I was once nervous about saying hello to Libby Langdon. She, after all , is a bit of a legend and I didn’t want to bother her. It is quite interesting how when you don’t know someone they seem larger than life and untouchable, and often unlike who they truly are. It feels so good to get past one’s own issues, shed the imaginary view, and replace it with something real. (Image above: MaryAnn Luedtke Photography)
Over this past year, between conferences and stories, Libby and I are new friends. Our first date was at last year’s ART + IDS Conference (where we shall soon meet up again). We became a bit more familiar during last summer’s fabulous Designer Experience where Libby delivered a knock-out feel-good keynote. We had a panel together in Vegas, and most recently, Libby, Gary Inman and I put our creative minds to good use at the Bienenstock Library where we waxed on about the creative riches that the furniture and design library has to offer. Now I know enough about Libby to know how warm, funny, hardworking and fearless she truly is.
With that said, Libby is expanding on her role as product designer, and partnering with Fairfield Chair Company on a complete home collection to debut in October. Libby’s comprehensive collection of upholstery and casegoods will also include Fairfield’s first foray into bedroom furniture, an important category for Libby. She says, “When I design a client’s home, I’m usually designing one living room, one kitchen, but three to six bedrooms, so the need is there big time. I’m thrilled that Fairfield is exploring this category with me as part of this initial launch.”
The ideas have been flowing between Libby and Dixon Mitchell, Fairfield Chair’s president. Ensconced at the helm since 2017, Dixon says, "We feel Libby’s the perfect person to collaborate with, especially considering where we are now as a company. Her perspective and style will be a wonderful addition and help us expand our current looks and design aesthetic...She brings a tremendous amount of energy, experience and knowledge to the table, and has a clear understanding of what consumers want.” Slated to include over 40 SKUs, Libby will be flexing her creative product design muscle in a major way. Perhaps now, many of the furniture design ideas she has been collecting in her “Stuff I Can’t Find” folder will finally be realized.
No stranger to the licensing game, Libby has current licenses with KAS for rugs, Crystorama for lighting, and will debut wall decor with Paragon in October. In a recent interview, Libby shared her licensing wisdom.
Q: For a designer who dreams of doing their first product collection, what advice would you give?
A: Do it for the right reasons and create products that are really going to sell. So often designers design crazy collections or design something wacky just because they want to be different and the product simply doesn't sell. Avoid that! If you don’t sell anything at all during your Market debut, you'll most likely be one and done, since no other manufacturers will want to partner with you. The manufacturing process is expensive for the licensee, so product needs to sell and you need to be responsible to the commerce end of the process and not be self-indulgent in your creative process. It's your job to 1. design products that other trade professionals and/or consumers will want, and 2. help market and sell the collection once launched.
Q: What else do you think is key to a successful product launch?
A: Just as important as the collection itself is the marketing strategy to promote it. In an ideal world, you have all your assets at the ready before you begin reaching out to trade publications and national press. You’ll need great photography, both product shots and lifestyle shots, however this can be difficult when samples are coming in at the very last minute before Market and being slotted into the showroom. Another key asset is having a clear understanding of the messaging: the story you will share with the press about what the collection is all about. You'd be surprised but this can help your collection stand out from all the other launches you'll be competing with at Market. Roll up your sleeves and do whatever you can to get the word out. Alert your network on social, post videos of the collection and manufacturing process to your Instagram stories, sit on panels at Market and highlight your product debut, etc.
Another key to a successful product launch is to Invest time with the manufacturer's sales reps who will be out on the front lines all day everyday, interfacing with retailers and buyers. Educate them about the collection, share your inspiration and ideas behind your designs. Give them little soundbites and nuggets to get them excited and energized to promote and sell your product. When they are selling your product and making money, you’re making money!
It’s thrilling to bring products to life and see real consumers happily living with them in their homes. You just have to know what you are signing up for. ~ Libby Langdon