news digest | Nov 22, 2022 |
Dims shutters, a ‘mansion tax’ passes in Los Angeles and more

The 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar kicked off last weekend amid a flurry of controversy—now, architects and designers are turning their attention to the event’s construction, which may not live up to its claim of being the first carbon-neutral World Cup in history. Stay in the know with our weekly roundup of headlines, launches, events, recommended reading and more.

Business News
United Furniture Industries and subsidiary Lane Home Furnishings announced their abrupt closure today—a decision that officially took effect yesterday and resulted in mass layoffs overnight for the company’s workforce, which numbered more than 2,700 as of this summer. According to Home News Now, employees had all benefits terminated immediately and were not offered any extended health benefits through COBRA. The news comes just months after United announced that it was reorganizing operations with the closure of a plant in High Point and the relocation of nearby facilities in Winston-Salem as well as Amory, Mississippi. The company cited unforeseen circumstances for the abrupt shutdown, though CEO Todd Evans did not respond to HNN’s request for comment.

Contemporary furniture company Dims shut down last week exactly four years after the startup was founded, according to an announcement posted on its site last week. “On 11/14/18, we opened for business, brimming with naïve optimism and white-hot ambition. Four humbling years later, we have been advised to wind down the company, and so we shall,” the statement read. “We thank you for your patronage and support, and apologize for the abruptness of our closure.” The news comes a little more than a year after the company launched a crowdfunding campaign on the Republic platform, in which it raised more than half a million dollars for the purpose of debuting new products and opening a brick-and-mortar outpost—initiatives that did not come to pass.

Part-time faculty members at the New School—a university system that includes Parsons School of Design—staged a walkout last week to protest the pay discrepancy between administrators’ salaries and teaching faculty, The New York Times reports. According to A.C.T.-U.A.W. Local 7902, the union organizing the strike, adjunct professors at the New School have not received a raise in four years despite rising inflation in recent months. After nearly 200 demonstrators showed up at the school’s main campus building to voice their complaints last Wednesday, negotiations extended through the weekend. As Gothamist reports, on Sunday the university proposed a “final offer” that the union has once again rejected, sending the strike into its second week.

In last week’s elections in Los Angeles, voters passed measure ULA, also known as the “mansion tax,” The Los Angeles Times reports, ushering in a policy that is expected to generate between $600 million and $1 billion annually to support affordable housing in the city. The measure would instate a 4 percent transfer tax on property sales above $5 million, and 5.5 percent on sales above $10 million—a major jump from the current 0.45 percent tax. One analysis shows that about half of the new taxes would come from the sale of commercial properties, and roughly a quarter would come from apartment buildings and other multifamily residences. If all goes to plan, the proceeds are expected to create 26,000 new housing units in the next decade, while helping 40,000 households avoid homelessness—for luxury homebuyers, it could mean shelling out significantly more before closing on a new purchase.

WeWork is shutting down about 40 underperforming locations in the U.S., Reuters reports, as the effects of inflation have placed pressure on the co-working space provider’s operating expenses. Despite enjoying a boost in business after the pandemic drove many workplaces to adopt flexible and hybrid formats, the company is tightening its belt as it anticipates small- and medium-sized enterprises cutting costs as the economy constricts—a move that may lead companies to pull their leases with WeWork, instead opting for fully remote setups. The decision comes after the company projected fourth-quarter revenue of between $870 and $890 million—well below previous projections of $923.8 million.

In November, cargo at the Port of Los Angeles fell to its lowest monthly volume since 2009—a major departure from last year, which marked the busiest calendar year in the port’s history. According to the port’s executive director, Gene Seroka, who gave a press briefing last week, the decline is a result of consumers buying fewer large items like furniture and appliances in comparison to the height of the pandemic, though additional factors include stalled labor negotiations for port workers and earlier-than-usual holiday shipments for businesses attempting to avert delays.

China-based furniture supplier Decca, which supplies wood furniture to homes and offices, filed to go public in the U.S., Furniture Today reports. The company hopes to raise $33 million, offering 6 million shares priced around $5.50 each—a buyout that would place Decca’s value around $187 million. According to the SEC filing, the company plans to invest the capital in building out its global sales channel and product portfolio, expanding its showrooms and distributors to increase its North American and European market share, and potential mergers and acquisitions to expand its manufacturing abilities.

