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Hearth & Home February 2019

Richard Frinier and the Kolo Collection team.

Frinier Design Leadership Recognized by Casual Industry Leaders

Exclusive online content from the Richard Frinier interview!

We reached out to Richard Frinier's clients and other industry leaders for perspectives on Richard’s work and his contributions to design excellence for casual furnishings. What we heard were comments on a design professional who is as talented as he is humble, and who has affected the careers of many leaders in the casual industry.

David Kennedy.

David Kennedy

Brown Jordan

“Richard and I first met at Century Furniture. I had just been named general manager of Century Leisure, their new outdoor brand, and Richard was our design partner. That was 14 years ago. When I later joined Brown Jordan as vice president of Sales, Richard was again one of our design partners. A few years later, I started DEDON’s U.S. operation where our paths crossed yet again. It’s amazing to think how our paths have remained inextricably linked over the years.  

“Richard epitomizes what a designer should be – someone who understands what the market needs even before the need is articulated. I read a quote the other day attributed to Henry Ford that effectively said, if he had listened to what people wanted, he would have built a faster horse rather than the automobile. Richard has that unique ability to think past where the market is today and deliver the next generation of design.

“Many of the collections that Richard has designed for Brown Jordan have been ground-breaking, from Quantum to Venetian, and Florentine to Wave. Many of the company’s design milestones were Richard’s. He effectively participated in creating the resin weave category almost 30 years ago when he discovered a new material called Hularo at a fair in Germany. How many designers create entire categories of furniture? Richard is always looking for new materials that can improve the outdoor living experience.

“It’s not hyperbole when I say that Richard has taught me more about our industry than anyone else. Whether at Century, Brown Jordan, DEDON, or DWR, without Richard’s influence, there is no way I would have enjoyed the successes I have today.”  

L to R: Richard Frinier and Stephen Elton.

Stephen Elton

Chief Brand Curator
Brown Jordan

“When I began my career in sales with Brown Jordan in 1989, Richard became a mentor to me. There were so many things that he shared with me – how the design process works, the importance of innovation, the role of textiles, and how to work with writers and editors, which is a role that I would fulfill later in my career. I cannot imagine my career without Richard’s influence; he also became one of my best friends.

“Richard is probably one of the most well-known designers of outdoor furniture in the world, yet he is also one of the most humble people I have come across during my career. He never takes himself too seriously, yet he has done things with outdoor furniture design that no one else would have even considered attempting. Richard thinks of each of his designs as his children, and he really pours himself into how he wants his children to grow up.

“The most important overall contribution that Richard has made for Brown Jordan is how he has built upon the legacy of innovation from our founder, Mr. Brown. Richard has taken innovation and design to new levels at our company, from the design of our products, through how we present our offerings to the marketplace, through advertising and promotional materials.

“Richard’s contribution to the casual industry has also extended far beyond Brown Jordan with all of the other brands that he represents. With each of his clients, he creates designs that reflect each individual brand, and none of his designs are similar. He understands the DNA of each of the brands he represents and elevates every brand he touches.

“In all of his work, Richard is constantly thinking of what’s next and what hasn’t been done yet.”

L to R: Suzie Roberts and Richard Frinier.

Suzie Roberts

Vice President, Sales and Design
Glen Raven Custom Fabrics (Sunbrella)

“I met Richard while he was with Brown Jordan many years ago, and since then we’ve worked together on many fabric collections. He is a true visionary and knows exactly what he wants to convey with each new collection. I think one of Richard’s biggest achievements is continually mentoring everyone he works with, and how he and Catherine help to bring young designers into our industry.

“Richard has a unique way of capturing things he’s seen in his travels or in everyday life – elements that have captured his attention, whatever it may be – and turning those inspirations into fabrics or pieces of furniture. Richard’s designs have led the way for very high end, very elegant designs that are timeless.

“He continually looks outside of our industry, keeping up to date on global trends and how to translate those trends into his vision for the casual marketplace. Richard has been one of the most influential designers in the outdoor market, but he is also one of the most approachable, humble, and gracious designers that I have had the pleasure of working with.”

