Working the Trade Shows

How do you hook up with manufacturers? I go to the Milan fair. It’s a very tense experience, because I have to go from meeting to meeting.

I see Jeffrey Bernett more in Milan than in New York, because he does the same thing. Now I’m doing it, because he taught me how. You go to Milan and walk into booths. You’re basically naked—you’re taking this really personal stuff to someone who doesn’t have much time. They want to move to the next designer. But there’s always a chance. That chance—and the kindness of people—keeps you going.

I went to the Cologne fair first. It’s huge, and I felt out of my element. But I’d introduced myself to Italian clients through a fax that said, “I’ll drop by your booth and just keep coming back until it’s convenient, and then we’ll sit down.” No specific times were set up. So I got there with my portfolio and walked around the first day and just looked at everything. I looked at the people who I’d sent faxes to and picked the one who upholstered their stuff the worst. I thought: okay, this is the one I’ll call on first. They were quite happy to tell me why things were not going to work out for me.

But then I thought, “Before I leave today, I’m going to head down to Frighetto.” Now the furniture fair in Cologne is in January, but the big push to debut Italian furniture is Milan in April. There’s very quick turnaround time. I went down to the Frighetto booth and the guy there was like, “I don’t quite have time right now.” Then I came back and he made time for me. We flipped the portfolio, and he fell in love with one prototype to the extent that he sort of invested his whole company into getting that piece prototyped and ready and photographed for Milan in April. It was just one of those things, it sort of fell into place.

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