From the CEO: The “new” economy.

All this talk about a new economy and a changing consumer ethos gets one thinking, especially when your livelihood depends upon selling stuff to consumers. So first I had to find out the real meaning of ethos. 

ethos –noun 1. The fundamental character or spirit of a culture; the underlying sentiment that informs the beliefs, customs or practices of a group or society; dominant assumptions of a people or period. 
It appears our “new ethos” is all about value, and perhaps changing our disposable goods habit. Being old enough to remember a time before chain stores and disposable everything, the new ethos seems a bit like the way my parents lived and the manner in which I was raised. As the saying goes, everything old is new again. 
You see, depression-era parents who made it to the middle class and placed value on quality and longevity of products raised me. In fact, we just moved my 86-year-old mother out of her house and in with us (a story for another time), and she still has the same furniture she bought in 1956, and it still looks great. 
Now, as someone who makes a living selling furniture, this can be concerning at first. 

But you see, we sell furniture that is made to last and was designed along this same “ethos.” DWR is based upon the tenets of modernism, not modern and definitely not moderne (don’t even get me started). That means we believe in simple, well-designed objects that enrich your life and last a lifetime, the stuff that was in the house I grew up in, much of which is still in use in my home today. This got me thinking about the real value of these things and I began to research vintage pieces of some of our core products.

The Eames Chair and Ottoman was introduced in 1956 and has become a timeless classic. This video is very fun to watch – and really shows just how timeless this product is. When it was introduced the mini microphone that Arlene Francis uses in the interview was, no doubt, state of the art. It was also a time when a talk show host could say, “Almost always, when there’s a successful man, there’s a very interesting and able woman behind him,” and not get booed off the stage. While Ms. Francis’ words have become dated with time, the Eames Lounge has endured, becoming a timeless classic.

Then, just for fun I looked up a vintage piece on the web to see what that same chair would sell for today. It turns out that it would be worth over 10 times what it cost in 1956. How many consumer products could last 53 years and still be relevant, never mind be worth more? My answer: the true classics, like a 54 T Bird, a 65 Mustang, an Eames chair or a Womb Chair. 

This Saturday Evening Post cover from the ’50s (thank you, Mr. Rockwell) is just one example of how iconic and timeless these great things are.  

Along those lines, here is a cover we ran in 2004 (no, that is not my mother). 
At DWR, we really believe that the direction the world seems to be headed in is a good one. Owning things that are not disposable, having a real appreciation for quality and functionality, and maintaining a respect for value – as we all gain a greater understanding of how our planet works, these ideals come to be even more critical. 
Here at DWR we are working every day to do our part. Our product offering is reviewed constantly to see if it is truly functional, timeless and made at a quality level that will provide several lifetimes of enjoyment. In addition, we are looking for better ways to manufacture, sourcing materials and processes that do not harm the environment, and choosing resources closer to home to reduce the amount of fossil fuel used to move a sofa from factory to you. 
Today almost 90% of our upholstery products are made in America. We will continue to move manufacturing to North America over the next few years, and believe that we may be able to have over 90% of everything we offer resourced here. We hope all of you are doing the same in your everyday lives. Shopping closer to home, reusing bags, riding a bike instead of driving everywhere and buying things you need that will offer you years of enjoyment, not disposable products that will wind up in the dump. We have all had too much of that. 
Please be sure to let us know what you think and share any ideas you have on how we can all live more responsibly. 
Posted by Ray Brunner CEO, Design Within Reach