David Swers.

David Swers

President and COO
Glen Raven Custom Fabrics (Sunbrella)

“I first met Richard when I was calling on Brown Jordan in a sales role during the early ’90s. He always had a vision for what he wanted from us in the design of Sunbrella fabrics.

“The day that I heard Richard was creating his own firm, I called him and we worked out an arrangement for him to work exclusively for Glen Raven in designing fabrics; it’s been a great success. Richard’s vast knowledge, holistic way of looking at design, and his vision have resulted in incredible fabrics that push us outside of our fabrics comfort zone. For Richard, it’s not just the fabric or the furniture, but the combined entity in the right environment.

“Richard continues to transform the industry by innovating in his designs and by making the industry more relevant to consumers. He is an influencer with the A&D (architecture and design) community, manufacturers, and retailers, and his designs bring attention and sales to the industry.

“Finally, Richard is the ultimate professional, highly trusted and a great designer with a vision. Those qualities are ones I aspire to and try to emulate. He helped me see what the casual industry could be by always innovating and by offering opportunities for our customers to have performance products that are also beautiful.”

Comer Wear

Vice President, Marketing
Rock House Farm Family of Brands (Century)

We worked with Richard through our relationship with Oscar de la Renta and also developed a Richard Frinier Century Collection; so began Century Outdoor. Prior to our association with Richard, we did not have an outdoor mindset. Richard really ushered Century into the outdoor world, not only by his designs and collections but also as a mentor.

“Richard has spent his career not just designing, but being a student of our industry. He watches, listens, and studies in a methodical and intentional way. As an artist, Richard truly understands the craft, techniques, and materials. All of these things have made Richard the incredible success that he is. Above all, he is passionate and a wonderful person.

“The body of Richard's work among all the brands he has designed for is extensive and reflects a range of inspiration, creativity, price points, and customers. He has pushed us all to create beyond the boundaries of what outdoor has been, and approach that area of the home with the same point of view we would bring to interior spaces.

“My personal relationship with Richard and with his talented wife, Catherine, has taught me a lot about partnerships and collaborations. Anything they are involved in will be better because they care immensely about the entire process, from design to the communication of the designs. They have mentored so many, and everyone they cross paths with benefits.”

Sonja van der Hagen.

Sonja van der Hagen

Chief Creative Officer

“We met Richard Frinier at the end of the 1990s. We had just developed a new material for the furniture industry – our synthetic DEDON fiber. Richard had immediately seen the potential of this new material and started to develop furniture designs for it. We have worked together for more than 20 years, and Richard has designed iconic and very successful collections for DEDON.

“Richard was the first designer to recognize the exceptional range of properties that DEDON fiber offers. Remember, at the time, this was a new material developed by DEDON with a proprietary formula. Today, woven outdoor collections are part of every significant portfolio. When Richard started to design woven furniture, the concept was absolutely new to the market, and he used this weatherproof and durable fiber to create some of DEDON’s most recognized and best-selling collections.

“What has been very important for us is that Richard designs iconic and unique pieces. The start was the “Daydream” Collection, which we launched in 2001, followed by the “Orbit,” which is now an outdoor classic and has changed the way we live outside. Before the launch of “Daydream” and “Orbit,” outdoor lounging was limited to the classical sunbed.

“Richard has designed collections that translate worldwide. DEDON has distribution in more than 80 countries, and Richard has been able to develop collections that work globally. He helps us understand the U.S. and other international markets.

“Richard has introduced new typologies through his unique designs. He is trendsetting and at the same time designs collections that last forever and are both elegant and timeless. Richard’s talent is to analyze the possibilities of a product and to make the most of it.

“Together with his wife Catherine, Richard is also a source of inspiration for our marketing. Producing significant and informative text as well as finding the right names for collections is an important part of a successful product launch. Richard and Catherine are always supporting us with valuable content and inspiration.”

Michelle Larrabee-Martin.

