NOW Magazine - Toronto Living - - Front Page - By Meaghan Clark

’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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