I am a sucker for a good lookbook and the Elkin Fall 2014 campaign featuring Emma Roberts is awesome. Always happy to discover a new American made brand… and I’ll be making this tee my own immediately. Is it overkill to get both colors?
I love beautiful things. I spend a lot of time and effort focusing on products that are beautiful and do some relative good but are also entirely non-essential. I used to try to justify or deny these traits, but now I really don’t mind them. The world can be a really frightening place; the small, beautiful moments allow us all to get through the day.
But what really excites and inspires me is when someone creates something that is wholly functional and essential and beautiful – and made in America. Which is why I am so excited to introduce you to Conway Electric.
Conway Electric is a Seattle-based manufacturer of electrical products. Extension cords and outlets aren’t something I think about that often, but they became incredibly important while building out The COMN – there’s a lot of computers, sewing machines, chargers, and cell phones plugged in at all times in our studio and we needed a solution that was safe and also met our aesthetic goals for the space. Conway Electric extension cords are UL Certified (which, if you’ve ever worked with any electrical or lighting products, is a HUGE process – certification is a really, really big deal) and also provide a clean, minimal design solution. I’ve had the chance to chat with the founder, Kevin Faul, over the last few months and he is incredible – entirely committed to his product, to American made, and to the community as a whole.
WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
Three things: first: great designers past and present, second: travel, nature and adventure, third: friends and people who have been successful in their endeavors
WHAT MADE YOU START YOUR LINE?
We believe there is nothing that does not deserve great design. Great design solves problems. When we noticed electricity in the home is a big problem we sought to solve the problem with design. We’ve since found the problem is much larger than we anticipated and are excited about all the directions we can go with new design solutions for the places we call home.
WHAT IS YOUR BACKGROUND?
A combination of growing businesses and finance with a theme of new product development. I have made a career of helping companies go in new directions by improving their products, expanding their markets and improving their financial positions. This may sound distant from design but in every case design has been central to the strategies we’ve used, so Conway Electric is a total combination of my passion for great design and the infrastructure of what we hope becomes a good, responsible American-made business.
WHAT IS THE INSPIRATION BEHIND CONWAY ELECTRIC?
First, quality: making great things at reasonable prices that will last a long, long time; second, art – we can choose to surround ourselves with objects that are tasteful and artistically embodied; Third, family – in this country our opportunities are limitless yet so few people use that to their advantage. The United States can make things better than almost any other country and I saw this growing up when my father invented some products for the wire industry and had a very small home business making and selling those products around the world. He used US suppliers and exported his products. The company was sold and is still in business today. What better inspiration than learning from your father that each of us can be creative and make something right here in the USA that is valuable for the world? Because of he and my mother’s hard work our family never went hungry and we were given many opportunities. Family is still the core of my strength and when we design products I make sure they pass the “Nephew and Niece Test” – if our products are a risk to them, we will rework the idea.
WHAT DRIVES YOU?
Inspiration. People doing great things, my family and friends and a deep appreciation for life – I want to make the most of all my time. Every second counts.
WHAT MAKES YOUR DAY?
When someone sees one of our products for the first time and the smile spreads across their face because they’ve found something they love – that is such an indescribable feeling bringing someone joy – I love it.
WHAT ARE YOUR STYLE ESSENTIALS?
Good socks – anything with bright, crazy patterns, my black iPhone 5s for staying connected, my sailcloth Defy Gym Bag I use for traveling (I haven’t checked a bag in 4 years) – I grew up sailing and I love the texture and function of this bag; my Timberland Wodehouse Lost History boots – I have two pair brown and black and wear one or the other pair 4 days out of 5 – I can wear them anywhere and they look good and feel great; on other days its Jack Purcell low-top sneakers, my new Black/Chrome Shinola Runwell bicycle – it’s a town bike with 11 speeds and an internal rear hub – I collect classic bikes and this one fits perfectly in the collection/ I ride it because it’s such a great utility bike but it has such a classic look that people ask about it all the time.
WHAT ARE YOU EXCITED ABOUT?
Too many things! from remote backcountry trail running to the new line of Jonathan Adler Bel Air Vases, old factory machinery that still works, scientific discoveries, great ideas and my new niece Kate: I’m just a very excitable person about possibilities and living well. I should mention what I’m not excited about: sweatshop labor, cheap foreign products, lack of kindness and lack of opportunity. I believe we can do better if we work together locally, regionally and across the country.
WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED?
So many things, and two are top of mind right now: first, we all want the same thing – happiness; second, we are more powerful than we know and sometimes we need someone to push us up so we can recognize it within ourselves. I’ve had so many people encouraging me and try to give that back to others by helping them with their ideas.
WHAT ADVICE HAS BEEN MOST HELPFUL/WOULD YOU GIVE TO OTHER MAKERS?
Making is great but if you want to make a living you must find a market that wants what you’re making and you have to figure out how to get your stuff to that market. If you can do that you will be more successful than your wildest dreams. If you’re out there struggling, reach out to people and ask for help. People want to help and want you to succeed.
WHERE DO YOU DESIGN?
Everywhere, literally. I carry three notebooks with me and even keep things in different apps on my iPhone.
WHERE ARE YOU MOST INSPIRED?
