Born in New York City on July 26, 1966, Sachs grew up in Westport, Connecticut and attended Greens Farms Academy for high school. He attended Bennington College in Vermont. Following graduation, he studied architecture in London before deciding to return to the States, where he spent two years working in Frank Gehry's L.A. furniture shop. It is here that he began using the term knolling.
Sachs moved from L.A. to New York City around 1990 and found a studio in the disappearing machinery district downtown. His studio, Allied Cultural Prosthetics, took its name from the previous tenant -- Allied Machine Exchange -- implying that contemporary culture had become nothing but a prosthetic for real culture.
For a few years Sachs worked odd jobs, including lighting displays at Barneys New York. In 1994, he was invited to create a scene for their Christmas displays and titled it Hello Kitty Nativity, in which the Virgin Mary was replaced by Hello Kitty with an open Chanel bra, the three Kings were Bart Simpsons, and the stable was marked by a McDonald's logo. This contemporary revision of the nativity scene received great attention (not all of it positive) and demonstrated Sachs' interest in the phenomena of consumerism, branding, and the cultural fetishization of products.