Hickory Furniture Collective acquired fellow Indiana-based business Old Hickory Furniture Company, Woodworking Network reports—a purchase the former company says makes it the largest hickory furniture-maker in the world. The terms of the deal were not disclosed. Formed in 2018, the collective’s portfolio includes Hickory Furniture Designs, Flat Rock Furniture and Rocky Top Furniture, with Old Hickory Furniture joining all three brands under the same umbrella.

Left: The collaboration with Yoshimoto draws influence from the natural world, using soil from the collection’s namesake city of Shigaraki Courtesy of Random | Right: The collaboration with Elizabeth Roberts contains pieces that are 100 percent mohair with a jute fringe, hand-made in Nepal Courtesy of Randor

Launches & Collaborations
Musician and actor Harry Styles’s lifestyle brand Pleasing is launching three pop-up shops in anticipation of the holiday season, with locations in New York, Los Angeles and London, Women’s Wear Daily reports. Open from November 26 through December 27, the pop-ups will offer a host of products from the brand, including apparel, homewares and cosmetics from the forthcoming Super Magic Family Time collection, in a space that mimics an old-school family Christmas—decked out with vintage-style Heatilator fireplaces, green-and-purple floral wallpaper and vibrant shag rugs.

Brooklyn-based furniture studio Radnor launched two new collaborations this month, partnering with local interior designer Elizabeth Roberts on a rug collection called Parlor and with Japanese artist Toshihiko Yoshimoto on a large-scale assortment of ceramic planters. The former debut contains pieces that are 100 percent mohair with a jute fringe, hand-made in Nepal and inspired by Roberts’s take on a rug well-suited for a townhouse’s parlor room. The latter collaboration draws influence from the natural world, as Yoshimoto used soil from the collection’s namesake city of Shigaraki for the construction of the natural reliefs used to shape the series of red clay planters.

Hand-woven Moroccan textile company Salam Hello launched a new experience allowing visitors to travel to the company’s home country for a fully guided tour centered on the brand’s community of artisans. Attendees will meet the makers behind Salam Hello’s pieces and can opt to learn the craft firsthand by weaving a one-of-a-kind rug, or choose from a variety of other activities that include traveling through the city of Marrakech, hiking through the countryside at the base of the High Atlas Mountains and surveying the luxury camps located in the Sahara.

Recommended Reading
For more than a century, certain co-op buildings located along Park Avenue were a stamp of social success among New York’s elite, inspiring bidding wars among celebrities and billionaires alike. In just a few short years following the 2008 housing crash, those same properties seem to have lost their cachet, sitting on the market for years and slowly depreciating in value. For Curbed, Kim Velsey delves into how the fall from grace happened so quickly, pointing to factors like the rise of the starchitect-designed condo and the steady obsolescence of co-op boards.

Every year in Europe alone, a whopping 72,000 tons of human hair waste ends up in landfills or drainage—and it is high time someone put it to good use. Taking advantage of the abundance of a free, regenerative material, a group called Green Salon Collective (composed of hairdressers and sustainability experts) has made it its mission to collect hair from salons across the U.K. and use it for compost and fertilizer in local gardening and agriculture projects. As Elissaveta M. Brandon reports for Fast Company, the group has also spent the past two years partnering with designers and architects to craft textiles, sculpture and boards from the waste product, potentially paving the way for hair to become the next great biomaterial—assuming people can “get past the ick factor.”

Call for Entries
Animal rights organization PETA has challenged designers and researchers to develop a vegan alternative to sheep’s wool with a lower environmental impact through the launch of the Vegan Wool Challenge. The contest will grant $1 million to the first applicant who creates a bio-based material that adopts the look, feel and performance of wool without containing any animal products. Additionally, the winning entry must be scalable and sold by at least one of the 10 largest clothing retailers in the world by January 2024. To apply before the deadline on July 28, 2023, click here.

Homepage image: Salam Hello’s new experience allows visitors to travel to the company’s home country for a fully guided tour centered on the brand’s community of artisans | Courtesy of Salam Hello

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