There’s a feeling you get when you walk into a Restoration Hardware store. Each item is hand-selected, a purposeful addition to a cohesive retail environment. There is a mutual trust between Restoration Hardware and its clientele – an unspoken appreciation for and understanding of quality over quantity. Integrity over fragility. That which is classic over that which is fleeting. This ideology that flows throughout the Restoration Hardware brand is a masterful creation of their CEO, Gary Friedman.
My storyline with Gary is an interesting one that begins before we even met. I got a call from his assistant, informing me that Gary had purchased my Believe bracelet from Barney’s in L.A. Apparently he loved it so much that he wanted to gift it to his store managers at an upcoming conference…all 800 of them! Needless to say, my response was a resounding “yes!”
After going back and forth on design and logistics for a while, the contact I had at RH resigned, and I ceased to hear from them. I assumed the project had fallen by the wayside; no longer a priority for them. For those of you who know me though, I am not one to sit back on my ass and do nothing. So I reminded myself:
Just Be Persistent.
That’s one of my core values, remember? Never give up. So I said screw it, and went straight to the top. I emailed Gary directly to reignite the collaborative flame. As I read his response email, I noticed it was signed:
Which, wouldn’t you know, is another bracelet I’ve created. I took it as a sign that this collaboration was predestined. We arranged the 800 Believe bracelets for the Restoration Hardware conference and I was extended an invitation to the event, held in San Francisco.
As I sat in that amphitheater, listening with rapt attention to Gary discuss the company’s IPO, his values and his vision, I was shocked to suddenly hear my name.
“I’d like to introduce Catherine Zadeh, the designer behind the Believe bracelets you’ve gotten today. We are excited to announce our new ZADEH capsule collection.”
What? Capsule collection? With me? The announcement was a total surprise. I can’t imagine the look on my face as this defining moment came to pass.
The ZADEH capsule collection with Restoration Hardware was available via their catalog and online outlets. I was honored to collaborate with a brand whose values mirrored my own.
What I found most extraordinary in my personal dealings with Gary was his integrity. He could have plagiarized my design, a common practice where behemoth brands pilfer the creative work of smaller designers without fear of repercussion. Gary didn’t do this. He gave me a platform, he put my name on the bracelets, he featured my profile and photograph alongside my jewelry. Gary treated me as a partner and this is something I’ll never forget about him.
As I’ve said more than once now, Gary is a visionary. In addition to his work at Restoration Hardware, he has been very supportive of various ventures in the music and art industries.
At the huge Restoration Hardware conference in San Francisco, Gary brought a totally unknown band to perform, inviting them to share their art with a captive audience at a high profile event. No one had yet given this group the time of day. Who were they? Capital Cities. I think of Gary and RH every time I hear their smash hit Safe & Sound. How spectacular for a man with such vision to use it in support of other deserving entrepreneurs.
True creative vision cannot be confined. Success comes as a result of being able to see what others do not, and putting things together in unconventional ways. From home furnishings, to music, to the art world, Gary has taken his vision and sprinkled it everywhere.
Gary’s generosity also touched me. This past winter as I feverishly pursued admission into the CFDA, I was hoping to get a letter of recommendation from Gary. My daughter Sophie said to me “mom you are delusional, why would Gary Friedman answer such a request from you?” I said no no Sophie, Gary likes me! He wears my jewelry, we collaborated on the capsule collection, etc. Even though he is a big time CEO, Gary still took the time to answer my email, and to write me a beautiful letter of recommendation. He takes the time to connect. This is the hallmark of a prolific leader, one whom I’m honored to call my friend.