In 2009, on a lark, Peter Buchanan-Smith made an unusually stylish ax. As a longtime graphic designer, his life had been, as he puts it, "very product-oriented." The painted ax seemed to speak to people, and Best Made, the company he formed to sell it online, was barely able to keep up with holiday demand. When a January hangover sales slump followed, he cast about for a different strategy to keep the brand alive: a new product release every week. Nearly three years later, Best Made has evolved into a lifestyle line of outdoor gear, all with a graphic designer’s touch: leather chopping mitts, Japanese carpenter knives, cherry-red knit caps, camping mugs with a brushstroke of color. "I think of it as the table of elements, and the ax is like hydrogen, up there at the top," Buchanan-Smith says. "Now we’re trying to populate that table." Previously found only online, New York–based Best Made opened the doors of its first brick-and-mortar this May.
[Photo by Joel Stans; prop styling: Peter Tran]
A version of this article appeared in the June 2013 issue of Fast Company magazine.