Michelle Larrabee-Martin

Kolo Collection, Atlanta, Georgia

“We first met Richard in New York at a DEDON event about 10 years ago to launch two collections that he had designed. Greg (husband and partner) and I were so excited to finally meet him because we knew of his amazing designs for Brown Jordan, Century Furniture, and DEDON. I remember shaking his hand and thinking that, after 20 years of working in the design industry, I had just met one of the most talented designers. I felt like a kid at Christmas.

“The morning after the “launch party” Greg and I went for a walk on the Highline in New York and Richard and (wife) Catherine happened to be walking at the same time, so we walked together. I remember thinking that they were two of the most down to earth, honest, and caring people that I had ever had the pleasure of meeting. They asked about our company and actually listened and promised to visit, which they did. I’m smiling just remembering this story.

“Richard and Catherine convinced Greg and me to stay “outside the box” and not become a standard “patio” store. There are plenty of patio stores that do a terrific job, but that wasn't our vision and sometimes it was hard not to lose sight of what our vision was when we opened in 2003. Richard and Catherine always complimented us and pushed us to be better and work harder and lead with our hearts.

“Richard and Catherine make us feel special, and I’m sure they make everyone feel the same way. You never want to disappoint them, so you work harder. To have Richard walk into one of our showrooms and smile and look over at me and tell me how impressed he is – that’s a win for me. Richard is a role model and a fantastic person, and I want to be just like him when I grow up.”

Jackie Hirschhaut.

Jackie Hirschhaut

Executive Director
International Casual Furnishings Association

“I became aware of Richard’s work about 15 years ago when I took on the responsibility of promoting the casual furniture industry to the consumer news media. Outstanding product design is what magazine and newspaper editors are hungriest for, and so it was easy to talk about Richard’s work.

“At the very core of his existence, Richard is an extremely humble individual, which I think positions him soundly as an extraordinary business partner. As an outside consultant, he is known as a team player. He has a tremendous eye for good design, coupled with a sophisticated taste level that breeds high-style, luxury furnishings.

“Richard has a gift for creating in both the contemporary and traditional arenas, as well as in between. His worldly travels have generated a range of culturally themed collections for Century Furniture, while his love of clean, fresh lines dominates his work at Brown Jordan. In both cases, he has a signature for refined movement in the design of all of his pieces that encourages relaxation amidst an elegant aura.

“Richard and his wife Catherine are some of the most generous people I know, both with their resources and their experiences. Last year, the couple launched the ICFA / Richard Frinier Design Scholarship as a means to attract rising college level design students to work in the outdoor furnishings category. The first recipient, Chhavi Kashyap, a graduate student at SCAD, was ecstatic about the time she spent with Richard at the Casual Market in Chicago, learning about his career path, and how he pursues his craft in the marketplace.

“At the same time, Richard sits on the ICFA Board of Directors where he is an active member of the Philanthropy Committee. ICFA identified the City of Hope as its philanthropy partner and donated $25,000 over the past two years. As a member of the Committee, Richard has helped to develope new ways of bringing awareness of City of Hope to ICFA members.”

Robert J. Maricich

Chairman and CEO
International Market Centers

“I met Richard around 1989. LADD had purchased Brown Jordan and I was running one of their other companies. I saw the great design work he was doing and was immediately a fan; later he became a friend. When Brown Jordan was sold we had a conversation and agreed that one day we would work together.

“As luck would have it, I joined Century Furniture in 1996 and became CEO in 2000. We started an outdoor business, and who was my first call? – Richard. He designed all of the collections during my tenure at Century, and we built a compelling designer-focused business. Richard was the early design DNA for Century Outdoor.

“As an aside, we also built a business with Oscar de la Renta, and when we added to the collection with outdoor, Oscar wanted to design outdoor furniture like what he had in his spectacular home in Punta Cana (Dominican Republic.) Richard worked closely with Century and Oscar to develop and ensure the success of Oscar’s first outdoor collection.

“Richard totally immerses himself in a theme, many times around a destination or a way of living. He develops a “story,” a provenance for his ultimate design. It’s why his work is original and creative – he is not looking at what others are doing. The form, function, and material choices flow naturally into the story that he’s created.

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