Instead of going through an official interview process at famed New York design firm Parish Hadley, college-age Thom Filicia took a clever shortcut: He cold-called principal Albert Hadley from a school pay phone. It worked. “We had a great first interview; he toured me around the whole office, and he kept introducing me to people, so I was like, ‘It’s either my first or my last time here,’” Filicia told host Dennis Scully last week during a live recording of The Business of Home Podcast at High Point Market. “I ended up getting an internship with the firm that summer, and then they hired me out of school a year later.” Filicia went on to work for Robert Metzger and Jeffrey Bilhuber before eventually launching his own firm in 1998. Like many other aspects of his professional life, he wasn’t afraid to take a chance—even when advised against it.
For example: After meeting a talent agent by chance, Filicia was offered a role on a new reality TV show. Thrown for a loop, he sought counsel from established designer David Kleinberg and former boss Bilhuber, who both encouraged him to turn down the role. But Filicia’s gut told him to seize what felt like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. “One of the things that really drove me nuts about what I did as a designer working for Parish Hadley, Metzger and Bilhuber is that we were only relevant and communicating to [the top] 1 percent,” said Filicia. “It just felt like [the show] was a window into design being a little bit more a part of everybody’s life—not just that rarefied group.”
The show, of course, was the original version of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, and the rest is pop culture history. Debuting in 2003, Queer Eye became a huge hit, launching the original “Fab Five” cast to fame and spawning a number of spinoff deals and partnerships. Though Filicia had become a star, he never left the design industry, and he has continued to take on projects and build a product licensing empire.
In this episode, Filicia discussed how his showroom Sedgwick & Brattle is refining its approach to partnerships, why he came to embrace High Point Market, and finding a balance between following and leading when it comes to establishing a brand.
The Thursday Show
Meanwhile, on the latest episode of The Thursday Show, Scully and BOH executive editor Fred Nicolaus break down the latest news in the design industry, from Bed Bath & Beyond’s bankruptcy to the rise of “quiet luxury.” Later, BOH editor in chief Kaitlin Petersen comes on the show to recap High Point Market’s spring edition.