Patricia Spado came on the scene at George Smith just in the nick of time.
“It was almost a hidden treasure,” explains Spado, director of U.S. sales and operations, who walked in the door at this dowdy English brand in April of 2010. “I always knew it had a sterling name and a sterling product, but it had been around for so long and had not evolved.”
Battered by the recession, the company lacked pizazz and excitement; Spado decided it was time to do some spring cleaning shortly after her arrival. She upgraded her staff, changed management arrangements in all the showrooms, and most importantly, brought in other lines that would complement George Smith’s offerings, such as Best&Lloyd Lighting—a brand that hadn’t been seen in the U.S. in 78 years. Other additions included Posse Furniture, O Ecotextiles and Julian Chichester, just to name a few.
“I’ve been in the design industry for 30 years and it has been my job to manage a variety of businesses, paying attention to both the creative and product sides of the operations, as well as the logistical and financial sides of the businesses,” Spado says. “It has been the fact that I have organized all aspects of the business that has allowed me to be able to look at both the small and big pictures of the companies that I have run.”
And the big picture, she insists, is that times are changing. “I had to deconstruct it to reconstruct it. And I think a lot of companies have to do that today. Everyone is still wondering what the answer is to this economy. The days of the 60,000-square-foot showrooms (except for Kravet and Donghia) are gone, so all of us are scaling back, trying to regroup and make ourselves special. That’s what I’m trying to do.”
Besides integrating new lines into the George Smith showrooms, Spado was responsible for implementing a strong marketing program—something the company also lacked when she arrived.
“We brought in a huge marketing campaign to relieve us of the perception that we are a strong traditional house. We’ve made ourselves more transitional with new lines and new pieces from George Smith. We changed how the showrooms operate, taking the focus off sales and placing it on the trade client instead, redoing them all in white,” she notes.
Spado has also been instrumental in opening the company up to the hospitality arena, and the group is optimistic that the recently launched George Smith outdoor collection will help them explore it even more extensively than before. They can already be found in a number of Soho House properties, including those in London, Los Angeles and Miami.
“Each step we take, we open another door,” Spado says. “We look for new ways to revitalize our business and look for new product. We also own our factories in New Castle, England, so our custom capabilities are tremendous.” The outdoor line is a program that can take any George Smith piece of furniture and treat it for outdoor use.
Perhaps it’s Spado’s bi-coastal lifestyle (she lives between New York and Los Angeles, where she grew up) that sharpened her eye for style and
talent. She says from an early age she was interested in all things visual, including art, fashion and interiors. She has always gravitated toward things that have “integrity in design and in the craftsmanship,” which is evident by some of the previous outfits she’s chosen to work for, such as Dakota Jackson and Hinson & Company.
She admittedly comes from the “Sister Parish world,” referring to the former design partner of Albert Hadley and the first interior designer brought in to decorate the Kennedy White House. “I’ve been doing this for too many years,” she adds, unwilling to name any of her other design idols for fear of hurting the feelings of her many prestigious friends and colleagues.
Some of her favorite New York City hotel spaces range from the old to the new classics: The Pierre; The Maritime; The Gramercy Park and other Ian Schrager hotels; The Dream Hotel. “That’s a total contrast, from The Pierre to The Gramercy Park, but luxury is still luxury—it just depends on what you prefer,” she says.
Spado foresees a hospitality boom in markets where job prospects are more promising, as is happening now in the New York City outer boroughs. It’s a trend George Smith plans to ride to the end, as they continue to add new lines to their showrooms and develop new, exclusive collections. She reports they’re in the process of producing two collections—one with a West Coast designer and the other with a European designer, both of whom shall remain nameless for now.
“We want to promote our industry,” she explains. “And that’s one way to do it—get the designers involved in the showrooms.” She says everyone should learn from the dramatic shift in the industry to truly appreciate the generations of artisans and craftsmen out there, and revitalize them. “These generations don’t go on forever and we should utilize them.”