Commerce and design are two sides of the same coin for the CEO and Founder of JANUS et Cie. Rachel Lee-Leong finds out more.
8 January, 2014
Janice Feldman is as astute a businesswoman as she is sensitive a designer. It is a lethal combination to have in the furniture industry and it’s been working well for her for over three decades since she started her company. She reads the times and seasons of the design industry as only a veteran can, and responds with vigour and innovation in equal parts. One of the company’s most recent endeavours is its focus on the Asian market. If anything, the company’s nascent office and studio (led by Feldman herself) in Singapore is proof that she means business.
Did the company start out in both residential and commercial markets?
I was always interested in a lot of things. I wanted to study industrial design and I was also a painter. So the painter side was the right brain, the emotional ethereal side. And the industrial side was creative, but had to learn how to make something functionally so that it could be repeated and sold commercially. So I would say that translated into this commercial versus residential side of the business.
Hotels make up a big part of your portfolio today as well…
Yes, there was one time in the company when we were really focusing on office furniture, but then also we started with hotels and hotels have changed tremendously over the last 25 years. They became thematic. There are cultural drivers to hotels today that didn’t exist years ago.
There are travel hotels for business, and then there are luxury personal experiences. Let’s say you go to Bali or Vietnam and they really try to help you experience where you are. That didn’t exist 25 years ago. Our design clients liked the fact that we had the culture and the intelligence in the company to develop products for these places.
How does design specifically influence how one would run a business?
Let’s say you have an idea for software, for some mobile app. In order to capture people, to get them to the website, you have to do something that’s graphically designed, stunning and different from a competitor. So the driver there is completely about design. It has nothing to do with business. As opposed to days gone by, businesses were always brick and mortar. Before, you’d have a shopping centre, and you’d have masses of people there, and eventually they’d stumble upon you – law of averages, statistics.
Does this influence the way you run your business?
I’d say, not yet. But I know it’s going to influence coming generations. Today, our clients are probably not using a mobile app to make a decision. They want the experience of touching something, experiencing something, seeing something. So the luxury of going into a store is still very important to them. And buying furniture is a considered decision. Most things that get sold on a mobile app are smaller financial decisions, though it’s changing. So I don’t run the company, today, that way at all, but I’m learning, hard and fast, because we always have to look to the future.
Why come to Asia, specifically Singapore?
We started getting inquiries and orders from customers in Asia we didn’t have relationships with previously, which is very unusual. We’ve built the company over many years on relationships and trust, and repeated service and good values, and when we start seeing business coming when you don’t try then I start thinking, what if we really tried?
Design wise, are there different needs in the different markets?
One of the things that we’ve learnt already is scale. And we’re working on collections right now that are smaller. In Asia, people are smaller, spaces are smaller. The other thing that’s happening to me here personally, is colour. I would never wear something like that. If you look in my wardrobe, everything’s black. Now, I see orange, I see green, I see colour coming in everywhere.
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