Hemingway at Home: Steve Noble, left, McKinley Leather; Rick Grant, Charleston Forge & MacKenzie Dow; Joey and Lori Sadowski, McKinley Leather; and Dan Minor, Charleston Forge & MacKenzie Dow.

Licensed to sell: Manufacturers weigh in on several recently launched collections

HIGH POINT — Numerous furniture manufacturers launched new licensed collections during the most recent High Point Market, and many said the move is part of an effort to provide built-in stories and brand recognition at retail.

The variety of products represented within these collections included both case goods and upholstery, and the “famous faces” ranged from music and literary legends to social media stars and design influencers.

Trisha Yearwood and Legacy Classic|Modern

The first full collection between country music icon Trisha Yearwood and Legacy Classic|Modern debuted this April, marking Yearwood’s 10th furniture collection and Legacy’s 25th year in business.

Named after one of her signature hits, Yearwood’s XXXs & OOOs collection nods to a modern farmhouse aesthetic, an ongoing style favorite with consumers. During an exclusive interview with Furniture Today, Yearwood herself pointed out some of the design details that reference the song.

“There are so many reasons this is special,” Yearwood said. “Everyone knows that XXXs and OOOs is kind of my theme song, and there are Easter eggs in the collection that speak to the XXXs in XXXs and OOOs.

“This collection fits in with what we’ve done in the past, but it’s bold, different, new, and it has a lot of cool new finishes and features.”

“Trisha projects approachability,” said Chris Pelcher, Legacy president. “She’s obviously a celebrity, but at the same time she feels like she could be your next-door neighbor and a good friend. In person, she’s a kind and incredible human being, so there is no disconnect between the person and the celebrity, and I think that comes through in her furniture line as well. The furniture is extremely approachable and authentic.”

Yearwood noted that she grew up in a house that was “really comfortable” and “might not be spotless” but felt like home. Her goal with the new collection was to create the same feeling and create a collection that would make people think, “I want to hang out here,” she said.

Retailers responded well to the concept, according to Pelcher.

“The retailer’s response on the new Trisha Yearwood XXX’s & OOO’s collection was overall very enthusiastic and orders written on the spot, and this was true from retailers across the country,” he said. “With the refined, modern farmhouse design and mixture of finish combinations, the group really does resonate well with the majority of our customers from all over the country.

“Trisha Yearwood has been in the furniture/home goods space for more than 10 years and is well liked and followed among our retail partners and the end target consumer,” he concluded. “The furniture itself is designed to feel authentic and comfortable, which lines up with Trisha’s personality and appeal.”

Hemingway at Home: Steve Noble, left, McKinley Leather; Rick Grant, Charleston Forge & MacKenzie Dow; Joey and Lori Sadowski, McKinley Leather; and Dan Minor, Charleston Forge & MacKenzie Dow.

Ernest Hemingway and Charleston Forge, McKinley Leather, Mackenzie Dow

Ernest Hemingway was arguably one of the most iconic literary lifestyle figures of all time, and three companies— Charleston Forge, McKinley Leather and Mackenzie Dow — reintroduced a furniture line under Hemingway’s name during the spring market, consequently giving new life to a previous furniture industry license.

The new Ernest Hemingway at Home collection includes upholstery and case pieces inspired by key residence locales of the famed author and launches with a Key West aesthetic.

“Ernest Hemingway had four loves — Ketchum, Idaho, Cuba, Key West, and Kenya — and we started to envision what that might look like for this launch,” said Dan Minor, president of Charleston Forge. “We took elements from his homes and life and incorporated them into the product designs.”

“We have a strong affinity to his classic literary works that almost anyone can relate to, that have endured the test of time,” said Lori Sadowski, chief operating officer of McKinley Leather. “Our furniture is also relatable and easy to live with, not trendy or locked into any single generation or venue, and we build furniture with universal appeal.”

The next iteration of the furniture line is certain to prompt some comparisons, but Minor said the Hemingway name comes with built-in consumer recognition, a bonus for retailers looking for something new to add to the floor.

He added that the Hemingway name is also often accompanied by a level of intrigue among consumers.

“The Hemingway name has been in the furniture industry for more than 20 years, and the retailers who had dealt with that product were excited to see it return,” Minor said. “The retailers liked the story behind the design and felt they could use the inspiration for the pieces in their sales pitch.

“The hardest part about being a retailer is getting the customer to stop and engage. Our hope is that the Hemingway name will create curiosity with the end consumer.”

Sandowski agreed with Minor’s assertion about positive retailer reaction.

“Our Hemingway for the Home Collection was very well-received by High Point Market attendees,” she said. “Retail stores that viewed it in the showroom placed orders, while design firms made notes for upcoming projects. They all responded to the story behind each group and to the cohesiveness of McKinley and Charleston Forge paired together in the showroom.

“One of my favorite comments from a dealer in New England,” Sandowski continued. “As he walked in our showroom door, he said ‘I do not need any furniture or inventory for my store, but I’d like to look at your new Hemingway introduction. I always need a story to advertise.’ He placed an order for two groups and was extremely exciting about the collection and glad for the room setting photography we have to offer and our brochure detailing our stories.”

Retailer response to the Becki Owens Home line has been great, say Kuka officials.
Retailer response to the Becki Owens Home line has been great, say Kuka officials.

Becki Owens and Kuka Home

Kuka Home introduced the company’s first customer-facing brand in North America at market, partnering with Southern California-based interior designer and lifestyle influencer Becki Owens on a collection of more than 20 customizable pieces with a “signature clean and airy design aesthetic.”

