May 1, 2010
The State of the Union
How American designers are weathering the tough economic climate—and what they’ll show at ICFF.
Once primarily a venue for homegrown talent, the International Contemporary Furniture Fair today draws international firms and serves as the North American stage for Europe’s rising stars. Visitors to ICFF are now just as likely to see new materials, office products, lighting, kitchen cabinets, and bathroom fixtures as furniture. But its impressive growth notwithstanding, the show’s core strength has always been the presence of domestic designers. This year we decided to check in with ten companies—based from Brooklyn to Beverly Hills, and producing everything from rugs to bar stools—to see how they are managing two years into the recession. Refreshingly, they see the fiscal situation as an opportunity and are taking advantage of the less than ideal circumstances to introduce more affordable products, refocus their efforts, form strategic partnerships, and affirm their commitments to staff and craftsmen. One enterprising young designer, recognizing that manufacturing resources are currently underutilized, seized the moment to launch his own business. Consider this an unscientific survey of the state of American design at a time of peril and promise.