In nature and traveling. from the mountains of the Pacific Northwest to the silky air and rolling fields of the Midwest and the azure seas of exotic places around the world. Nature makes me calm and gives me energy while culture and architecture of other countries gives me new, fresh perspectives.
WHERE DO YOU WORK?
Everywhere really, from European coffee shops to our partner factories’ factory floors but in Seattle we prototype out of Makerhaus in Fremont. We can literally make anything there.
WHERE DO YOU LIKE TO SHOP?
I love local and regional boutiques curated by owners with great taste. When I talk to them I realize they haven’t just made a store, they’ve captured an experience of what’s around them. This is why Hammer + Awl or Cord in the Paciifc Northwest are unique from Sojourn in Sawyer Michigan, Mono in Hawaii or MADE in Jackson Hole. I love shopping in these types of stores. Though I will say I have a soft spot for surf shops and will go into any surf shop in any town I am in to find that elusive pair of perfect boardshorts.
WHERE DO YOU ESCAPE?
So many places! Surfing in Southern California where I lived for over 5 years, or the Caribbean where my aunt and uncle have owned a house forever, and generally on airplanes going anywhere interesting (which to me is everywhere!); near me it’s the forests and mountains. Are you seeing a trend?
WHY DO YOU MAKE YOUR COLLECTION?
It’s incredibly rewarding to make something of great quality and fine design that people want. I love helping people solve their problems with design no matter how big or small those problems are. Giving someone something they need is such a rewarding feeling and giving back via 1% For Power or other programs is also very fulfilling.
WHY DO YOU MANUFACTURE IN AMERICA?
To me there is no other choice. I believe in the country and as we grow, we give many people opportunities here. I’ve seen too many people lose their jobs, end up in a rut and see their futures get whittled down. A little bit of effort can help people make a better living and live better lives. Why wouldn’t we try 100% to do that?
WHY DOES MANUFACTURING IN AMERICA BENEFIT YOUR BUSINESS?
Absolutely. It introduces us to so many new people and allows us to go to market so much faster. We have more control over every aspect of bringing new products to market.
WHY IS YOUR COLLECTION DIFFERENT?
We call our designs “Friendly Industrial”; we use industrial grade materials in unexpected ways so instead of being impersonal and purely functional they are of the best quality while being beautiful and a little more user friendly during their function. To us, our collections represent the heart of American Industry but with a worldly soul.
“…THE GREATEST SIGNIFICANCE FOR THE COMFORT AND WELFARE, NOT TO SAY FOR THE EXISTENCE, OF MANKIND…IS THE ELECTRICAL TRANSMISSION OF POWER.”- NIKOLA TESLA
Interesting silhouettes, natural fabrics, made in California with relatively approachable pricing – Calder is the type of collection I’m always happy to find.
Add in a look book shot by (designer Amanda Blake’s cousin-in-law!) Sofia Coppola at her New York apartment and stockists including Steven Alan, Ten Over Six, and Bird and you have what I’m guessing will be the next big tee shirt line. My personal (albeit boring) favorite is the stripe rampling tee, but I’d be happy to wear that short sleeve sweatshirt as well…
The Spring shopping app launched today and I can’t stop (pretend – for now!) shopping on it so I needed to share it with you. The new app kept coming up during my meetings in Manhattan last week and I knew it would be impressive given the caliber of talent involved and the brands that had already signed on for the launch… but I remained a bit skeptical because in general I don’t use many apps and almost never shop via mobile. But the app is amazing – you should really go download it for yourself – I actually think this may be something I use for longer than a week!
Spring is a multi-brand mobile shopping experience – it allows the user to shop hundreds of brands with one simplified check out experience and gives brands the opportunity to create better shoppable content. The feed is essentially a cleaner, shoppable Instagram… without random cups of coffee or cute babies to distract you.
What’s most interesting about Spring is that it gives the user the opportunity to learn more about the brand – from the brand itself. It’s an incredible platform for smaller brands to share their story and aesthetic and build their community. Retail is tough – brands need you to buy their products in other stores so as to maintain volume and brand presence, but they also benefit from higher margins and increased customer awareness if you buy directly from them… and Spring makes that easy to do.
Of course, regardless of how beautiful the app is, you are still clearly being sold to during the experience… but some brands (the brands that will do the best, I’d imagine!) are using it to connect with their customers in a new way. For example, Industry Standard is inviting customers to a studio visit with a purchase of denim, and Make Cosmetics is providing tutorials – and product listings – for their makeup looks. I know that those of you who read TAE do so because you love a good brand story…and Spring allows the brand to tell that story themselves.
When you sign up, you are already following a somewhat aggressive list of brands – I unfollowed most immediately. But, after playing around for a few minutes, I’d found several new (to me) American made brands – which is always a good thing! (However, it looks like country of origin is only listed for some items – this information likely comes from the brand itself so hopefully will eventually be standardized.)
TAE favorites that I’d recommend you follow : Clare V., Geometry Handbags, Giejo, Industry Standard, Janessa Leone, Jennifer Fisher, Lizzie Fortunato, Make, Mirlo, NSF Clothing, Pamela Love, RGB, Rag & Bone, Sea, Shinola, Steven Alan, and Whit… let me know if you’d like more recommendations!