A lifestyle design personality with a social media audience of 2.2 million Instagram followers and 10 million monthly Pinterest viewers, Owens brings a substantial potential customer base to the collection with Kuka Home in a group featuring upholstered furniture, dining and bedroom furniture, accents and mattresses.

Kuka Home also has developed a turn-key shop-in-shop experience to support the line with tiered gallery packages and sales, merchandising, and marketing tools.

“Over time, consumer design inspiration has shifted from traditional media channels, such as magazines and TV, to social media, which now plays a pivotal role in purchasing decisions,” said Matt Harrison, president of Kuka Home. “As an exciting debut for Kuka Home, our new consumer-facing brand aims to harness the impressive social influence of Becki Owens and connect with consumers in the places where they shop and engage.”

Noting that her aesthetic is defined by “clean lines, modern and a kind of coastal” aesthetic, Owens said that her goal with the collection is to appeal to numerous lifestyle consumers.

“We want to create an inviting environment that you want to stay in,” she said. “We hope everyone wants to experience part of it as attainable, affordable luxury.”

“The retailer response to the Becki Owens Home line has been great,” Harrison said. “Retailers are excited to offer her look and brand, as they recognize the value it brings to their stores. Becki helps retailers attract consumers to the store by offering desirable luxury products at an attainable price and leveraging her significant social influence.”

Eddie Deal, left, and  Zack Taylor, both of Wesley Hall, and Bunny Williams, Bunny Williams Home, at the Bunny Williams Home launch party.
Eddie Deal, left, and Zack Taylor, both of Wesley Hall, and Bunny Williams, Bunny Williams Home, at the Bunny Williams Home launch party.

Bunny Williams and Wesley Hall Furniture

Zack Taylor, president of Wesley Hall Furniture, said the first few months of 2024 were strong, and he is optimistic that the trajectory will continue, a prediction underscored by a strong first quarter.

“Orders are strong for Wesley Hall and fortunately, really ramped up at the start of the new year,” Taylor told Furniture Today. “We are seeing activity from retail chains, several reporting stellar January and February (sales), and interior design-based businesses as well.”

Response to the company’s launch of the Bunny Williams Collection for Wesley Hall at High Point Market also supports the expectation for continued growth.

Part of a group of diverse style aesthetics under the Wesley Hall umbrella, the collection underscores the long-term goal of servicing existing customers through quality and classic design while also embracing a “highly visual” next-gen consumer demographic.

“I find many younger consumers care deeply about the product they invite into their world,” Taylor said. “They care about the materials and the sustainability of these investment pieces. Lucky for higher-end, custom upholsterers, the ‘bells and whistles’ matter, too. The pieces these younger consumers collect and curate speak volumes about them and what is important to them.”

Taylor added that the company’s retail and design partners understood exactly what the Bunny Williams collection brings to the consumer and client playing fields.

“One of my favorite aspects of this business is the predominance of owner merchant partners,” he said. “They have their fingers directly on the pulse of their customers and taste. To a person, these owner-operators are passionate about the products they represent, curate even, and the integrity behind them.

“In our case, the marriage of Wesley Hall and the iconic Bunny Williams was not only celebrated but also welcomed as a sensible connection of like-minded talent,” continued Taylor. “Combining the finesse of Bunny Williams with the know-how of Wesley Hall just ‘makes sense’ to our dealers. In turn, they ordered and are eager to share the brand evolution story with their customers. Proudly towards that end, we have had multiple requests to host events celebrating the same.”

The success of the launch complements Wesley Hall’s internal strategy across all brands and underscores the company’s commitment to its buyer base, Taylor said.

“Consistency and transparency matter to our customers,” he concluded. “Combine both with venerable and timely design and you have the perfect recipe for success.”

Adam Dunn, left, Four Hands, and designer Amber Lewis
Adam Dunn, left, Four Hands, and designer Amber Lewis

Amber Lewis and Four Hands

Founder of Amber Interiors, a full-service Los Angeles-based design firm, Amber Lewis has nearly 2 million followers on Instagram and an audience solidly in tune with her mix-and-match, old-and-new design approach.

Also a customer of Four Hands, a whole home furniture manufacturer, Lewis recently launched a licensed collection with the to-the-trade company that took off before officially introduced at market, an unofficial nod to the designer’s appeal with consumers.

“We sold 500 pieces the first day,” said Rick Lovegrove, president of upholstery for Four Hands. “The reaction has been overwhelming in a wonderful way and greatly exceeded our expectations.”

Comprised of 200 SKUs across dining, upholstery, outdoor and décor, the new collection is the first branded collection “ever” for Four Hands, according to Lovegrove. Available to the trade through Four Hands and to consumers through Shoppe Amber Interiors, the collection launched simultaneously on the Four Hands website, Lewis’ website and across social channels for both companies, and the first orders immediately started coming in.

“Amber’s brand is so aspirational, and her design point of view has influenced our industry in very recognizable ways,” said Adam Dunn, vice president of design for Four Hands. “I truly believe end consumers know her and will want to bring a part of her story home. We also did something new for retailers and created a wide set of in-store assets our partners could leverage to help tell the brand story.”

Now that High Point Market has wrapped, the Four Hands team says the initial positive response continues to grow.

“Our retailer customers have had an extremely positive response to the collaboration,” Dunn said.
“When we look at sales since launch, this customer segment played a very important role in its success and drove a good portion of demand.

“At High Point Market, the energy and excitement from our retail partners was incredible. We could definitely see their interest in the designs and have been thrilled how quickly they responded to the product.”

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