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Four Great Designers, Five Great Takeaways

Our industry is as touchy-feely as any – and it’s not just the apparel that we try on for fit, feel, and the ability to vibe with, or even elevate, our personality. (Tell us you don’t have that tush-talk with prospective sofa cushions on the regular!) But what happens when working remotely is the only way we can make our home fashion business work? And what can we learn about how this might transform our future?

Four A-list designers brought their “Now-what?” experiences, their light bulb moments, and their unrivaled discernment to this master class conversation about just that. As a designer, or a vendor who sells to designers, now is your chance to compare experiences, see which of their paths might align best with yours, and prep your post-pandemic game plan with all the best solutions. 

Market Insights- The Next Golden Age of Design v3

Here are five takeaways from this tête-à-tête-à-tête-à-tête with Martyn Lawrence Bullard, Alexa Hampton, Corey Damen Jenkins, and Timothy Corrigan. Produced by International Market Centers (IMC) through our Market Insights programming, these four design tastemakers share their thoughts on what’s next as the design community prepares to head to IMC’s markets this fall. Special thanks go to Kaitlin Petersen, editor-in-chief of Business of Home, for asking what all our designing minds want to know.  

Manage everyone’s time and expectations. Including yours. 

Manufacturing and supply chain disruption is real and affects every project. Having been confronted with the reality that a fabric he ordered won’t be in until October 2022 or that he can’t even get a sofa from his upholsterer for 18 months, Bullard’s current solution is to present his clients with 3 or 4 options (that include in-stock items) to offset lead times that are too long. That’s an approach Corrigan heartily echoed.  

While Hampton spoke of her awkward relationship with the expression, “Promise little, deliver a lot,” she also acknowledged that she has become more candid about expectations with her clients because extended lead times are now such a universal experience. Jenkins summed up his responsibilities for managing his clients’ projects and their emotions by saying that “everyone needs to be humble and flexible. Life is short; let’s keep it nice.” 

Use new inspiration, including social media, to address new challenges. 

Hampton admits to “living on Instagram and using anything creative-adjacent to feed creativity.” Bullard has found himself similarly immersed, saying, “Instagram has been amazing ... Pinterest ... you deep dive into these things and sometimes you’re gone for a couple of hours. But you come out with so much information at your fingertips.”  

Corrigan sees it differently, feeling unfulfilled by the lack of context and depth on social media. For him, gaining new inspiration meant indulging in the aspects of design that are less project-related, like researching and drawing, then using that to stretch himself creatively. 

And, as Jenkins and Bullard both agree, sometimes what’s old (and perhaps neglected in our days of haste) is new again, like the books filled with beauty and imagery languishing a bit dustily on our shelves and the museums we visit more sparingly, if at all, when normal (and frantic) scheduling rules our days.

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Modern luxury is comfort. So is utility. 

Bullard is very clear about this approach to comfort as luxury: “It doesn’t matter the style, it’s about what it feeds you ... how it makes you feel. Do you feel comfortable? Do you feel welcome? Do you feel a sense of place?” Corrigan’s interpretation of that approach is even more down-to-earth, saying “I really believe what we learned during the pandemic is that people don’t want to make a trade-off between how something looks and how it performs. We want to be able to live in houses where we can really live in them and make a mess and not make it the end of the world.” 

All the designers highlighted the return to a functional – even multi-functional – and segregated dining room, whether for laying an elegant dinner table, providing the perfect Zoom backdrop, or serving as an office and classroom. Their clients’ improved understanding of the importance of their home and how it works to support their needs has made the resultant design process more honest and effective. 

Renderings, boards, and doing it digitally. 

Like the earlier mention of reliance on technology, this takeaway shows precisely how doing it digitally has catapulted the entire home fashion world into the future. Expect it to stay there.  

While Hampton started with the more familiar rendering technology to clearly communicate her design intentions remotely, Bullard went full throttle into the land of digital boards, saying “We’ve literally been doing them on digital boards now and putting that together with a rendering. With a Zoom call alongside of that, you tend to get people to sign off. It’s been amazing.”

“Land the plane or crash the plane.” In other words, make it work. 

For all four of the designers, it’s been about facing the situation and not only letting it set their fancy free but freeing them and their clients from previous limitations...like temporizing, traditional expectations, and exactly how and where you need to metaphorically land each plane (or project). 

For Jenkins, it’s the freedom to require decisiveness. “I’m telling clients EOD. End of Day. I need a response within 7 days...because it’s going to be gone.” 

For Corrigan, it’s about addressing the challenges to his art and skills by pushing himself to learn and to grow.  

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Hampton has followed the colorful path to exuberance and fantasy, feeling released from any reason to hold back. And Bullard is still, as ever, seeking and finding fun in his designs while also finding the future.   

Sound advice for us all, especially knowing we’ll have Juniper by IMC at and on our side as we do. 

Watch the full session: