PaperCity Magazine

January 2018- Houston

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 52 of 83

51 "THE QUALITY WILL ALWAYS BE IMPECCABLE, AND THAT'S THE BEST THING A DESIGNER CAN ASK FOR IN A PARTNER." — Alexa Hampton made Visual Comfort unrivaled. Singer, who hates the limelight, puts his team of talented designers out front, giving them free creative rein. "Visual Comfort has never been in competition with our design partners," he says. "I may get the Oscar for best director, but I'll never get it for best actor, or even supporting actor. I work with some incredible talent, and my job is to edit and to make sure their designs are manufactured with a high level of integrity, sophistication, and engineering. They are the ones who have to shine." Visual Comfort's 17 current design partners are among the most influential names in the business, including lighting master E. F. Chapman, who has produced a premier collection for the company since 1996. Singer has also maintained long-term design partnerships with Thomas O'Brien, Alexa Hampton, Barbara Barry, Suzanne Kasler, Aerin Lauder, Kelly Wearstler, Michael S. Smith, Niermann Weeks, Clodagh, Eric Cohler, Ian K. Fowler, John Rosselli, and Houston's own J. Randall Powers. Most recently, he's added Kate Spade New York, Christopher Spitzmiller, and English lighting innovator Peter Bristol to the mix. LIGHT BULB MOMENT Andy Singer was fresh out of high school when his parents moved the family from New York to Houston in 1972. "I agreed to come down for the summer and see what it was like," says Singer, who enrolled in the University of Houston that fall. "My plan was simply to do a semester and go back to New York where my friends were. But I quickly realized this was a cool place and there was a lot happening." To earn extra money, Singer helped a friend who was a rep for a lighting manufacturer. In 1977, he started his own manufacturer's-rep company and started selling out of his parents' garage. The Bayou City was booming with new construction, and new decorative lighting was in demand. "Houston was where all the action was," he says. "I was the number-one sales territory for every line I represented." Fascinated by the manufacturing side of the business, Singer helped many of his lines produce new products. "I thought to myself, 'Well, if I'm helping them create all this product, why don't I just do it for myself?'" In 1987, he launched his own designs for a line of pharmacy-style lamps, which he began manufacturing in Asia, and Ralph Lauren's visual merchandising department took note. "They would put the lamps with a chair that was called the Writers chair, which looked perfect next to it," Singer says. At the time, Ralph Lauren had just launched its home-furnishings business and hadn't yet made a foray into lighting; Singer approached the company about collaborating. They turned him down, but he wasn't deterred. "I kept on my merry way and set out to build the company new account by new account," he says. Each year, Singer revisited the idea with Ralph Lauren. "After about seven years of turning me down, a friend suggested I find another name to align with." Looking for ideas, he flipped through Women's Wear Daily and saw an ad for Bill Blass, the legendary American fashion designer. It was 1994, and the timing seemed right; Blass had just launched a home-furnishings collection. "I knew he would be a great name to team up with," Singer says. "It's traditional, it's classic, it's American." Blass agreed, and the two inked a licensing deal a month later. The association with Blass brought Visual Comfort to High Point Market, where they introduced the new line. There, Singer connected with another legend: lighting designer E. F. Chapman, who had retired a few years earlier. His company, Chapman Manufacturing, continued to produce lighting revered for its skillful craftsmanship and classic design. Chapman came out of retirement and launched a collection with Singer in 1996. "We were off to the races after that," Singer says. Since then, Chapman has created more than 500 different lighting designs for Visual Comfort and remains the company's largest seller. Singer's association with Blass and Chapman turned heads in the industry, and other big-name designers started knocking on the door. "At the time, there wasn't another company out there, period, that was working with multiple Bill Blass and Andy Singer at the Visual Comfort showroom at High Point, 1994 Even a warehouse can have a bit of glamour

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of PaperCity Magazine - January 2018- Houston