Welcome to Take 60, quick one-minute stories about new faces in our industry that can help you move the needle towards future success and time is up. Retailers, designers, manufacturers and more — Take 60 covers them all, so check back each week for a new addition to the mix.
Furniture Today spoke with Anna Rabinowicz, founder and CEO of ANNA New York and co-founder of Talianna.
FT: Tell me about how ANNA New York started and the inspiration behind it.
Rabinowicz: I started the company in my grandmother’s basement. I was a full-time professor at Parsons and worked nights and weekends with my mother and grandmother to found ANNA New York. My mom and boyfriend – now husband – gave me $2,000 each to start.
Agate coasters were my first products produced for ANNA New York (then RabLabs). I was designing all kinds of consumer products early in my career: medical devices, cell phones, etc., but I wanted to create a company that made products that could last forever. I really wanted to leave a mark and a legacy and I wanted to create products that were made from things that didn’t change over time; We use gemstones, stainless steel and 24k gold.
If I design things that have meaning, the client will choose to keep them. This is the best version of sustainability I can think of as it will not contribute to the landfill. Sustainability has been one of my biggest motivations, and we’ve achieved it as a company by using durable materials and designing products that people won’t want to throw away over time.
FT: Decor and table tops can offer significant sales potential for furniture retailers, a unique channel for gift lines. Do you sell to any furniture retailer, and if not, who would you think of as your ideal furniture retail buyer?
Rabinowicz: In fact, we had a furniture line and only sold the latest pieces: coffee tables and coffee tables and lamps made of Italian and French marble and metal. We were producing outside Milan; they were exquisite. It’s an interesting business.
We work with a furniture showroom in Atlanta, Veronica Flam. We chose to be represented there because interior design is a very important part of our business. We know that if people are looking for furniture, they will also be looking for the finishing touches to their bedroom – just what my brand offers.
I believe there is much more freedom in accessory design than in furniture design. Accessories add a touch of color, an unusual material or contrast with the rest of the room’s decor. Our pieces are movable and can complete many areas of the house and allow the customer to take more risks.
In terms of working with furniture retailers, we don’t have that many, but we would love to work with more. I would be happy to participate in more furniture showrooms in the future. It’s great to be next to furniture items because we are the top priority for designers when shopping and we need last minute items.
FT: His line is art and function. Why do you think your aesthetic continues to attract new buyers?
Rabinowicz: It is my responsibility as a designer to keep innovating. We release collections twice a year, and every collection we release has a ton of research behind it. I was a design professor for over 15 years at Parsons and Stanford, so research is instilled in the business.
A recent new collection, the Oro collection (for our new brand Talianna), involves an algorithmic pattern derived from mathematical and natural principles, which is cut into the sides of recognizable household objects such as vases and bowls, changing their shape. The idea of the collection is to embrace the beautiful imperfection that makes us so unique. Through design I am expressing that there is no need to be perfect, that we can accept ourselves and others just as we are. For a project like this, there are about 12 to 18 months of research to back it up.
I draw inspiration from the study of human behavior, which helps create new and innovative designs that resonate with new and existing customers. Research, innovation and change are key elements of my design process. My success as a designer is not determined by the sale of a piece, it is whether the design ends up making a difference in people’s lives.
FT: What are some of the consumer trends that influence your product development?
Rabinowicz: I’m influenced by what people need and want, and how that changes over time. The global situation, including politics and economics, affects what people care about and that, in turn, affects product development and what I create as a designer.
First example: the way people’s lives changed during the pandemic and how they prioritized what was important, like strong relationships with loved ones, community, self-care, being yourself, etc. that what felt special, authentically you and inviting became very strong during this time.
We are no longer so formal; we want to be casual chic. We want to do this with pieces that look like us but aren’t very precious. So if you drop a piece on the floor, it’s not a tragedy. It’s about entertaining without the rigidity and formality of the past.
The pandemic has brought to light attributes that were emerging anyway, like our desire to be accepted and celebrated, imperfections and all. Design needs to be responsive to these types of changes.
FT: What’s on the horizon for 2023? What changes, if any, do you foresee in the market and how will you address them?
Rabinowicz: It’s interesting; I think just showing up during this turbulent time is almost the most important thing. What I mean by that is keep innovating, releasing new collections, following the design processes that work for us, and maintaining confidence that what we design will continue to resonate.
None of us know what the future holds, and every day is a surprise. In 2023, we hope things get better, we have all these hopes, but we really don’t know. He continues to listen as a company to consumers and how they are feeling, and to show himself to them. We must continue to make ethical choices with the way the world is evolving, which includes using materials and packaging choices that are good for the environment and supporting our artisan partners. This is what is giving me and my team comfort during this time.
Five facts about Anna Rabinowicz:
- Color you are obsessed with right now? Purple! But I’m always obsessed with purple. There are so many different shades, and I think it’s a really deep color.
- Favorite travel inspiration? Favorite travel inspiration is traveling itself! I love him more than anything else in the world. Every time I travel, I learn something new or find something I’ve never seen before or meet someone inspiring. It frees my mind and makes me feel that anything is possible. Getting on the plane and just leaving is intoxicating; my heart races as the plane takes off.
The forever piece that you will always keep in your house? It’s the Espera fruit bowl that I originally designed for the Lojas do Museu de Arte Moderna. It’s solid stainless steel (almost six pounds) and has 4,552 holes, each with a different shape. It emerged from years of academic research on the Fan of the Sea and took three years to figure out how to produce it. We also made a 24K gold plated version, which is not only super luxurious but also food safe. I love design challenges like this one.
- How do you shop for yourself – in person or online? I don’t like to buy too many things; I’m a non-acquisitive product designer, which is rare. Growing up, I was a tomboy, often dressed in ripped corduroy jeans; when I started going to Paris to exhibit at Maison & Objet, I started noticing clothes for the first time. Most of my shopping is when I’m in Paris for leisure or business. I like the shopping experience in the store.
- A quote that describes your work? “Create designs that resonate so deeply with the consumer that they never want to let go.”