16 November 2009

points for personality (williams-sonoma home event)

the williams sonoma home store, wearing its holiday best

last week, m21 had the pleasure of attending a design panel/reception co-sponsored by interior design magazine and williams-sonoma home, to highlight both WSH's holiday collection and their design trade program. m21's friend, heather, over at habitually chic had profiled monelle totah, WSH's VP of home product design, awhile back, and was gracious enough to introduce monelle and m21 via email; then the nice PR people at WSH coordinated it so m21 meet with monelle, as well as her WSH design cohort, kirsty williams (also a VP of home product design) to chat with them a bit before the event- m21 actually ended up feeling a bit guilty about that, 'cuz pretty much every question m21 asked was later covered in the panel discussion by moderator edie cohen (deputy editor of interior design magazine), but monelle and kirsty couldn't have been sweeter or more personable, and m21 got to take some pictures of the newly holiday-decorated store, so all was not lost...

monelle and kirsty (right) smiling at m21- or perhaps laughing at m21- as he attempts to inconspicuously take a photo without flash. sorry about the blur- we really should have used a flash...

the evening was a success on many levels- first, it was packed with over 200 rsvps, and the discussion was standing room only. 2nd, the store was freshly turned out with the holiday program introduced that evening, and was an excellent advertisement for the brand- pretty and sparkling, with candles lit and a fire blazing in it's hearth, and just enough holiday decor to enhance, yet not feel like santa's workshop. kudos to the visual team- you've almost put m21 in the mood for the holidays! almost.

by far the biggest success of the evening though, was getting to know the personalities behind the product- everyone on the WSH team was delightful, and monelle and kirsty are excellent ambassadors for the brand; their commitment to, and love of design was apparent from the brief conversation m21 had with them beforehand, and again, in the evening's main event discussion. topics covered were wide ranging: monelle and kirsty discussed their inspirations, including bi-yearly trips to europe; both to shop the paris shows as well as draw inspiration for upcoming new designs- look for an eastern influence in 2010/11 as they recently returned from istanbul, and had raves about what they discovered there. (note to the CEO of maison21 inc- please send your head designer on bi-yearly inspirational jaunts to europe- thank you).

loving the needlepoint!

the ladies also talked about their inspirations and favorites from the current holiday season- monelle loved the crewel and needlepoint textile products (me too), while kirsty was inspired by her scottish heritage for the tartan mini-collection (a great way to add holiday flair without seeming too theme-y). when asked how they predict trends, and if they were working with shorter lead times, like the trend in the fashion industry, both women responded quite emphatically that the WSH brand was not fashion oriented and trendy, but rather classic and seasonal, as befitting a luxury retail brand, so production times to introduce new product of a year, to a year and a half were standard. m21 found this interesting, since both crewelwork and needlepoint seem to be most definitely having a moment right now, yet the current WSH collection was conceived quite some time ago! guess monelle and kirsty are either psychic, or they really know what they're doing!

loving the doggie silhouette displays, too. there's the 'could be holiday, could be year round' tartan, too.

m21 was happy to hear that williams-sonoma is now offering COM (customer's own material) for their upholstery in the los angeles store, and will be rolling it out to the rest of the chain for in-store sales. customization is a huge factor in appealing to repeat business from designers, so this a always a welcome feature. it's also especially welcome for those of you decorating your own homes, who may not have access to custom upholstery work rooms- if you have a WSH near you, well, now you do!

one of the moments that most impressed m21 during the evening was a discussion about sustainable design- both monelle and kirsty were emphatic that yes, they used sustainable hardwoods (and reclaimed lumber when possible), but their real commitment was to the people behind the product, and developing relationships that empower rather then exploit the artisans employed in producing WSH's product line. it's one thing to read about responsible labor practices in a dry corporate press release, but another thing entirely to hear two people passionate about it in person, and witness the visceral horror on their faces when speaking of walking out of factories with poor working conditions, and the pride when discussing building relationships with artisans, which often can keep whole villages afloat. quite refreshing to hear in a time of global job contraction, with so many corporations racing to the bottom in cutting costs...

glassware produced by henry dean for WSH- pretty stuff, and the price point is excellent for the quality. m21 wouldn't mind finding some under his tree! (the white and b&w especially, santa)

last, we mentioned that the turnout was excellent- higher then we'd normally see at an event like this. that was probably due to the interior design magazine subscriber tie-in, but also quite possibly because of the WSH featured designer series- many of the attendees were probably hoping to follow in the steps of our friend habitually chic (and thomas o'brien, and carolyn roehm), and be included in an upcoming catalog! sadly, they announced that the next series of designers had already been selected, so we'll just have to wait for the spring catalog to see who they are!

7 comments:

Emily A. Clark said...

Fun blog I just happened to stumble upon. Love the pictures of your work. . . .

Beth Dunn said...

Love that store! I wish I could live in it. xoxo

SC

maison21 said...

emily- thank you for visiting and taking the time to leave such a sweet comment!

beth- couldn't you just? i was tempted to crawl into on of the display beds after the event and spend the night...

staging furniture Toronto said...

Really interesting place!
Wish there would be more stores like that....it's clear that those people are good at their work and have full heads of ideas how to attract new customers and other amateur designers.

Bloggers Abode said...

How fun! Love those doggie silhouettes! Cheers to WS for being aware and caring people. That's HUGe these days. We have a new store here in Scottsdale that I will now go see after reading your posting. Thank you!

Grant K. Gibson said...

I hear that a certain designer who is doing this LARGE house that is painted white will be up next.
Then I am sworn to zipping my lip on the next one after that one...

Teresa at Splendid Sass said...

Love Williams Sonoma, and the tartan and zebra are my favorites. Just says Christmas!
Thanks for sharing these beautiful images, and congratulations on your interview.
Teresa