The first big break for Sandy Chilewich came in the 1970s out of a washing machine in her New York City apartment.
“The Cliffs Notes version is I was kind of a stumbling twentysomething,” Chilewich tells Fast Company Design in an article just published under the headline “A $35 Million Design Empire Built On the Humble Place Mat.”
The article arrives just as Chilewich and DWR are about to embark on a new joint venture in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, D.C. Our new Studio there, set to open soon, will feature a dedicated Chilewich shop, a sort of store within a store. And it will sell Chilewich goods cash-and-carry, a first for DWR. The new venture adds to a long relationship between Chilewich and DWR that has only grown stronger over time.
It is a long way from Chilewich’s beginnings, when she and friend Kathy Moskal were buying white Mary Jane’s in Chinatown and dyeing them in all kinds of colors in Chilewich’s home washing machine. That led to doing more or less the same thing with sheer nylon stockings and the founding of Hue, a legwear company she eventually sold.
In search of a new thing, as has always been her way, Chilewich became inspired by vinyl and the idea of making place mats from it. Today, according to Fast Company, Chilewich makes 40,000 vinyl place mats a week. And that’s on top of a steady stream of fresh products that have sprung from the mind of Chilewich, including a large assortment of vinyl rugs in an array of colors and textures.
“I don’t rest from trying to be innovative and original with new products,” Chilewich tells Fast Company. “I crave product.”