Fast Company

Barking up the Right Tree

Last night I found myself surrounded by dogs, interior designers, fabric distributors, reporters, and one very famous artist. There were representatives from at least a dozen industries, most of which had nothing to do with dog photography. Yet there we all were at the apartment of the famed William Wegman, whose photographic portraits of his weimaraners are recognized around the world.

Wegman teamed up with Crypton Fabrics and Japan-based home accessory company Lazy Susan to create a new collection for the wonder-fabric company. With the power to resist stains, odors, bacteria and moisture, Crypton fabrics are used to upholster the whole hospitality industry, from restaurants to spas and even hotels and hospitals.

Up to 29% of travelers bring along animal companions and Crypton has been right there to help accommodate them, generating about $125 million in sales since it was founded 11 years ago. As they considered moving into the residential market, the Rubins decided to go canine. A dog, said Randy Rubin, fits neatly in both places. She called it "the common denominator" between hospitality and residential markets.

Why Wegman's help?

After deciding on dogs, Rubin explained, they realized that the artist is "the quintessential symbol of 'dog.'" The Rubins approached him in late 2003, promising to keep the project a secret in case either party didn't like the result. They lucked out and there are now six adorable dog-inspired patterns and many color choices for home furnishings, including chairs, dog mats, picture frames, and pet carriers.

Because it really is a super fabric (one of the dogs showingly urinated on an ottoman during the party and Wegman's son repeatedly poured water on the couch to demonstrate its powers), this stuff will certainly sell in homes. What parent wouldn't want easy-to-clean furniture with little kids around? And anyone with a pet will love its odor and bacteria protection.

Crypton co-founder Craig Rubin was included on the 2003 Fast 50 list. This newest venture proves once again that the company is fast, taking a creative approach to straddling two very discriminating markets. Randy Rubin said Crypton will continue to work with Wegman and will introduce designs from different artists annually as they continue an aggressive push into the residential market.

Combining a strong product like Crypton with an artistic institution like Wegman (and his dogs) is, I believe, a stroke of design and marketing genius.

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