news digest | Aug 17, 2021 |
AD goes DIY, High Point and Esteem Media face controversy over all-white influencer lineup, and more

Succulents are a no-brainer for home decorators who lack the green thumb that more temperamental plants require—their popularity, however, has grown out of control in recent months, as harvesting the plants has become a dangerous trade. Whatever happens, stay in the know with our weekly roundup of headlines, launches and events, recommended reading, and more.

Business News

A furor erupted on social media last week when High Point Market announced the lineup for an upcoming design influencers tour: nine white women and one white man. Objecting to a lack of diversity, hundreds of commenters from around the industry flooded the Instagram post announcing the roster (at press time, it had 628 comments). Their comments ranged from expressing disappointment and urging High Point Market to do better to questioning the organization’s commitment to diversity and the makeup of its leadership team. Many also decried the disparity between words and actions around equity and inclusion: “You were ‘muted and listening’ last fall, but it doesn’t seem like you heard much,” wrote @thegroundedhome. “There are many BIPOC designers that are both popular and insightful that could’ve been a part of this lineup. I’m sure all of these designers are incredibly talented, and the ones I recognize are, but you’ve totally missed the mark here. Your performative posts mean nothing if you don’t put it into action.”

The lineup, which tour organizers say was originally selected from a pool of applicants in 2019, was chosen by High Point Market and Esteem Media, which puts on the Design Influencers Conference. In response to the criticism, High Point Market has announced that it will be inviting two additional members to the tour in an effort to address the lack of representation. “The importance of diversity and inclusion is not lost on us, as evidenced by an overall review of our programs and communications. However, in this instance, we fell short and should have done more to ensure diversity with this team despite a small number of applicants,” says Ashley Grigg, director of marketing for High Point Authority. Adam Japko, CEO of Esteem, says that going forward, “if our applicant pool doesn’t reflect the full diversity of the community, we’ll reach out to our network. … Esteem Media has always tried to operate with a commitment to improving equity and inclusion in the design industry, but in this instance, we fell short. We hope that our efforts to make this right serve as a commitment to the entire industry that we take their criticisms seriously and will be better in the future.”

Architectural Digest has launched a new digital vertical focused on DIY projects. The section, AD It Yourself, includes project suggestions and tips on best at-home design practices—among its debut articles are Mandy Cheng’s advice on designing an outdoor kitchen and Drew Barrymore’s tips for room painting. It will also feature a video series with L.A. designer Erick Garcia called Replace This Space, in which he helps clients transform their homes on a tight timeline.

Saks Fifth Avenue is converting areas of several department stores into co-working spaces in a partnership with WeWork called SaksWorks, The Wall Street Journal reports. Led by Saks parent company Hudson’s Bay, the venture will unfold at five New York City area stores next month, including in spaces previously occupied by Lord & Taylor, which declared bankruptcy in 2020. In expanding the program, SaksWorks will next target suburban areas, with the goal of attracting remote workers who have grown tired of staying at home but still want to avoid commuting into the city.

Manufacturing is scheduled to open up again in Malaysia, where operations had been shut down since early June. The country’s Ministry of International Trade and Industry has issued guidelines to allow facilities to return to work effective August 16. As Furniture Today reports, 700,000 manufacturing sector workers have been fully immunized to date, thanks to a COVID-19 industry immunization program, though resumed operations will depend on specific regions and factories achieving sustained immunization levels. According to one source in the case goods and upholstery segment there, it will likely be mid-September before facilities return to full capacity.

Online home buying marketplace Aalto has completed a $13 million Series A funding round led by Sequoia Capital, TechCrunch reports. The San Francisco–based startup allows sellers to list their home for sale on the platform within minutes, compared to a process that typically takes closer to several weeks. By vetting qualified buyers and allowing sellers to conduct showings on their own time, the site aims to speed up the home-buying process.

According to a recent report from Realtor.com, the Colorado Springs zip code of 80916 is the most in demand in 2021, with the area nabbing the top spot for the second year in a row. Homes for sale in the area spend an average of four days on the market—compared with 33 days nationwide—at a median home price of $318,000. The location was a bit of an outlier on the list, which was otherwise dominated mostly by East Coast and Southern zip codes.

