Outdoor Buyer Ben Gaffrey leaning on a Philippe Starck chair
At a recent press preview of DWR's new Spring 2011 line, I met CEO John Edelman, who has taken over the company after some major shake-ups. (That's not him in the pic above — it's outdoor furniture buyer Ben Gaffrey.) This time last year, Fast Company's award-winning piece, The Rise and Fall of DWR, unmasked the company's messy move from CEO to CEO. The article ended on an uncertain note, with the writer wondering whether they'd be able to come back after two years of financial losses and mission drift.12 months almost to the date, DWR's done a lot to transform: hiring Edelman, leaving its long-time San Francisco headquarters for Stamford, Connecticut, expanding the contract division, and partnering with younger, hipper designers — many of them based in Brooklyn.
Edelman has publicly denounced some of the decisions made by DWR leadership in the past — most notably, the production of barely legal knock-offs that cannibalized the forms of best-selling designers including Mario Bellini and Terence Woodgate. While DWR retains its manufacturing arm, its current policy is to collaborate closely with designers on new product lines.
The Ollie Collection
One recent example is the "Ollie" collection, designed by skateboarder and product developer Royce Nelson. Made from teak and synthetic rattan, the lounges and chairs have wide arms that can double as seats... or surfaces to perform skate tricks, if you take the title literally. Other collaborations include the spring collection's "Rusa" line, created with Los-Angeles based KAA Architects, and the "Play" line produced with Philippe Starck, Eugeni Quitllet, and outdoor furniture company Dedon.
CEO John Edelman and Outdoor Buyer Ben Gaffrey
The Herman Miller and Knoll classics are still there, available in new colorways and ready to ship, but Edelman is also focusing on cultivating new talent. He's a charming, salesy kind of guy with an approachable demeanor and a no-bulls**t way of speaking. He discussed the move to Stamford as a strategic step in bringing the company to the place where good design is incubating (specific shout-out to Brooklyn) and while he won't knock San Francisco, he says it's just not New York when it comes to cutting-edge design.
The company is also working to build its relationships with architects, and it shows in the new products. Many of the pieces in the Spring Collection are much bigger than DWR's usual stuff, which indicates an eye to the contract market.
Photos: Sarah Coffey