FWD with The Mohawk Group: Mohawk in Sante Fe
I consider myself well traveled. I’ve been to China and Japan, nearly every country in Europe, 46 of our 50 states and I’d even been to Albuquerque; but I’d never been to Santa Fe. So when an invitation from the Mohawk Group to attend FWD Future, Workplace, Design in Santa Fe I jumped at the chance.
The invitation wasn’t exactly mysterious, but it didn’t give a lot of detail either. It pretty much just invited me to a 3-day event in Santa Fe to hear talks about future trends and see some of Mohawk Group’s future products…products still in development. Anybody who knows me knows how much I love product development, so I would probably have accepted the invitation for that alone. But then there was the whole thing about never having been to Santa Fe. Finally, I had not just an excuse, but even an invitation to go.
Until Royce Epstein migrated there from Suzanne Tick’s studio, I’d had very little interaction with the Mohawk Group, other than stopping by the showroom at NeoCon for a beer with my friend Steve Vosburgh. But when Ms. Epstein took the position of Director of the Design segment she also undertook my education on the Mohawk Group and it’s products.
There’s a direct flight from Dallas to Santa Fe on a little “Regional Jet.” So while many of the attendees had to fly into Albuquerque and then drive an hour, I had a quick drive from the airport to the hotel, enjoying the piñon pines and blue sky one gets at 7,000 feet above sea level. And then, there I was at the La Fonda Hotel on the plaza in historic and truly beautiful Santa Fe with all its pueblo inspired architecture, art galleries and fancy cowboy boot shops. I arrived before noon with no scheduled event until an evening networking cocktail hour and dinner with speakers, so I set out on foot to see what I could see. It was a gorgeous day and I wasn’t disappointed.
The event officially got underway at 6pm on a lovely terrace with a large and lively mariachi band providing the serenade. It was our first opportunity to see who else had been invited to make the trip. In all there were about 80 of us, only a few of whom I’d met before. One of the best things about the event was that only a couple of days later I found I had a whole bunch of new friends with a wonderful shared experience to bind us together. For that as well as many other things that happened, I thank the Mohawk Group.
After an hour or so of socializing on the terrace we were guided (shall I say herded) into the dinning room where Lee Blair, Mohawk Group’s SVP of Global Sales welcomed us. After dinner Royce Epstein gave us a rundown on what to expect over the next couple of days and then introduced Cheryl Durst, EVP and CEO if IIDA for the kickoff presentation.
I’ve attended at least a dozen events where Ms. Durst spoke, but I had no idea she is part neuroscientist and part comedienne. Her presentation on the importance of interpersonal communication and the neuroscience behind why it’s so important to humans was both informative and extremely entertaining. She drew us in by forcing us to participate through the application of the conversational techniques she was describing…it’s impossible to resist responding to someone looking you in the eye and asking you to tell them a “fun fact” about yourself! And the resulting fun facts turned out to be just the ice breakers you’d hope for. She soon had the room both in the palm of her hand and on the floor laughing. We were off to a fantastic start.
Some in our group took advantage of the invitation to join yogini Emily Branden at sunrise on the garden patio for “yoga and yogurt.” The 6:30 am hour also provided the hardy few with a view of the sunrise in the cold morning air you get at 7,000 feet. I hear it was wonderful; cold but exhilarating. On the other hand I joined most of the group for the breakfast at 7:30 that segued into the first presentation on trends.
I was not familiar with the trend forecasting company of Edelkoort Inc and its Trend Union books and publications. But as its website explains, “Since 1980, founder Lidewij Edelkoort has predicted creative trends in fashion, color, textile, lifestyle, architecture. She has been at the forefront of nearly every major trend, while creating an international family. We provide highly creative inspirations for the coming years, to help our costumers recreate their own world. Our trend forecasting books are handmade, tactile, and produced twice a year in limited quantity.”
