Retail Observer

September 2017

The Retail Observer is an industry leading magazine for INDEPENDENT RETAILERS in Major Appliances, Consumer Electronics and Home Furnishings

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Page 45 of 67

RETAILOBSERVER.COM SEPTEMBER 2017 46 T he word trend, by definition, is a prevailing tendency or inclination. As a hardware company with its own in-house design team, it would be somewhat arbitrary to design without referencing the latest trends. That's where I come in. I identify, analyze, and validate those trends as true tendencies—quite a unique feature of my position at Belwith ® Products. Rooted deeply in the furniture industry, the Belwith ® brands have been designing hardware since 1893. With associations and relationships to many of the great furniture designers, we have a legacy of searching out trends in order to design hardware specifically suited for the newest furniture designs being produced. Once kitchen cabinetry became stand alone and not furniture extensions, we made the shift into learning that arena. In today's market, with consumers so plugged into Pinterest, Instagram, and other social media, it is so vital to have a finger on the pulse of what is coming to the kitchen and bath channel. Therefore, I must begin our vigilant trend watch very early in the fashion industry, where most trends get their inception. Whether it's a grommet on a jacket, or the clasp on a Chloe handbag, or even an overall creative direction for a runway launch, these inspirations then move into the furniture industry where the independent furniture designers and creative directors are also watching to receive their design cues. From there, you might see an entire furniture collection centered on a trend. The lighting and home accessories markets also follow the same path, and you begin to see a collective theme emerging that has an instant connectivity to today's consumer. In some cases, we're proud to say that our brands' designs have been the inspiration for furniture designers and entire collections have been centered on the concept of a piece of hardware. As a trend is identified, the next step is to analyze the trend. I look for longevity, relatability, and conveyance. If the trends are prominent in the fashion and home channels, then I do a deep dive evaluation and provide a design strategy to our in-house design team. The design team will then host a creative brainstorm design session that results in hundreds of sketches of prototype hardware. With such a diverse group of designers with varying specialties and back- grounds, we get this great mix of designs that are each person's interpretation of a trend. The entire product design process, from the runway to the kitchen cabinet, can vary in time—from a year to three years. And when you factor in the trend spotting happening on social media with its immediate "share and respond" mechanism, we see the creation of trending bursts, which dramatically affect the timing of our design process. Take Hickory Hardware's Pipeline Collection, for example. This industrial trend was witnessed on the runway around 2014. We identified the trend and designed this collection around 2015, but knew that the timing for the kitchen would have been off had we launched it to retail in 2015. Therefore, it was launched in the fall of 2016, and is a classic example of launching product at the appropriate time to maximize the impact to the retail market. Translating trends into product design requires a degree of flexibility on the manufacturing side of any brand. Another example of fast-tracking a trend into design and production happened with "organics" in the fall of 2015. As soon as we saw how quickly it moved to kitchen accessories and lighting, we adjusted our production strategy and schedule to make it immediately available to the consumer. Establishing our designs around current and relevant trends is important to our design process because it also lets us visually tell the story. Consumers want to be connected to the design, and when you can explain where the design originated from, they have a story to tell their friends about this element of their kitchen and/or bath design. As the trend manager, I must be diligent in my research from every angle, whether in fashion, jewelry, accessories, home accents, fabrics, or furniture design. My watchful eye can always be found following the runways, launches, social media, and trade shows so that I can be on top of helping designers and consumers bring the next big trend home. Knikki Grantham Hardware Design Trends RO Knikki Grantham, Trend Manager, Belwith Products RO PROCESSING TRENDS INTO PRODUCT DESIGN

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