Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Edelman Leather & my 100th Post

This is my 100th post and I wanted to do something special to commemorate this event. When I started blogging, I had no idea where it would lead me. I have met such wonderful people through the experience of blogging and learnt so much in the process. I tried to find a cake with a 100 candles, but instead found this gorgeous yellow cake (continuing on my Yellow kick) with maybe 100 daisies thanks to Sarah Dennis from Toast and Tables. The following is an special interview I had with John Edelman of Edelman Leather fame. I learnt that they pay homage to a few great design Icons of the past in their continuing tradition of excellence.

Edelman Leather
Interview with John Edelman, President

I understand that Edelman was established in New York in the 50’s, and is still a family run business and that you started out supplying the Fashion Industry. Could you tell us a little about the legacy of your family business?
My parents Teddy and Arthur Edelman joined my grandfather’s business in the early 50’s which was called Flemming Joffe (Joffe is my grandfather’s name). At that time they were tanners of reptiles, primarily for the shoe industry.

I heard that Andy Warhol did drawings for your company in the 50’s before his rise to fame. Could you share some of how this came about?
After a few years of joining the company, my grandfather retired and my parents needed a graphic designer. They put an ad in the New York Times and this nice little guy showed up with white hair. He didn’t talk too much and they liked his work. He was a working graphic artist and was unknown then. He came to work for my parents and that’s why many of his early pieces look like shoes with reptiles. He subsequently went on to become very famous, but this was before he did anything that he is now know for. My parents have a very large collection of Warhol paintings. We still use some of the early pieces he did for us. "This is a Chair" is one of our favourites and has been the theme for our Company since it was created in 1952 or '53.

You are known for your exquisite leather products. What are some of your more exotic products?
We work primarily with cow hides which are hand worked and embossed in different patterns and textures. We refer to them as unendangered species and we have over 40 different patterns. A few are: crocodile, ostrich, shagreen, and wild boar. The only “exotic” skin we use is Python.

Note by Patricia: Shagreen is a fascinating texture inspired by Jean-Michel Frank. A sharkskin (stingray) grain engraved on vegetable-tanned leather.

Why Python?
It is not endangered and it is big enough is for upholstery. Usually 30 feet long by 2 1/2 feet wide.

You use Swiss cow hides. How do these compare to other hides?
Our cow hides are from Southern Germany and our calf skins are from Switzerland. They are the best in the world. They use no barbed wire, no branding and they even clean the animals off at night to prevent staining.

Your leathers are advertised as being “100% GREENGUARD certified”. Could you tell us what that encompasses?
We want to be as green as possible. Our product is a by product of the meat industry, so we are actually recycling before we get started. We use all water based finishes and solvents to finish the leather. And all the tanning products are recycled to be used again. Greenguard certifies that we do not have any harmful off gasing which in turn qualifies us for LEED certified jobs.

Tell us about this wonderful Crypton finish you are using. I had a demonstration of the cleanabilty of stains on white leather by Matt Buckley, your National Sales Manager, and I was excited that it opens up new ways in which light colored leather products can be used.
Most people try to protect their leathers by adding more paint to the finish so it’s less natural. We worked for over 3 years with Crypton. Now Crypton is the leading company for protecting fabrics against stains. We worked with their technicians to develop a formula that impregnates the hide, to stain resist from inside the hide. So we don’t need to add any extra finish, we don’t lose any of the hand at all, but we can repel stains. If it does get a stain on it, you can use our cleaner that we have developed with Crypton.

You also have a furniture line.
This is a new addition and we really did it as a service for Interior Designers. We picked classic Jean-Michel Frank pieces that were super simple, super clean; what we call ‘a canvas for our leathers’. So it goes back to “This is a Chair”. You take the basic club chair and every product you put on it makes the chair look different. If you put it in red Python it looks one way, if you put it in yellow Ostrich, or Metallic it looks another way.

So you said you use classic Jean-Michel Frank pieces.
He was Ann Frank’s uncle. He emigrated from Paris to Argentina to escape the Germans. He finally went back to New York when it was safe and did a beautiful apartment for the Rockefeller's and decided that design was dead and jumped off a building with no patents on his work or designs. We found the world’s greatest restorer of his pieces based in Massachusetts who had 30 years of catalogued restoration of his furniture. We had him make us models to the exact specs of the original Jean-Michel Frank pieces. We have 10 pieces in our line. The Upright Chair is an Iconic piece by Jean-Michel Frank - he invented the club chair. We also do a parsons table. He (Jean-Michel Frank) did the Parsons table when he was at Parson’s. It’s not very well documented, but that is what we have learnt.
Upright Chair
X-tra Bench
Parsons Table

The following are a few of the Interior Designers that use Edelman leathers in their work. Photos from the Edelman web-site.

Vincente Wolf Shrunken Buffalo

Orlando Diaz-Azcuy Royal Hide

Emma Jane Pilkington House and Garden Nov2005 Royal Hide

House Beautiful March 2003 Bunny Williams Royal Suede

Robert Passal House and Garden Oct 2005 Royal Hide

Steven Gambrell His own home Elle Decor March 2005 Cavellini European Hair on Cowhide

Diamond Baratta Elle Decor Custom Royal Hide

Vantullis Interiors Cavellini Exotic Cow Rug