Friday, August 11 | 9:00 AM - 10:00 AM
How has Chilewich Continued to Stay Original?
Sandy Chilewich & Joe Sultan
Sandy Chilewich is Founder and Creative Director of Chilewich | Sultan LLC, a textile design company she runs with her partner and husband, former architect, Joe Sultan. Chilewich designs and manufactures a wide range of products (placemats, floor mats, wall-to-wall carpeting, floor tiles, wall covering and upholstery) using the proprietary textiles that she and her design team have woven for them exclusively. These designs are then sold through different distribution channels around the world under the Chilewich brand.
In 2000, Sandy Chilewich stumbled upon a woven textile that was being produced for outdoor furniture upholstery. Sandy became fascinated with the design potential of this under utilized manufacturing process and material, as well as the design versatility of the weaving in general. In addition, the material was stain-resistant, washable, water repellent and durable. Using these textiles, Chilewich (the company) was born debuting its distinctive product line of woven placemats which have been credited with changing how people dress their tables at home and in restaurants around the world.
In 2001, Sandy’s husband, Joe Sultan, who was still practicing architecture at the time, believed that these same textiles would make great floor coverings. He developed different commercial grade backings and methods for adhering to the textile material, so they could be used on the floor. Consequently, Sandy and Joe introduced Plynyl® wall-to-wall flooring and floor tiles. Today the contract division includes backed and un-backed woven vinyl fabrics for use on walls, panels, windows and upholstery. This contract collection is available through the trade.
Sultan sold his architecture practice in 2004 and joined the company full time. The corporate name was then changed to Chilewich | Sultan LLC to reflect their emergent business partnership.
Made almost exclusively in the U.S.A., Chilewich now finishes 95% of their products in their own manufacturing facility in Georgia. The company’s growth over the last 15 years has been astounding:
- They produce over 1.6 million placemats a year.
- Their woven rugs are individually self-bound by hand and they make over 15,000 a year.
- All of their wall covering, carpeting and tiles are made in their Georgia plant in machines designed specifically for them. They make 4 million square feet of these products a year.
- The Wholesale, Contract, and Hospitality divisions ship to over 50 countries around the world.
Recently, Chilewich made a significant environmental development by replacing the petroleum-based plasticizers in yarns with phthalate-free, renewable vegetable compounds instead. Chilewich calls these innovative new yarns and the fabrics made from them TerraStrand®. TerraStrand contains 25% renewable vegetable content. Every square yard of TerraStrand saves 0.02 gallons of petroleum and 0.41 pounds of CO2 as compared to conventional woven vinyls. All Chilewich products became 100% phthalate-free at the end of 2015.
As Chilewich looks to the future, they plan to continue manufacturing the majority of their products in the USA, while always looking to innovate through design. All Chilewich products are marked by their durability, cleanability and ease of care. Innovation is at the core of everything they do today and will continue to do in the future. “I am continually exploring for new materials and manufacturing processes that combine beauty and functionality,” says Sandy Chilewich.
At METROCON17, the entrepreneurial couple will inspire the audience with details of their company’s evolution, as well as their involvement with Be Original Americas, the non-profit committed to informing, educating and influencing manufacturers, design professionals and individuals on the economic, ethical, and environmental value of authentic design while preserving and investing in its future.