Anna New York’s founder creates products with sustainability as main motivation

Welcome to Take 60, quick one-minute stories about new faces in our industry that might help you move the needle toward future success and with time at a premium. Retailers, designers, manufacturers and more — Take 60 covers them all, so check back each week for a new addition to the mix.

Home Accents Today talked with Anna Rabinowicz, founder and CEO of Anna New York and co-founder of Talianna.

HAT: Tell me about how Anna New York was started and the inspiration behind it.

Rabinowicz: I started the company in my grandmother’s basement. I was a full-time professor at Parsons and worked on the nights and weekends with my mother and grandmother to start Anna New York. My mom and then boyfriend — now husband — each gave me $2,000 to get started.

Agate coasters were my first products ever produced for Anna New York (then RabLabs). I was designing all kinds of consumer products at the beginning of my career: medical devices, cell phones, etc., but I wanted to create a company that made product that could last forever. I really wanted to leave a stamp and legacy and wanted to create products that are made of things that don’t change over time. We use gemstones, stainless steel and 24k gold.

If I design things that have meaning, the customer will choose to keep them. That is the best version of sustainability that I can think of as it won’t contribute to the landfill. Sustainability has been my one of my biggest motivations, and we achieve it as a company by using long-lasting materials and designing products that people hopefully won’t want to discard over time.

HAT: Décor and tabletop can offer significant add-on sales potential for furniture retailers, a unique channel for gift lines. Do you sell to any furniture retailers, and if not, who would you envision as your ideal furniture retail buyer?

 Rabinowicz: We actually used to have a furniture line and just sold through the last of the pieces: end tables and coffee tables and lamps made of Italian and French marble, and metal. We were producing them outside of Milan; they were exquisite. It is an interesting business.

We work with a furniture showroom in Atlanta, Veronica Flam. We chose to be represented there because interior design is a very important part of our business. We know if people are coming in for furniture, they will also be looking for the finishing touches for their room — exactly what my brand provides.

I believe that there is much more freedom in designing accessories than there is in designing furniture. Accessories provide a pop of color, an unusual material or contrast to the rest of the décor of the room. Our pieces are moveable and can complete many areas of the home and allow the customer to take many more chances.

In terms of working with furniture retailers, we don’t have many but would love to work with more. I would gladly join more furniture showrooms in the future. It’s great to be next to furniture items because we are top of mind for designers when shopping and need last-minute items.

HAT: Your line is both art and function. Why do you think your aesthetic continues to attract new buyers?

 Rabinowicz: It is my responsibility as a designer to continue to innovate. We release collections twice a year, and each collection that we release has a ton of research behind it. I was a professor of design for more than 15 years at Parsons and Stanford, so research is instilled in the business.

A recent new collection, the Oro collection (for our new brand Talianna), involves an algorithmic pattern derived from math and natural principles, which is cut into the sides of recognizable household objects like vases and bowls, changing their shape. The idea of the collection is to embrace the beautiful imperfection that makes us each so unique. Through design, I am expressing that there is no need to be perfect, that we can accept ourselves and others just we are. For a project like that, it has about 12 to 18 months of research backing it up.

I am inspired by studying human behavior, which helps come up with new and fresh designs that resonate with new and current customers. Research, innovation and change are key elements of my design process. My success as a designer is not determined by the sale of a piece, it’s whether the design ultimately makes a difference in people’s lives.

HAT: What are some of the consumer trends that influence your product development?

Rabinowicz: I’m influenced by what people need and want, and how that changes over time. The global situation, including politics and economics, affect what people care about, and that in turn affects product development and what I create as a designer.

Prime example: the way people’s lives changed during the pandemic, and how they re-prioritized what was important, such as strong relationships with loved ones, community, self-care, being your true self, etc. The desire to change your home so that it that felt special, authentically you, and inviting became very strong during this period.

We are not so formal anymore; we want to be casual chic. We want to do this with pieces that feel like us but are not too precious. So if you drop a piece on the floor, it is not a tragedy. It’s about entertaining without the stiffness and formality of the past.

The pandemic brought out attributes that were coming out anyway, like our desire to be accepted and celebrated, imperfections and all. Design needs to be responsive to these kinds of shifts.

HAT: What’s on the horizon for 2023? What shifts, if any, do you anticipate in the market and how will you address?

Rabinowicz: It’s interesting; I think that just showing up during this turbulent time is almost the most important thing. What I mean by that is continuing to innovate, to release new collections, to follow the design processes that work for us and to maintain confidence that what we design will continue to resonate.

None of us know what the future holds, and every day is a surprise. In 2023, we hope things will be better, we have all these hopes, but we don’t really know. It’s continuing to listen as a company to consumers and how they’re feeling, and showing up for them. We must continue to make ethical choices with the way the world is evolving, which includes using materials and making packaging choices that are good for the environment, and supporting our artisan partners. That is what is giving me and my team comfort during this time.

Five fun facts about Anna Rabinowicz:

  • Color you are obsessed with right now? Purple! But I am always obsessed with purple. There are so many different shades, and I find it to be a very deep color.
  • Favorite travel inspiration? Favorite travel inspiration is traveling itself! I love it more than anything else in the world. Every time I travel, I learn something new or find something I have never seen before or meet someone who is inspiring. It frees my mind and makes me feel like anything is possible. Getting on the plane and just going is intoxicating; my heart soars when the plane lifts off.
  • Anna New York’s Espera fruit bowl.

    The forever piece you will always keep in your home? It is the Espera fruit bowl that I designed originally for the Museum of Modern Art Stores. It is solid stainless steel (almost six pounds) and is has 4,552 holes, each of them a different shape. It grew out of years of academic research on the Sea Fan, and took three years to figure out how to produce. We also did a version plated in 24K gold, which is, aside from being super luxe, also food-safe. I love design challenges like this.

  • How do you shop for yourself — in person or online? I don’t like to buy a lot of things; I’m a non-acquisitional product designer, which is rare. Growing up, I was a tomboy, dressed often in ripped corduroy jeans; when I began going to Paris to exhibit at Maison & Objet, I started noticing clothes for the first time. Most of my shopping is when I am in Paris for either pleasure or work. I like the experience of shopping in store.
  • A quote that describes your work?  “Create designs that so deeply resonate with the consumer that they never want to let them go.”
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