An Industry Veteran Is Betting on a Sustainable, Millennial-Focused Furniture Brand
By Madeleine Luckel
"We wanted to try to create a breakup with disposable furniture, because we felt it’s killing the planet." These are the words of Jonathan Bass—a design industry veteran, and the brain behind Whom, a new direct-to-consumer,
furniture brand, which launched this week. Whom's offerings includes complete ranges for bedrooms, living rooms, and dining rooms. The bed frames, sofa, sectionals, tables, and chairs all possess somewhat streamlined silhouettes, with the
occasional pop of color.
While Bass's focus on the environment likely is a sentiment shared by many born between 1981 and 1996, millennials are also a demographic with a itinerant reputation and a penchant for purchasing fast furniture. Nevertheless, Bass is
to help change that latter fact—thanks to his confidence in what this young bracket of shoppers really want.
Each of Whom’s products is named for a specific type of personality, which is kind of cheeky and fu
n (though some of the marketing images with models are a bit much, but I digress).
"I think that the millennial consumer is very concerned about supply chains, sustainability, and the environment in general," Bass tells AD PRO. "They're not so brand-loyal, but they are product-loyal. And if the product is
vote for it." Speaking further on this matter, he states, "We feel that the market in general has always been a margin game, whereas our standpoint is, how do we offer the best product and compete with what’s out there?"
Bass's way of thinking traces its roots to his work launching the Badgley Mischka home collection. While working for the brand, Bass focused on bringing a clear sense of materials and production-based knowledge to his customers. However,
quickly found that although such a focus was prevalent throughout the luxury home market, it wasn't something that was accessible to those shopping at a lower price point. Summarizing his thought process, Bass says, "The upper-end market
[me] experience in what that high-end consumer wants, and we want to bring that expectation to a more affordable line of products."
Bass also believes that today, transparency isn't something that is truly present across the home decor industry. He asks rhetorically at one point: "Do the factories really deliver on what they say? In terms of things like off-gassing?"
consumers are not aware of how and where a product is being made—and whether or not it lives up to the claims made in its branding materials.
Experience and market research aside, creating a sustainable, transparent, and affordable furniture company is easier said than done. So how exactly did Bass and his team approach meeting their goals? "We didn’t start with a price point
mind," he says. "We didn’t work backwards. We went about building products that we really wanted to build, and that we are proud of." Bass goes on to elaborate that many companies tend to take the reverse approach. In such instances,
quickly have to be made—such as by downgrading to cheaper materials to meet budget constraints.
According to Whom, the company also has complete control over its supply chain. If Whom doesn't make the item, it is not incorporated into the product line. The company is also focused on domestic production, and its factories will
extensive number of audits. Producing chairs, tables, and more in closer proximity to its buyers also comes with a pro-environmental ripple effect. If a container of couches doesn't have to be loaded and then processed through multiple
distribution centers, a lot of energy gets saved. Of course, domestic production makes Whom's business more expensive to run. That's where the direct-to-consumer model comes in, which helps offset such costs.
The final piece of Bass's strategy may just be the people with whom he chooses to surround himself. "The team that runs [Whom] is completely millennial," he says, adding with a laugh that "even our PR firm is all millennial." Striking a
serious note, he adds, "We let them really go for it. If you look at the site, we took a lot of chances. No one is presenting furniture like we ar
Clearly, Bass's multi-pronged strategy aims to position his business to succeed. And while he is adamant that Whom delivers on its promises, in the long run he's hoping to make waves throughout the industry. "If we can prove this can be
hopefully others will jump in and do the same," he says. A potential environmental legacy, if ever there was one.