I phoned our client, Grayson Handy, one-half of the owner/design team behind Prudence Designs, NYC, for an interview about what he does.
GH: We really get involved in everything. There’s really not much we don’t do. I’ve designed and created an event for a client and then gone and redecorated her kitchen. And we just designed a small collection of bridal gowns. We’ve been designing the flowers for weddings for years and I got to the point where I just couldn’t stand to see my flowers up against one more dated, cookie-cutter bridal dress.
Are you going to ask me questions?
KR: I thought you forgot I was on the phone. How did this whole business start?
GH: It’s 1995 and I am the visual director at Takashimaya …
KR: I have to interject here —-Takashimaya was (can’t believe I am saying “was” as it just closed its NYC doors this year) an amazing store for its innovative design directions.. the first floor flower “shop” was always on my list of stops for inspiration.
GH: The Takashimaya buyers would come up to me and say, “this item just isn’t moving can you hoosh it?”
KR: Hoosh? how do you spell that?
GH: H o o s h… like make it sing…find it a new “home” … give it a story.
And I would and it would sell out and they’d have to place reorders.
My partner, Arturo, was creating floral arrangements for clients from our apartment. And his client base was growing and he was trashing the apartment with his flowers, so I decided to rent a small office space on 18th Street in Chelsea that was cheap… it was below street level.
Basically I got tired of making money for other people. I knew if I could make things sell for other people, I could do it for myself. One day I walked out on the street to a pay phone (pre-cell phone days) and called Arturo and told him I had quit my job. Arturo was panicked because we had just committed to rent this space and I just said to him, “We’re going to make it”.
KR: And sure enough, Mary-Tyler-Moore-style, you have made it after all! What were some of your most memorable “made it” mum-ents ?(sorry, Grayson…had to.)
GH: The DeBeers Benefit for Amfar at Cannes and an event we did at the Sundance Film Festival …that was pretty big too.
KR: And how do you account for the fact that life is a bed of roses and you are now surrounded by that sweet smell of success?
GH: We took the whole flower experience from being like walking into an aquarium where every stem was behind glass; to laying flowers on a table, or putting them in an old tin can on an antique hutch. A big part of flowers is the smell and the texture. People have to experience flowers. And if you show them how they can be used in their home, instead of just showing them individual stems in a refrigerated case, you take all the guess work out of it and they realize, “That would look great in my living room”.
We are the counterculture to the Crate & Barrels and West Elms where everything is a catalogue sku with no emotional attachment. We are all about one-of-a-kind finds… things you pick up on your travels. We collaborate with an artist designing pottery for the store; and we create unique pillows; repurpose antique furniture … in fact we never have time to put much of this merchandise on the website because as soon as it hits the floor, it’s sold.
KR: Wait, did I hear you mention your website? And the fact that you are not using it. Is it working for you?
GH: That site has stood the test of time. Kudos to you guys. Without a lot of copy and stuff going on, you go to that site and you “get” us. You get that this is going to be fun. We are not going to show up to a meeting about your wedding wearing suits and pocket squares. And when you come into our store you’re not going to have a Julia Roberts/Pretty Woman experience.
The site functions really simply. You go on some sites and you have no idea where you are. It’s like going on some annoying treasure hunt. Our competitors always compliment us on our site. Everyday we get compliments on our site. Our website is our portfolio. We don’t have to do this big song and dance anymore, dragging out our leather bound book with photos and magazine press pages. The site speaks for itself. It has helped us build our brand and established us among our peers.
KR: I mentioned the publishing of your book on globally-inspired flower arrangements by Rizzoli in an earlier post. Rumor has it, it is now being translated in 47 languages and soon to be a feature film.
GH: (Laugh). It’s been translated into German and Italian. And Rizzoli modified the book to be an engagement calendar which sold out to bookstores across the country in a matter of weeks.
KR: One last question. Are we relatives since our dachshunds are brother and sister?
GH: You and I were separated at birth.
KR: And then reunited when Ann (my sister-in-law) found that old work bench that I bought from you. That’s when you were in your original subterranean-al office space. It’s really one of my most favorite pieces. And now it sits in the “conference room” in our gas station office courtesy of Prudence Designs.