Kohler has released data related to its 2035 net zero operational goals, found in the company’s 2020 Believing in Better Metrics Report. In accordance with its environmental goals, last year, Kohler reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 48 percent, waste to landfill by 47 percent and water use by 46 percent. Additionally, the company used 53 percent of its electricity from renewable resources in 2020, and generated more than $1 billion in sales from environmentally friendly products.

Launches and Collaborations

Luxury tile brand Ann Sacks has launched an expanded editorial initiative called Inside Design, previously available only to its trade members. To take the concept beyond a simple blog, Ann Sacks has tapped design media experts Clinton Smith and Sophie Donelson to develop and create editorial content for the site on a monthly basis. “Readers have gotten more discerning and we feel that they’re looking for elevated editorial content that can engage, inspire and educate,” says Ann Sacks marketing director Arabella D’Oyly. While the debut edition is tile-centric, future content will broaden the focus to subjects like wellness or design history. “We’re interested in moving beyond just topics that might be seen as ‘on brand’ and delving into deeper topics as well,” says D’Oyly.

Al Bon, an e-commerce marketplace promoting Saudi and Arab artisans, launched this week with a variety of products, such as furniture, artwork, lighting, fashion and gifts. The site’s producers and designers represent more than a half dozen countries around the Arab world, and handcrafted work includes premade and custom pieces.

Uniqlo has released a home goods collaboration featuring the artwork of Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring. Borrowing iconic designs from each artist—including Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup and Brillo works, Basquiat’s crown motif and Haring’s LOVE graphic—the collection includes plates, bowls and other tabletop items available online and in select stores.

For the latest product news, check out BOH’s new weekly digest of collection debuts, Product Preview.

Recommended Reading

For Early magazine, Sydney Allen-Ash spins an investigation on the credibility of ergonomics into a meditation on the changing nature of human labor, physical comfort and workplace culture. In conversation with Jared Blake, co-owner of furniture store Lichen NYC, the piece traces the origins of ergonomics in WWII fighter jets up to its role in today’s society—which, the author suggests, is comparable in purpose to both astrology and athleisure.

For companies like Great Jones, Lalo and Gravity, the process of spinning an elegant origin story and corresponding brand identity is, in reality, pretty far removed from the actual design and development of the product in question. For that side of the process, Doris Dev is happy to step in—the agency helps high-profile startups tap into established supply chains, speed through testing and compliance, and avoid the lengthy and costly process of building an independent production facility. In The Strategist, Erica Cerulo and Claire Mazur explain why today’s consumers find the strategy morally dubious.

As evidenced by extensively researched shopping lists shared on Facebook groups, and the rise of home decor startups catering to the college-age demographic, dorm decorating has come a long way in recent years. The now $26.7 billion dollar annual industry has morphed into “the college dorm shopping industrial complex,” explains Cheryl Wischhover for Vox. “Five years ago, it was treated more like, ‘This is like sleepaway camp for the semester.’ And now [students are] treated like adults. This is your first home away from home,” DormCo founder Jeff Gawronski told Vox.

Cue the Applause

The Créateurs Design Awards will present the Andrée Putman Lifetime Achievement Award to design and fashion icon Iris Apfel. The evening’s highest honor will highlight Apfel’s life and career at the annual ceremony held in Paris in January 2022.

Call for Entries

The National Kitchen & Bath Association is accepting nominations through September 30 for 2022 inductees to the Kitchen & Bath Industry Hall of Fame. Honorees will be recognized during the NKBA Design + Industry Awards on February 7. For more information, click here.

In Memoriam

Andrea B. Stanford has passed away after a battle with cancer. An experienced executive and brand strategist of more than 20 years, she served as the founding design and interiors editor of C Magazine, and in leadership positions with One Kings Lane, Zappos, Everything but the House, and Society6. “She was blessed to have the love and support of so many wonderful friends and family throughout this journey. She will be in our hearts forever,” read a statement on Stanford’s Instagram.

Homepage image: Luxury tile brand Ann Sacks has launched an editorial initiative called Inside Design. | Courtesy of Ann Sacks

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