Design Within Reach (DWR) has announced that its CEO, John Edelman, will be stepping down from his position, effective June 14. He will eventually transition to become the Chairman of the Board of DWR and Herman Miller Consumer. His longtime business partner of 27 years, John McPhee, will stay on as the company’s president.
Edelman’s design-centric career began in the 1990s, when he joined his brother Sam at his shoe company Sam & Libby. He eventually left to assist his design luminary parents, Teddy and Arthur Edelman, with their business. He became president of the brand in 2001 and eventually sold the iconic leather company to Knoll for $67 million in 2007. It was in 2010 that DWR serendipitously came calling.
In just four years, Edelman and McPhee brought the company back from death. “It was on the verge of bankruptcy when we took it on,” Edelman recalled. “By 2014, we doubled the size of the business and halved the number of stores down to 35. The company became incredibly profitable.”
The natural next step to assure DWR’s continued rousing success was to find a partner whose aesthetic would naturally complement DWR’s modernist approach and business acumen would propel the brand to new heights. And that partner was Herman Miller. “With this partnership, we assured the longevity of our brand and formed an indelible link with one of the most prestigious design companies in the world,” Edelman said.
With this powerhouse behind DWR, it could start on the work that it’s become famous for: partnering and promoting some of the most exciting brands in the industry. Even just a small, hand-picked selection of names are quite impressive: Hay, Moooi, J.L. Møllers, Brown Jordan, Luceplan, and Gloster. “I’m so proud of all the amazing designers and manufacturers we’ve worked with,” said Edelman. “DWR played such a large role in making modern design mainstream through the designers we chose to partner with and the more than 10 million catalogs we sent out that contain their stories. We helped break them out of the sheltered world of interior design and into the vast consumer market.”
When asked what’s changed the most in the past nine years, Edelman points to the rise of the Internet and E-commerce. The advent of Pinterest, Instagram, and easy access to designers through websites and email has made it easier for the consumer to become passionate and educated about design. The one thing that Edelman believes hasn’t changed? The enduring excellence of modernist aesthetics. “Modern isn’t a trend. It’s forever,” he noted.
As for his future, Edelman continued: “It’s been an incredible 20 years being a part of this industry, but I’ve been on a plane nearly every other week since 1988. I plan to take a little time off, but I’m not leaving forever. There’s still so much to see and do with design.”