Brother and sister Ray Hallare and Joanne Hallare come from a family of furniture manufacturers, but they were not in the business themselves—until recently, that is. Ray was working in gift e-commerce and Joanna in financial services before they decided to return to their proverbial roots with Dowel Furniture.
“Ray and I had come from very different backgrounds,” says Joanne. But the two had grown up within the furniture industry via their ties to their family’s factory in the Philippines, she says, “which had been making fine, high-quality furniture for almost 30 years. We went to High Point with our dad and worked at the factory each summer as kids, but had very limited exposure to the furniture/interior design industry outside of that.” But that early experience came into play in 2015, when the siblings decided to found an online retail brand sourcing directly from factories.
Dowel’s consistently increasing focus on designers—they produce capsule collections, such as their recent Duncan Hughes for Dowel Furniture collection—is due in large part to their connection to what she calls a “flexible family-owned factory.”
Designers, and their feedback, have a direct impact on the company’s offerings. “Every choice we’ve made as a company has been as a result of real-life conversations with interior designers we’ve met along the way. They have helped us understand a niche in the market that they wanted to be filled.”
That feedback exchange is part of their process for developing a collection, she says. “When creating these capsules, the first question we ask our collaborating designers to focus on is: “What have you found lacking in the furniture market, and how would you fill it with this collection?” says Joanne. “That designer is both our typical collaborator and client at the same time.”
What’s next? The brand is planning continued outreach into the design community. The search is underway for the brand’s 2019 capsule collection designer. Next week, Dowel will participate in the 2018 Boston Design Week, when it will launch the Duncan Hughes collection with a cocktail party at Lanoue Gallery on April 10 and join the AD20/21 Gala on April 12. And years after the Hallares tagged along with their father at High Point, they are considering debuting Dowel at the show this October.