For its new Kravet Workspace, designed with an on-the-move clientele in mind, the fabric company delivers a fresh twist on an old-school model.
Close your eyes and picture the typical fabric showroom: long wings, memo pads for jotting down requests, a seating area to wait while samples are pulled. Now imagine a showroom that has replaced those elements with counter-height worktables, self-service technology, and a grab-and-go wall with more than 12,000 samples that are yours for the taking.
Showroom innovation often moves at a glacial pace, but Kravet’s new 4,000-square-foot outpost in the New York Design Center delivers a refreshing leap forward. The space’s functionality-first approach demonstrates a willingness to shed the vestiges of the past and embrace new ways of working, collaborating and shopping. “It’s always a worthwhile exercise to rethink what you do and why,” says Cary Kravet, the fourth-generation president of family-owned Kravet Inc. “Shifting user tastes, habits and preferences—along with exciting new ways to incorporate technology—led us to this showroom design.”
At its core, Kravet Workspace reckons with the fact that the busy designers shopping at NYDC are more likely to breeze into the showroom looking for the just-right shade of navy blue than they are to linger for inspiration. That’s not to say they won’t leave inspired, but the tools at their disposal start with the task at hand: Under a sign that reads, “Think Inside the Box,” 6-inch squares are sorted by hue rather than brand, liberally mixing textiles from Kravet, Lee Jofa, Brunschwig & Fils, and GP&J Baker. Scanning the sample’s tag at one of the self-service workstations reveals other colorways, the product’s specs, stock and pricing. For select patterns, three additional sizes of samples are available to communicate the entire design; there are also larger displays to spotlight six months’ worth of the company’s latest debuts for designers in hot pursuit of the newest of the new. And all of the samples are for the taking—scan them out, stick them in your bag, and go. (The inventory is replenished overnight.)
The showroom also features a robust opportunity to sit-test all three of Kravet’s furniture lines; a selection of Curated Kravet accessories; and a nook for The Shade Store—all in a much smaller footprint than the sprawling 12,000-square-foot Kravet space 25 blocks uptown at the D&D Building.
“We paid attention to our customers’ needs rather than what we wanted to express,” says Kravet. “Speed, ease, and the availability of both human consultation and technology-based assistance are clear and constant priorities. Brand identity has become a secondary objective in this space; ease and simplicity are primary. If we build an environment that pleases our customers, the branding will follow. Of course we want our name on the door, but our goal is to have designers say, ‘I want to go to the place where I can get my job done most efficiently.’”
Kravet has been strategizing how to evolve the showroom experience for decades, experimenting with easy-to-deploy modular systems and digital add-ons—exercises that didn’t go anywhere at the time, but paved the way for rethinking a showroom’s essential features. (Some of their early digital endeavors arrived well ahead of demand: “You have to make sure your customers are there with you and that it’s what they’re looking for, not just what we think is fun,” says Kravet.) But the company has continued to quietly invest in technology, digitizing its furniture frames and launching augmented-reality capabilities this summer, in addition to the robust data platform that powers the showroom’s sample-scanning capabilities.
In today’s landscape, that digital footprint matters—but has also reinforced the importance of showrooms. “The transactions happen in so many different ways,” says Kravet. “To have a great online presence, you need the complement of the showroom. When you’re in the showroom, you also need a really good online presence to enhance the experience—it’s not one or the other, it’s a multiplier effect.”
Kravet says that it’s too soon to measure Kravet Workspace’s success—but if early adopters are any indication, the showroom clearly resonates with the way designers want to shop and the kind of space that makes them feel comfortable. Designers often stay for several hours; some have even asked if they can reserve the workstations for client presentations.
“I don’t know if this is the way forward,” admits Kravet. “But we have to try new things, and this is certainly one way forward.”
Photo: Courtesy of Kravet