We’ve all heard the term ‘Fast Fashion’ and over the last few decades, this has also become a similar term in the Furniture Industry. It has allowed consumers to afford to change their look in furniture and home design while keeping up with the trends. Ultimately, you are buying a much cheaper quality product that is full of more toxins that ends up in a landfill sooner than it ought to.
To Invest, or not to….that is the question
Quality made furniture is meant to last and even to be passed down among generations. Then, over the last 15 years retailers realized that they could maintain a better volume of sales as people fell into the trap of consumerism, a ‘keeping up with the Jones’ mentality. As many first-time home buyers realized they could afford the look for less, they fell into being able to buy more pieces to achieve a look than the more traditional ways of buying quality furniture and adding to the look over time. Manufacturer’s were mass producing cheap look-a-like products, that were full of cheap foam, glue, pressboard and fabric; all of which held an exceptionally higher toxicity rate, but also was never meant to hold up and eliminated the good old hand-me-down approach.
While some of this is understood, consumers having children may not be ready to invest in what they really want while they have young children and pets who we know can really do a number on the wearing of furniture. There was a disposable attitude being adopted of ‘I may not want it forever, and if I change things in 2 or 3 years than I haven’t wasted a lot of money’. There are grad students who have years of student debt to pay back, the increased cost of buying a home, and general cost of living contributing to this attitude, especially here in B.C.
This went on for a quite a few years and allowed many new manufacturers to be popping up and offer a cheap product to mix in with the competition. And then, there was Wayfair!! (Which I have adopted as my ‘swear word’ in the industry.) These big box type online sellers and cheap manufacturers were destroying the name of the industry. What this did was inevitable, we slowly started seeing furniture companies who had been around a long time, as well as upholsterers going out of business. It was really a disaster for the Furniture Industry.
Along with that were many ‘do-it-yourself’ articles and shows on tv that poorly represented the Design Industry. Not all, but many shows would leave an unrealistic approach as to the time it takes, as well as budget behind a good design. People didn’t want to wait for quality things, they wanted instant. Being in the high-end retail furniture scene myself for nearly 2 decades, I would try to have people understand some of these things and there was a good many years, they just didn’t care. In fact, I left the industry for a few years because it just seemed to be a movement, one I just couldn’t work in any more.
The misunderstanding of what bonded leather really is
People who often were employed were never properly trained in furniture, and were sought after more for sales ability. They would be misinformed about what they were selling, some would outright lie to make commission, and that also gave the Industry a bad reputation leaving customers mistrusting. Customers were told they were buying a genuine leather sofa for example and walk down furniture row from store to store still wondering why the prices in leather for similar looking pieces were so far apart. It was true, a piece of ‘bonded’ leather (a cheap vinyl that is glued to a cheap and thin pieces of suede) could be sold as leather!! I spent countless times trying to educate clients and show them differences between bonded leather also known as split-hides and how manufacturers were being let away with completely misleading their customers. Some of these materials didn’t even have any leather in their make-up, these were often mistaken as bonded leather as well. It would be only to hear back that a year or two later, their entire piece of furniture was ‘peeling’ apart.
A sigh of relief!
Consumers want to reduce their footprint in the world
It seems that just in the last few years especially, people are paying more attention to ‘consumerism’ as a whole and realizing the impacts of it. People are hungry for the education knowing that what they buy or consume is more sustainable. Fast Fashion and fabric have been a big problem for ending up in landfills. Also, people are more aware of harmful chemicals that can be a silent intruder in homes. And they want to ensure they are doing what they can to reduce their carbon footprints.
The trend in furniture finally appears to be returning to the mindset of investing in key quality pieces once again, and this is refreshing for the Industry as a whole. Furniture sellers are back to having to be more knowledgeable and accountable in their sharing the construction and quality of luxury furniture as consumers do their homework and won’t buy if they don’t trust who they are buying from. And this, is another great way to keep our landfills free of added and unnecessary waste.
At Oriental Casa, a place where ‘East Meets West’ our Design Team on South Granville Street are happy to work with you to ensure you know that what you are purchasing is classic, timeless and well-built furniture.