When the first Design Social popped up in Nashville in September 2019, founder Brooks Morrison had no idea what was imminently in store for this event—or the rest of the world. Featuring just 15 small textile and fabric brands, the inaugural pop-up aimed to create connections between boutique lines and local design communities in a way that no showroom representation could. After the initial success, events soon followed in New Orleans and Charlotte, North Carolina. Then, the pandemic hit and in-person events ground to a halt.
The roaming event bounced back as travel resumed, and now boasts more than 50 participating brands (with even more on the waitlist), ranging from wallpapers and textiles to hardware and furniture. “I felt like there could be a competitive advantage in putting a face to a brand and putting a personal story to a brand, because most of the designers that seek out an independent brand really want to know that person—they really want to know that story,” Morrison tells host Dennis Scully on the latest episode of The Business of Home Podcast.
As The Design Social Pop-Up has made its way across the country (this year, visiting markets like Darien, Connecticut, and Newport Beach, California), what sets it apart from similar events is its “creative to creative” model. It requires the creative lead from each brand to be there interacting with designers, which fosters a “pulse of creativity running through the show,” says Morrison, whose background is in PR and marketing. Elsewhere in the episode, she talks about which cities are seeing a design boom, how the pandemic was a silver lining for Design Social, and where it is headed in 2024.
Crucial insight: Morrison’s biggest tip for smaller brands trying to make their name in the industry: “It’s about collaboration, not competition,” she says. “I think these events have become so successful because all of the participants really want to make this event the best it can be, and they collaborate outside of the show, and there’s no competitive thread within the show at all. I think as you get into larger brands, [competition] can [still] exist.”
Key quote: “The community that has developed among these participants has just been a wonderful thing,” Morrison says. “A lot of times, these designers are working on an island because they’re working alone. They’re a one-woman show most of the time, and to have this community of support that we’ve formed—this sounds kind of corny, but it’s almost like a family.”
The Thursday Show
BOH executive editor Fred Nicolaus joins host Dennis Scully to discuss the biggest news in the industry, including this year’s AD100, a brutal quarter for RH, and a change at the top for Food52. Later, Chad Stark discusses why his company's latest moves around pricing transparency don’t mean Stark Carpet is going all in on DTC.