Fast Company

Project Runway for Furniture

One of the coolest things at last spring’s International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF) was a section of the hall devoted to ten young designers, who were displaying their prototypes in hopes of attracting a manufacturer or distributor. They were there under the auspices of the tony North Carolina furniture manufacturer, Bernhardt Design.

Bernhardt has a stable of A-list designers under contract: Ross Lovegrove, Jhane Barnes, and Michael Vanderbyl among them. But the company is also committed to growing the next generation of talent. So each year it underwrites a competition to find the best and brightest folks working in furniture, seating, carpet and flooring, lighting, wall coverings, accessories, textiles, and kitchen and bath.

Jerry Helling, Bernhardt’s EVP and Creative Director – the furniture biz’s cuter answer to Tim Gunn -- was in town last week to talk about the latest round of competition, and the results of May’s launch event.

Out of the ten original exhibitors, he said, six already have deals arising from the show. Four have started their own businesses, and two others have distribution deals.

And Bernhardt is now on the hunt for next year’s candidates, for the show planned for next May 19-22 at the Javits Center. To enter the competition, designers need to submit an entry form, send in some photos of their products, and provide a bio. Winners will be announced in April.

Spread the word. All this competition needs is its own Heidi Klum, a few designers with unfortunate tattoos, and a slot on Bravo. Auf wiedersehen!

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