Company: Couture Lamps
Interesting Fact: Todd was the youngest of five children growing up in Jacksonville, Florida. It was there he got the bug for design and retail while working his way up from the store level through a national retailer’s corporate offices.
Todd Sawvelle has the heart of an artist and the mind of a business person. He loves design, photography and all the details. But those details aren’t always aesthetic. He thinks of the little things, all the way down to being close to the FedEx base of operations to ensure speedy shipping. Yep, he’s thought of everything as he continues to grow his lighting empire. Todd took some time away from the Las Vegas market to answer a few of our burning questions.
Q- Let’s start off with a fun one. You’re a dog lover. How many dogs do you have and do you let them sit on the furniture?
A- I have an energetic 1-year-old – Maggie. She is a German Shepherd/Beagle/Border Collie mix – rescued from a cotton field from the Mississippi Delta. As is the case with homes of many dog lovers – she DOES sit on the furniture, and is quite content in doing so!
Q- Has she ever knocked over any of your lamps?
A- As Maggie is just coming out of the puppy stage – she has been very curious about lamps, as there are probably more lamps in our home than average. So far, she has not knocked any over. And considering that my living room is a living – breathing – design/photo studio, that’s quite an accomplishment on her part! There have been times where she has had to walk through a forest of lamps to get through to the next room.
Q- We saw you have some background with architecture. How does that knowledge inform what you do in this business?
A- Architecture is the planning and designing of physical structures. And taking basic principles from architecture to use in product design – gives Couture a more linear feel then you might typically find in other lamps. It gives them structure, dimension, shape, harmony, texture – and interesting use of materials. These are important tenets of architectural design, and are always important to my process for creating lamps and home décor.
Q- When people think couture, fashion and clothing probably comes to mind first. Why’d you decide that was a name that worked for your company?
A- Prior to the founding of Couture, I worked for a company that did private label lamps and home décor, for the mid-to-high-end retail marketplace. Everything that we created – was custom for customers, always to their specifications. One day – one of these customers, who had a fashion background, said to me, “this is just like having couture for the home.” And – the name stuck with me. As everything is custom designed and made for us – we think it has relevance to who we are.
Q- How would you describe your aesthetic?
A- Every designer has a point of view. And from that point of view – comes their signature aesthetic or style. For Couture, this means a signature piece would be made of unique materials (many of which are natural materials), full of texture – creating a perfect final piece for every room. That room could be preppy, it could be coastal, it could be Hollywood Regency. But whatever style it would be – the lamps that we design would best be described as artful and full of style.
Q- You were just at market. What’s hot in lighting right now?
A- The lighting market is very exciting at the moment. There are so many terrific designs and materials being used out there. I heard this a lot from customers at winter markets. From industrial to retro-glam designs, from innovations in technologies – like LED to home automation – this category has many exciting facets to it. For us in table lamps, current successes would be the use of color, and the use of gold leaf. Color creates emotion – and as you can see from looking at everything from blogs to social media (more specifically Pinterest and Instagram) – color transforms a room from bland to “wow”. Gold leaf is a by-product of trend, as golden tones are once again en vogue – from warm brass finishes – to bolder gold tones. Even more exciting – is to mix color with gold leaf, creating “look at me” contrasts. Key colors – white, indigo blue, coral, mint. Each is fresh – and comforting.
Q- What’s market like in general? Explain it like you would to someone who is not in the industry.
A- I get asked this question quite frequently. Markets are like going to really large enclosed malls. Differing in the fact they are not open to the public, and you are not there to purchase and walk away with your purchase that same day. You have to be a retail buyer or interior designer to gain access. Your goal in going to markets is to see new products, find specific items or trends – and/or write orders for delivery to your business. Sometimes new items can ship right away – sometimes you are ordering a season in advance. You can have huge showrooms (full of many different manufacturers’ – with many different types of products) just as you find in a department store. Or – you can have smaller showrooms – which show only one category of product – or one manufacturer. Typically – they’re in multiple buildings – over vast complexes, and happen a few times a year. Some wholesale markets – will end up with tens of thousands of people coming to them, just for the limited period of time that they are open, typically a week at a time – or less.
Q- We see you’re based in Memphis. Cool city, but not exactly the lighting capital of the world (yet). What brought you there?
A- Memphis has always had a great creative vibe to it. Which makes living here – and designing products from here, a wonderful experience. But beyond that, from a business perspective – Memphis’ centralized location – makes it a logistics hotspot for the country, appealing to us for shipping our products nationwide. It is the home of Fed Ex – and that means, we can ship to any part of the country FAST.
Q- What’s the most important thing you want people to understand about your design/brand/company?
A- Everything that we sell – is designed by us, for us. Giving us our own unique sense of design – a signature Couture style. Coupled with our passion for artisan-crafting our pieces one at a time, it gives us our sense of having a story about each of our products. So that when someone purchases a piece of ours, they know that they are getting a piece that has had thoughtful elements of design and construction used. From hand-applied gold leaf, to handcrafted lampshades – Couture’s products are designed and created by real people, for real people to use in their homes.
Q- Your company has only been around since 2011. We see plenty of brands that are almost a century old. What have you done in such a short time to compete with the major players in the industry?
A- In our relatively young company history, I would say that we have concentrated on being unique and staying true to our core values. We don’t jump on trends to be like everyone else – we don’t spend time copying a look or style that someone else sells. And that gives us a competitive edge – in the sense of we know who we are, and what we do best. Couture does not try to be all things – or cover all styles of design. Our founding principles still hold true today: Couture is passionate about creating our own unique style of lamps and home furnishings. And from our founding, have applied this passion to create products for you to love as much as we do. We are committed to our artisan-crafted pieces having great design, being made of unique materials – and arriving to you as efficiently [safely] as possible. Always with an eye on maintaining exceptional customer service.
Q- OK, last question. Let’s say money isn’t an object and you can work with any materials you wanted to design a lamp. What materials would you use and what would it look like?
A- Great question! It would be a mixture of incredible natural materials – like alabaster, onyx or horn – mixed with brass, crystal and/or wood covered in gold leaf. With a really tall cylinder shade. Think of a lamp like you would see in the background from TV shows from the 60’s and 70’s – like “The Beverly Hillbillies.” Overscaled – about 40”H – and dramatic. I love that look – a decorative statement piece, with great curves. But…unfortunately for me – with a limited demand in the marketplace!