storm.” When balancing both the design and administrative side of a business, creativity has to come in all forms. "My mind is always racing into a million directions, finding grounding in small things has helped.” Her sculptural creations in 14K gold-dipped brass and sterling silver carry all of the considered reflection of a collection from someone with an industrial design background, as you’d hope.

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"Clean lines, multi-function, material and texture," are words that self-describe Hasami Porcelain. Made in Japan, the unique and simply innovative form of their homeware collection has garnered them a cult following among the design-minded. A powerhouse of austerity, the undecorated form of straight lines and nesting bottoms proves simplicity at its best and in essence, a reflection of modern Japanese life. In fact, its name is taken from the Hasami, a town in Japan with over 400 years of pottery history. Living with the collection gives you a glimpse of the city; understanding its craft and charm. 

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In a similar vein, co-founder of gin and spirits label Menaud, Charles Boissonneau, finds inspiration in Charlevoix. A special region in Quebec for their distilling and brewing,  Charlevoix provides the bounty of their business and a sanctuary away from city life. Designated a World Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1989, the region on the north shore of the Saint Lawrence River between the Laurentian Mountains area of the Canadian Shield offers a terroir as equal to its vistas. Listening to Charles speak of the lake view from his new home or the unique flavour profile of the local samphire, it’s clear that a change in scenery was affirming. “It's going to be totally different but I feel like we have more time to think. We have less to stress about here and it's more of a slower paced creative process. There’s a certain calmness.”

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Continuing the pages of traditional makers and craftsmen, helmed by a new generation, JAK is a burgeoning company based out of Lisbon, Portugal. Founders Isabel Henriques da Silva and José Maria Reffoios carry on with sustainable genderless footwear made to last a lifetime. Inspired by artists, designers, architects, and engineers, the shoes are a critical and concise intersection of function and aesthetics. Starkly minimal, befitting of a shoe for Dieter Rams himself, JAK posits that their sneakers are "made to be worn, not shown." 

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Among all the objects we collect in our lives, few possess the beguiling qualities of a good chair. Looking at Atelier Vaste’s handmade furniture, it's easy to find yourself ensconced. “They have that comfort we all seek,” co-founder Yannic Ryan says, “but with just that little design aspect that makes them interesting too.” With a background in traditional woodwork, each Vaste object displays a character of playful proportions, adaptive detailing, and organic craftsmanship. Taking a maxim from mother nature, Vaste designs with a keen sense of tonality. It’s a type of clarity that is demonstrated both in the collections and embodied in Yannick’s attitude towards life. “When we started the business, we did a lot of custom work for restaurants, hotels, and bars,” he explains. “It was exciting but we also burned ourselves out. So after a few years, we had a new vision for our business and our lives as well.” 

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For the most out of life, returning to nature is a recurring theme. As we expand our understanding of existence, at some point we reach a conclusion that our environment truly holds all of the answers to our questions. For Salt & Stone, it was no different. A collection of high-performance botanical skincare, they believe that nature is most powerful. Focusing on ingredients derived from the sea, their wild harvested seaweed extracts provide a natural antioxidant skin supplement for the pallor of daily stresses. 

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Against these conversations and by observing how some can make so much of something simple, it opens the trove of infinite interpretations on how to live well. The purpose of Milo & Dexter is to bring an element of ease into everyday dressing. In doing so, each piece is designed to hold space for those to pursue what truly satisfies the soul. Be it uncomplicating your morning, taking respite from the city, returning to nature, or daring to envision a life outside of the rat race, the steps we take and the things we surround ourselves with carry the very essence of the life we choose to lead.

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Photos: Joseph Dahdah
Writer: Sheila Lam 
Art Direction: Milo & Dexter