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’ve travelled all over the world, and the response I always get when I tell people I’m from Canada is ‘Wow,’ says Brentwood Classics president Guy Sisto. This seasoned traveller isn’t just referring to our reputation as nice, respectful, peacekeeping citizens – he’s talking about our credentials as furniture manufacturers. Come again? It seems we’re becoming known as a country that makes fine furniture, produces clever designers and hosts respected design shows. Canadian designer Brian Gluckstein is recognized in Andrew Martin’s Interior Design Review as one of the top 35 designers in the world. The number of international visitors to the IDEX and IDS shows keeps growing, and according to IDS spokesperson Rachel Gotlieb, foreign press attention will be just as strong this year. Two of North America’s bestknown design editors will be walking the aisles starting February 24th. Buyers and distributors outside North America are paying attention, too. Italy has design legends Alessi, Atremide and B&B Italia; France has Philippe Starck and Andrée Putman; there’s the whole Bauhaus thing from Germany; and let’s not forgot the unofficial furniture mecca that is High Point in the U.S. Yet although we’re more likely to make a pilgrimage to a Tim Hortons than a furniture show, we’re making some noise locally and abroad. Some of the loudest noisemakers these days are Canadian designers with their own furniture lines: Alfred Sung, Brian Gluckstein, Linda Reeves (OK, officially it’s called House & Home), the New Designer Guys and Kimberley Seldon, to name a few. Though some are manufactured offshore for the sake of better price points and higher volume, many are made right here in our own backyard. With its focus on function as well as form, furnishings by the New Designer Guys line from Sklar Peppler have storage capacity, dual functionality and are scaled to fit smaller urban spaces… and they’re made in Whitby, Ontario. “Retailers want something beyond the same old beige, commercial-looking furnishings,” says Sklar Peppler VP Lisa Tweedy on her family company’s decision to enter this joint venture. The former fashion consultant also points out that manufacturing in Canada makes good business sense. “Canadian consumers are willing to pay more for goods made here. We can service our dealers right away and offer them immediate marketing support,” she adds. Is it a recipe for success, and does domestic production really matter? Kimberley Seldon knows how much it counts. Approached by several companies wanting her John Hancock on their imported goods, Seldon turned down their offers, which boiled down to the take-a-look-at-some-photos-and-pickwhich-ones-you-like-and-we’ll-stampyour-name-on-them approach. The arrangement with Brentwood Classics, however, embodied everything Seldon was looking for. “I wanted to design the collections, I wanted them to be made here, I wanted them to be affordable and I wanted the whole deal to be super-easy” says the design professional. And how was this happy marriage arranged? Smart PR lady introduces smart designer to smart manufacturer, and one year later the Kimberley Seldon for Brentwood Classics line is born. Known for pushing the envelope, Seldon took it all one step further and labelled her stuff “proudly un-imported.” Wanting to play on that theme and up the ante, she arranged to show a 15minute clip from the Robert Greenwald movie Wal-Mart: The High Cost Of Low Price at the launch party for the line, an event that raised more than a few eyebrows in the fashionista set. The movie and its sentiment are closer to home for Seldon than one might think; her nephew is one of the movie’s co-producers. Admitting that she comes from a very political family, Seldon argues passionately about the need to buy Canadian. Guy Sisto of Brentwood Classics is no less passionate or vocal about the importance of manufacturing his products here in Canada. In fact, the new Brentwood Classics slogan is simple but profound: “Made here” is on every upholstered piece leaving the Vaughan, Ontario plant. “We have a big operation here, but we run it like a family business,” says Sisto, who proudly lists how many of his employees have been with him for the long haul. He’s adamant that Canadian products can stand up in the international furniture arena. “Because something says it’s made in Italy, does that make it better than ours?” he asks. There’s no need to answer that question; just spread the word.
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