At its core, the strategy employed by Consort for its debut furniture line is simple: Create what your audience wants. But instead of relying on guesswork and a hope of shared sensibility to achieve that, founders Mat Sanders and Brandon Quattrone made smart use of resources old and new, employing social media insights, cutting-edge technology, and traditional craftsmanship for a Paris-inspired line that feels anything but clichéd.
The collection finds its beginnings in something that’s been core to Consort—and likely key to its success—since the brand’s founding: a strong digital presence through content and social media. This focus hearkens back to when Sanders, onetime creative director at MyDomaine, and Quattrone, who led the West Coast expansion of SoulCycle, first joined forces. “We have a dedicated content manager,” says Sanders. “We’ve always had that role. Even when it was just Brandon and me working out of our guest bedroom at the beginning.”
Quattrone interjects, with a laugh, “We could’ve hired a design assistant, but . . . “
“But we thought, We’re going to be so busy, and we need to share, share, share everything we do,” Sanders continues. “That was key in helping us grow the business very quickly.” It’s also been key to their debut furniture line.
By treating social media and blog content as business tools, Sanders and Quattrone were able to tap into the psyche of the Consort consumer. “Every week, we have a content analytics meeting, where we take an hour to go over what worked on Instagram, what didn’t, why things performed better than others, where we are towards meeting our traffic goals,” Sanders says. “We really dig in and analyze what works and what doesn’t. In that process, we really learned what our client likes and doesn’t like.”
And what does she like? “A white room with pops of color,” says Sanders without missing a beat. “And we know that our customer likes Paris. We went on a trip to Paris, and all the content we posted, people just went crazy for it. As a digital editor, I know that anytime you have content about Paris, it’s a top performer. So we thought, Why not just give them the chicest version of what they want and what we love? We love the Paris flea market, so that served as the inspiration for the collection. We mixed that eclectic, European vintage vibe with our California-cool aesthetic.”
The resulting 44-piece collection blends modern shapes with luxe textures in a contemporary (and, dare we say, comfortable?) nod to French modernism. “We love the rudimentary feel of wooden pieces by Perriand and the black steel wireframe details on Serge Mouille lighting,” Sanders explains. “Those aesthetics influenced the furniture design.”
The entire line is handmade in the U.S., with upholstery done in Los Angeles, glass in Brooklyn, cast goods in Chicago, and wood in Vermont and Pennsylvania.
In all, the collection totals five woods, 50 upholstery options, five leathers, as well as plastic, resin, glass, and lacquer. Why so many? “It was really important that customization remain at the forefront of the brand identity,” explains Sanders. “We really feel like we’re entering an age where everyone wants to customize everything. Technology makes it so easy for you to give that experience to the customer.” Quattrone adds: “For us, customization is the truest luxury you can have.”
Another high-tech tool the designers employed: 3D visualization. All of the line’s near-infinite possible combinations can be viewed in 360 degrees on the site. “It really gives the feel that you’re designing the furniture yourself,” says Sanders. “It’s like playing a design video game!”
The technology even impacted the designers’ own process. “What was interesting is that we would draw the furniture in AutoCAD, send it to the fabricator to prototype. And on a parallel path, we started the 3D visualization. So even before it came off the line it was being rendered. And in some cases we would get the 3D rendering before the prototype, and we’d decide to make a change to the prototype as it was still being made,” Sanders recalls. On the flip side, they’d occasionally see a detail in the prototype that didn’t quite match the 3D rendering, and they’d change the rendering accordingly.
“We’ve seen 3D visualization a lot outside the decor world,” says Saunders. “Luggage companies use it, and we thought, People have such a hard time buying furniture online because you don’t get to see exactly what it’s going to look like. So this is a great way for them to get a strong understanding of what they’re going to get.”
This fall, they’ll launch a view-in-room application to enable customers to see products in their own home using their phone camera.
“We’re seeing the IKEAs of the world and the Decorists do things like this, and we want to deliver a similar product to the affordable luxury, high-end, mainstream market,” explains Quattrone.
“We’ve identified a customer who appreciates quality and craftsmanship and is willing to spend but maybe needs a little hand-holding,” Sanders says. “And with these tools, we can do that.”
So what does the future hold for the duo now that they’ve covered interiors, retail, and furniture design? As Quattrone and Sanders see it, the sweet spot is at the intersection of all three. “Everything feeds each other in a really great way,” explains Quattrone. “The store leads to design clients, the design clients lead to more furniture sales. We’re always cross-promoting across our social media channels as well.”
At a time when many designers are wary about the difficulties of proving their worth in a DIY climate, Sanders and Quattrone see value in continuing to develop new revenue streams. “Interior design service is a very challenging business,” Quattrone admits. “It’s the root of everything we do as a brand, but it’s the hardest thing.”
It was that difficulty, in fact, that led them to where they are now, as they prepare to show the Consort collection at ICFF this weekend after a successful preview at High Point. “I’ll never forget a few years ago we were at an LCDQ event at Thomas Lavin having cocktails,” Quattrone recalls. “We were at a moment where we felt exhausted by all our client projects, and jus really wiped out, and we overheard these two designers chatting next to us and one of them said [puts on an old-timey showman voice] , ‘And I told you, if you want to make any money in this business, you gotta go into product!’ Our ears sort of perked up—and now here we are.”
Adds Sanders: “It was divine intervention!”
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