Staff Photos: Alejandro Torres

Pieces that tell the story of 23 Design

How we started to explore clothes design in order to remember our journey.

Carmen Murillo Valpuesta
Feb 27 · 6 min read

It’s curious, but clothing has been present during our most representative moments in 23 Design. Each member at the studio has at least one piece 23 Design workwear.

They are not uniforms. We don’t have to use them on a daily basis, although they do form part of our collection of personal clothes and we can freely choose when to wear them at work.

We choose to call these special articles of clothing “workwear”, because they are a way for us to express the pride we feel for being a part of 23 Design. We were also inspired by Daniel Arsham’s concept of workwear.

“Arsham Studio workwear 3019 by @acoldwall / Studio use only, not for sale”, taken from @danielarsham

Workwear is another way for us to explore design, which also serves as a physical manifestation of our milestones.

When Lulo was creating 23 Design, he received a call from a friend, who was in the middle of mentorship with the tech and biz journalist Kara Swisher, in San Francisco. She saw a photo where Megan Smith was wearing a vintage t-shirt with the number 23, next to Walter Mossberg.

For Lulo, that was a magical sign. And that’s one of the reasons our name as a Design Studio is 23 Design and our logo. You can find more reasons on why we’re called 23 Design here (at the bottom of the webpage).

[Note: Megan Smith was CTO of the USA Government and Assistant to President Barack Obama. Walter Mossberg is a famous tech journalist, and was a personal friend of Steve Jobs.]

The logo in the vintage t-shirt was highly similar to 23 Design’s logo, although ours uses the Helvetica font.

Our first approach to workwear

In 2017, for the last 23 Day of the year (our monthly team event where we celebrate our wins and share the work we did in the last four weeks), we decided to recreate Megan’s t-shirt with a light fabric and the same font for the “23”. That shirt immortalized one of our most important moments as a team.

Our second go at it: The 5 Why’s t-shirt

Our second piece of workwear debuted during our 2018 retreat: The #askquestions Edition.

We needed to define the future of 23 Design. We wanted to answer the following:

Why does 23 Design exist?

Why are we here and not somewhere else?

Why do we seek to grow?

If we died, why did we die?

Why Design? Why now?

These 5 Whys come from the iterative technique developed by Toyota, that is used to reach the cause-and-effect relationships underlying a particular problem.

The final outcome was a black long sleeve t-shirt with the word ‘why?’ written five times.

Syd, our Visual Design Lead, designed the logo for the t-shirt and our friends at Industrias Fin produced it.

So, why do we design clothing?

Are you wondering why we started designing clothes if our focus as a studio is product design, brand design, and service design?

Clothing became a form of expression and a way for us to explore a new language.

With the creation of our workwear pieces, we immortalize the greatest moments of our journey.

As time went by, our clothing creation evolved. For the Rams screening, we decided to step it up by choosing to craft a coat, inspired by the ones used by doctors or scientists.

We reached out to Industrias Fin once more. They showed Lulo a piece they were working on: a gray coat. We started to collaborate with them in order to redefine the design and adapt it to what we wanted to communicate.

We sought to integrate Rams’ philosophy into this workwear coat. With the least design as possible, and a clean and neat confection to show our growth as a studio.

We decided to edit out the zipper and buttons, in order to keep it as close to Rams’ philosophy as possible :)

We incorporated 23 Design’s logo into the left sleeve, where Lulo has a tattoo of the same logo.

The original coat / Lulo’s tattoo

The workwear coat also has the pattern that Dieter Rams used to incorporate to the Braun products. The pattern is made with a highly reflective material, and it’s perfect to wear at night when riding a bike.

The photo was taken with flash to show the light effect.

We used this coat during the Rams screening so that any guest attending the event could identify who was part of the 23 Design team.

As we said before, this piece of workwear is like the white coats doctors or scientists use. When we put them on, it’s a sign that we are ready to work on our clients’ challenges.

As an extra note, they are just really cool to wear :)

Bonus track: Our partner in crime, Industrias Fin

We haven’t been alone during this journey of workwear creation.

Industrias Fin, a project from our friend Rubén Melo, designed the “5 Why’s” t-shirt, as well as the workwear coat.

Curious fact: Industrias Fin just makes 100 pieces of clothing for each unique design, and they are numbered from 0 to 99. Melo creates a new pattern every day, but out of all of those designs, he chooses to produce only one per month.

In his early years, Melo used massively produced clothing to sell on flea markets in Mexico. With Industrias Fin, he explored the opposite of that.

We admire Melo’s work and we are happy to be partners with him in our workwear project.

Lulo and Ruben, at Industrias Fin. Photo: Yoshimi Kiyomi

What’s next?

Our next step could be footwear, at least that’s what our founder Lulo said in the interview to write this post.

What do you think the 23 Design’s shoes could look like?

Still wondering why we are creating workwear?

Massimo Vignelli has the answer:

“If you can design one thing, you can design everything.”

And we are trying to do our best :)

Thanks to Syd, Iván, Jay, and Alex for the photoshoot, and extra thanks to Iván for helping me edit this article.


A Publication by 23 Design.

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