Good Things Ahead

Like fel­low Cana­di­ans Karim Rashid and Theo Richard­son be­fore him, 26-year-old Jamie Wol­fond has cap­tured Amer­ica’s at­ten­tion. The Toronto-born grad­u­ate of the Rhode Is­land School of De­sign is the founder of Good Thing, which pro­duces his cov­eted home­ware

Designlines - - Contents - BY ERIC MUTRIE

Jamie Wol­fond, founder of a hit

NYC house­wares brand, on why he’s re­turned home

What made you launch your own home­wares com­pany?

Af­ter I grad­u­ated, I orig­i­nally set out to li­cence my work to other man­u­fac­tur­ers. But a com­pany like Herman Miller is just not ac­ces­si­ble if you aren’t an es­tab­lished name. And I grew frus­trated by the opac­ity of deal­ing with in­dus­try play­ers who make you sign a con­tract be­fore find­ing out if your de­sign can be made.

I didn’t want to rely on some­one else’s process for de­ter­min­ing if the things I was com­ing up with might be make­able or mar­ketable. So, I started try­ing to pro­duce my own ob­jects. I fo­cused on in­ex­pen­sive prod­ucts know­ing that the mar­ket I could reach would be larger. Soon I re­al­ized that, if I was sourc­ing fac­to­ries to man­u­fac­ture my de­signs, I could also lever­age those re­la­tion­ships to deal with other young de­sign­ers in a way that was trans­par­ent and col­lab­o­ra­tive.

What sets a Good Thing de­sign apart?

We de­velop prod­ucts that re­spond to the in­her­ent qual­i­ties of their ma­te­ri­als and their man­u­fac­tur­ing process. The Easy Mir­ror, for example, uses one ma­te­rial – mir­rored stain­less steel – for two pur­poses: mir­ror and stand. You press and bend a small por­tion of the sheet to form a stand. It’s a medi­um­spe­cific de­sign – it would be much harder to ex­e­cute as a glass mir­ror. But the way that it plays to the strengths of steel gives the prod­uct a cer­tain amount of po­etry, with­out hav­ing that in­ter­fere with its util­ity.

What have you learned dur­ing your first three years in busi­ness?

One of the most in­ter­est­ing things has been see­ing what over­seas man­u­fac­tur­ing is like. And it’s so dif­fer­ent from the stigma. I be­gan Good Thing with two con­flict­ing goals – I wanted our prod­ucts to be af­ford­able, and I wanted them to be made in the U.S. The grad­ual re­al­iza­tion that I couldn’t achieve both was very hard. It’s not just that Amer­i­can ven­dors are ex­pen­sive, but more that they show a lack of ac­count­abil­ity.

Any­one still man­u­fac­tur­ing in North Amer­ica likely must be work­ing with do­mes­tic fac­to­ries for some rea­son, which gives ven­dors a lot of con­trol. Pow­der-coaters would do a batch of 300 pieces for me, and if the batch didn’t come out right, they’d say they did their job and leave it at that.

There’s com­pe­ti­tion over­seas. The ven­dors do a lot more to make some­thing work. Good Thing started the process of mov­ing our man­u­fac­tur­ing over­seas in 2015 by reach­ing out to fac­to­ries over the in­ter­net. And of course some were good, and some were less good. But we kept work­ing with the ones that met our stan­dards. One fac­tory that we liked – our metal spin­ners, in Shen­zhen – in­tro­duced us to a sales­per­son, Louis. Be­fore we knew it, he quit his job at the fac­tory to drive around China sourc­ing ma­te­ri­als and pro­cesses for us. He’s been the light at the end of the tun­nel in terms of find­ing re­li­able, qual­ity ven­dors.

What made New York the right city in which to start Good Thing?

When I fin­ished school, I didn’t want to move to New York. To me, it was this place where Rhode Is­land School of De­sign grad­u­ates flocked to cre­ate things that are ex­pen­sive and made of brass. New York, none­the­less, had op­por­tu­ni­ties and money and a net­work of sup­port from my fel­low grad­u­ates. I think it was a nec­es­sary step be­cause Good Thing needed all the ex­po­sure it could get in its early days. And there are all kinds of ex­cit­ing projects that come about when you’re in the same city as cre­ative peo­ple you know. For example, we re­cently worked on a project with Harry’s where we as­sem­bled some of our de­sign­ers to reimag­ine their shav­ing brushes in ex­per­i­men­tal ways.

Those sorts of part­ner­ships build our pro­file and made New York a good place to get started, but I re­al­ized I’d ul­ti­mately rather be a part of a sup­port­ive net­work in my home­town. In the end, I found New York over­sat­u­rated and over­priced. In Brook­lyn, we were on top of a con­cert venue, which was on top of a kim­chi fac­tory. Smell and noise were both com­mon. It’s just not a very com­fort­able place to live.

Why start an of­fice in Toronto?

One of the most promis­ing things about Toronto right now is that it feels open and ready to sup­port big­ger play­ers in the de­sign game. Just look at MSDS, which is mak­ing a name for it­self in­ter­na­tion­ally. Toronto is of­ten dis­cussed by Amer­i­cans like a new dis­cov­ery, and peo­ple think it’s a very small city. In terms of de­sign, they’re usu­ally only aware of Um­bra. But see­ing MSDS reg­is­ter on an in­ter­na­tional radar has been in­spir­ing. I think there’s room for the city to be­come a true cen­tre for that sort of thing. Plus, I missed the green space.

What’s next for Good Thing?

We’re work­ing on some even larger fur­ni­ture de­signs to pos­si­bly in­tro­duce in May 2018, but we won’t de­ter­mine any or­der quan­ti­ties un­til we get a sense of how the last set is do­ing. We’re also work­ing on a few smaller things to launch in the mean­time. From a mar­ket­ing stand­point, we’re ea­ger to col­lab­o­rate with es­tab­lished de­sign­ers whose au­di­ence might pay us some love, too.


Wol­fond among a se­lec­tion of his good things, avail­able at Av­er­age Shop, Easy Tiger and Flùr.

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