Porter Designs expands its sustainable product mix

The Good Earth collection adds upholstery to its earth friendly product mix

PORTLAND, Ore – Porter Designs’ ‘The Good Earth’ collection is the company’s latest effort to bring sustainable furniture to mid-level price points, an area where the company believes it can make the most difference in the marketplace.

 The company already partners with Earthworm Foundation, having planted more than 10,000 tree saplings in Haryana, India in 2021 alone, which adds to India’s forest cover and helps farmers restore biodiversity on farms. Its Caravan collection also is made with solid sheesham, mango and acacia harvested from sustainable plantations in India.

David Weiss and Julie Grant at the Porter Designs showroom during the April High Point Market.

The Good Earth takes a sustainable approach with upholstery. It began when the company connected with a Mexico manufacturer that was already using a mix of recycled materials for everything from the foam and fiber to the fiberboard for frames of sofas, loveseats and sectionals. Even the cardboard the manufacturer used  to ship the goods is made from recycled materials.

Now Porter Designs is offering upholstery that uses fabrics featuring fibers created from plastic films pulled from the  ocean that present a danger to wildlife from turtles to seagulls. These plastics are melted to form chips, then pellets and ultimately fibers that are woven into fabric.

As company President David Weiss explains, it was a partnership that captivated him from the start.

“I just really lit up about it,” he told Home News Now. “Whether it is changing the earth or whether it’s just making a difference, whatever it is, it triggered me like I haven’t been triggered in a long time. Especially pulling plastic out of the ocean. I think that’s important. It really upsets me when you see these islands of plastic floating in the ocean and the effects on birds and fish.”

Yet a businessman by nature and profession, he had to find a way to make sure the product made sense from a pricing standpoint. While studies point to the interest that consumers have in buying sustainable products, many retailers still want to offer something on their floors that is competitive in price. Otherwise some buyers likely won’t floor it despite how many younger consumers may be looking for that type of product.

Describing himself as one of the toughest “negotiators you will come across,” Weiss has worked with suppliers to make sure that the materials themselves are priced fairly. This in turn helps keep the price point within reason for the type of quality and style of the product mix, which is designed by his business partner Julie Grant, creative director.

The Santorini groups shown here is part of Porter Designs’ The Good Earth collection.

I said, ‘If you guys would just do a normal margin or a tight margin, because of volume, and I do the same…we can bring a sofa that makes a difference to middle America,’” Weiss said. “If everyone is just selling to the wealthy, then nothing changes.  I want to bring it right to the middle.”

Sofas in the 10 groups shown at the High Point Market are targeted to retail from $999 to $1,499 in 85-inch to 95-inch footprints. In addition to sofas, the lines also feature loveseats, sectionals and chairs featuring fabrics with 35% recycled plastics, which Weiss said characterizes them a performance fabric due to the amount of plastics used.

“We just made a purely concerted effort to work with the suppliers and say ‘hey, you know what, we are doing something that is beneficial for the environment. You can take a little out of your pocket, we will take a little out of our pocket for a shorter margin to make it an affordable price point.’ Because obviously if you are too excessively expensive, then no one is going to buy it and then there is no point, right?” Grant added.

Weiss also credited Grant with coming up with designs ranging from transitional to contemporary that are striking a chord with buyers.

“What I have learned is if somebody doesn’t fall in love with the sofa and the look first, you don’t have a chance,” he said. “So I said ‘let me worry about the costing – that’s my job – and you guys build something that people are going to want.’ And she (Grant) is fantastic on the design side. She is not going to brag about it, but I will. I think the stuff is beautiful.”

“And he is fantastic as a negotiator,” Grant added.

The company doesn’t plant to stop with its initial 10 groups. At least another six are in the pipeline. But the company is working to get the first 10 in production first, which is expect to occur within about 90 days.

They are expected to ship on mixed truckloads direct to the retailer’s door or warehouse.

Grant said the company also plans a major marketing blitz on the program, complete with POP and tags that describe the mix of sustainable, recycled materials in each product.

“Our goal is to eventually break it down and try to figure out how much is actually recycled so we can have that as part of the pitch,” Grant said. “At the same time, we don’t want to overstate it. Since this is something that is important to people and if you look like you are greenwashing, it’s not good and a lot of people do that.”

Yet for her, bringing a sustainable product to the market makes more sense now than ever as she hears stories from people talking about how their kids emphasize the importance of things like recycling.

“They are inheriting our earth, and it is important that we are creating product that is going to make the environment survive,” Grant said. “Honestly, it is everything from providing green cover with the trees that helps with climate change and global warming  to taking plastic out of the oceans and recycling.”

Thomas Russell

Home News Now Editor-in-Chief Thomas Russell has covered the furniture industry for 25 years at various daily and weekly consumer and trade publications. He can be reached at tom@homenewsnow.com and at 336-508-4616.

View all posts by Thomas Russell →

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe to our Newsletter for breaking news, special features and early access to all the industry stories that matter!

Sponsored By: