The General Co’s Colin Chen on Creativity, Sustainability and Serial Entrepreneurship

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For the past decade, Colin Chen has been one of the driving forces behind our local design scene. Chen, now 39, started The General Co in 2012 in hopes of championing local crafts, helping talented craftspeople find work, and offering introductory workshops to the public. craftsmanship and design. I’m willing to bet that many of today’s young craftsmen started their careers in a General Co.

Before founding The General Co, Chen already had his own craft business, creating fabric sleeves for essential technology. Not content with two companies, he then entered the F&B sector with The Refinery in 2014. In 2020, fueled by the idea of ​​creating a new type of sustainable interior design company, he launched GRAMS.

As The General Co celebrates its 10th anniversary, I caught up with this entrepreneur, advocate and craftsman to reflect on his journey.

WHAT ATTRACTS YOU TO ARTISANAL PRODUCTS?

To be very honest, I’m most often intrigued by the story behind the products, how they were made, where the materials came from, the design intent, the construction techniques and the story of the person. who makes them. All of this gives a well-made product its raison d’être and its soul.

YOUR MOTHER WAS ARTISANS HERSELF. HOW MUCH WHO SHE IS DO YOU THINK INFLUENCES YOUR OWN CAREER?

My mother was definitely instrumental in my life and my personal journey. In her youth, she had learned the traditional sewing skills of an old tailor and would eventually become a home seamstress, taking on private projects and commissions for individuals and small businesses. She made clothes and uniforms and other textile products for a living, earning minimal wages in the form of very modest sums despite her skills, just to ensure a better life for my sister and me. Growing up, I would follow her around buying and selecting fabrics and materials, and meeting suppliers and customers. I witnessed firsthand how traditional craftsmanship was so undervalued in a world driven by the search for greater efficiency through industrialization and automation.

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