Why fabric wholesaler House of Scalamandre is launching a DTC furniture collection
Century-old fabric wholesaler House of Scalamandre is pushing to make its colorful designs more accessible with the launch of its first direct-to-consumer furniture line.
Scalamandre, launched in 1929, made a name for itself in high-end design circles with bold-patterns of wallpaper, fabrics and textiles available only for wholesale and trade purchasing. Its legacy includes outfitting parts of The White House during the Kennedy era, and its signature zebra print wallpaper appeared on the set of “The Royal Tenenbaums.”
But now, a new furniture line aims to bring the same design concepts to the masses. The brand’s new furniture collection features 14 pieces including beds, ottomans, chairs and benches. They are exclusively available from Red from Scalamandre, the brand’s e-commerce presence that was established in 2019 to sell discontinued wares and a line of throw pillows.
Louis Renzo Jr., vice president of business development, said the success of those sales proves there is an appetite for more DTC business; pillow sales are up 50% year over year for 2022. He said the new line aims to reach a new audience of millennial and Gen Z consumers.
“We want to be able to instantly get a customer to go online and purchase something from the Red from Scalamandre brand,” Renzo said.
The move comes as furniture and home decor continues to be a strong area of consumer spending. Despite record inflation and concerns around a recession, U.S. Census Bureau figures for October 2022 showed furniture spending at $12.1 billion, up 1.6% from last year.
Cognizant of the headwinds of an economic environment, Renzo said the overall investment is measured: Scalamandre has partnered with Cloth and Co. to manufacture the products on a made-to-order basis, preventing any up-front inventory costs. Pieces can be delivered within three weeks of ordering.
“We still think this is a great opportunity for us,” he said. “We don’t have to hold inventory, everything is quick-ship, everything is great quality and we’re able to reach a younger, new audience.”
Laurel Vernazza, a design expert with online home platform The Plan Collection, said that Scalamandre’s designs fit the niche for eye-catching pieces that reinvent a space. As rent prices skyrocket and homeowners are staying put amid high interest rates, there’s demand for pieces that have a big impact, she said.
“People are looking to personalize their space, and use every ounce of square footage that they have,” she said.
And while the boom of room renovations during the coronavirus lockdowns has overall slowed, Vernazza said shoppers are still looking for quick and simple ways to update their space. The foldable screens in the Scalamandre collection are a prime example of something that can provide a big impact for a room or office, she said.
“People have personalities, and I think they want that back in their homes,” she said. “They want their pops of color.”
The new collection highlights signature Scalamandre patterns from the mid-century, like its leaping zebras, tropical florals and oversized red roses, plus 10 solid color options.
Pieces include upholstered headboards, cushioned benches, chairs and ottomans. Prices range from $290 for a zebra-print ottoman, to a platform bed at $1,731.
Despite the outreach to a new audience, the launch aims to preserve the exclusivity of the trade and wholesale business. The fabric isn’t Salamander’s own, but rather its designed printed on Cloth and Co.’s supply. Renzo said that trade customers will get a discount on the pieces, and that certain patterns and designs won’t appear on products available on the website.
Renzo also doesn’t anticipate the DTC sales will overtake the core trade business. Though he wouldn’t share overall sales figures or how much DTC sales can make up, he estimates at a high end it could wind up being 10% to 15% of sales over the next decade.
Still, he said he hopes the launch will push the brand into a new era of relevance.
“We definitely are just trying to get our name out there, so it’s more visible to the everyday shopper,” Renzo said.