Philip Fimmano of Trend Union opened the meeting with a presentation entitled “Intutition: Trend Forecasting Methodologies for Creatives.” I must say that throughout the entire event the presentations were a fast-flowing stream of astounding images and Mr. Fimmano kicked things of with a spectacular visual explanation of how Trend Union does its work. It was the appetizer for the gourmet feast for the eyes that followed over the next two days.
One of the “products” of Trend Union is its ongoing “Talking Textiles” initiative that champions textile awareness and creativity. Mr. Fimmano presented the latest Talking Textiles book, “NYTM New York Textile Month, Issue 1, Talking Textiles” (available here) and in the process demonstrated how the results of the groups’ intuition based visual research is arranged in a way that allows those of us who are “users” of the research to gain an intuitive sense of where the trends are headed. The experience was pretty much mind-blowing.
Then before we broke for lunch Royce Epstein presented the “Mohawk Color and Design Vision 2017/18.” Her presentation was a distillation of the Trend Union forecasts into the concrete color forecast of the Mohawk Group. These findings will inform the company’s color direction for the next 2 years and Ms Epstein shares them via a CEU accredited course she offers to A&D groups around the country.
In order to maximize the usefulness of the time we were together, the agenda called for a panel discussion over lunch. Moderated by Kadie Yale, Editor-in-Chief of Interiors + Sources magazine the panel consisted of Martin Lesjak and Anastasia Su of 13&9 Design, Cheryl Durst of IIDA, Joey Shimoda and Susan Chang of Shimoda Design Group and Verda Alexander of Studio O+A. They discussed how they find design inspiration and stay inspired in the day-to-day business of a design practice.
After lunch the Mohawk Group Design and Development people took over, presenting a ballroom full of product mock-ups, samples and displays. After a short presentation on its development process the Mohawk people put all the visitors to work! Each attendee was given a workbook with product research questions and room to rate and comment on every one of the myriad products displayed.
I’ve run and participated in a lot of product design reviews in my career but I’ve never seen one organized or run better. This could have been a case study on how to maximize independent opinions on new products from exactly the constituency you want your products to appeal to. And the designers, especially the designers, in the group worked and worked on the assignment. Next morning after breakfast I wandered into the room and found a few designers at it again on their own time
The product review only ran from lunch until about 3 o’clock when we got to go spruce up for the evening and a trip to the Museum of International Folk Art and the adjoining Museum of Indian Arts and Culture. At the museums we were divided into smaller groups for guided and curated tours of the museum collections. It was an awe inspiring experience to see the archives of material the museums have collected and to hear from the staff how they study the crafts and make them available to selected groups for study. For example, one of the artifacts we saw was a book from a research study that had been done by Design Tex using materials from the collection as inspiration.
A highlight of the museum is a huge exhibit of Alexander Gerard’s personal collection. Apparently he was such an avid collector of arts and crafts that eventually his wife insisted he donate them…he picked the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe for the gift and personally designed and oversaw the exhibition. We probably had an hour to enjoy the collection, but I could easily have spent two days there.
Another round of drinking and networking followed the museum tours and then it was on to dinner with a thanks and welcome from Michel Vermette, President of Mohawk Commercial. Entertainment at dinner was a small band and two flamenco dancers. Apparently the professional flamenco dancers inspired our group so much that after our return to the hotel some of us lit up the dance floor with some pretty fancy footwork; topped off by Ms. Epstein’s joining the band for a little jam.
As I mentioned above, the next morning we returned to the product review display to complete our books of product likes and suggestions and then Ms. Li Eidelkoort, founder of Trend Union presented her company’s trio of tour de force compilations of videos and astounding photography intended to visually support it’s predictions of the future of color, design and fashion.
“New Materialism: 2018 Lifestyle, Interiors and Color.” “Transitions: Fashion and Textiles Summer of 2018.” and “Blurred: Color Summer 2018” offered a compelling vision of what we’ll be seeing over the next two or so years as global cultural shifts exert their influence on trends in fashion, color, textiles and the various disciplines of design.
I’m grateful the Mohawk Group included me. It was sensational.