Super Agent Man pix
Keith Granet practices the art of the deal on behalf of interior designers
Edie Cohen -- Interior Design, 9/1/2006 12:00:00 AM
The founder of Granet & Associates.
Starwood Capital Group chairman and CEO and Interior Design Hall of Fame member Barry Sternlicht at the firm's first annual summit in Colorado.
Interior Design Hall of Fame member Clodagh at the summit with Lee Bierly of Bierly-Drake Associates.
Thad Hayes in Los Angeles, giving a lecture for the L.A. Mart's series.
Thom Filicia speaking at the Dallas Market Center. Charlotte Moss instructing Utah State University students.
|Julia Roberts, Bruce Willis, and Steven Spielberg have Creative Artists Agency. Vince Chase of Entourage has Ari Gold. In the design world, Clodagh, Thom Filicia, Thad Hayes, and other A-listers call Keith Granet their agent.
Granet's not just a businessman who hit upon a marketing niche. He studied architecture in college and spent a summer interning at Gensler in San Francisco. When he saw that designers weren't earning much money—even those with master's degrees—he switched to business courses. After graduating, he returned to Gensler, starting out, like his Hollywood counterparts, in the mail room. In less than a year, he rose to financial analyst, reporting directly to Art Gensler.
Granet went out on his own in 1991. Granet & Associates is now based in Los Angeles, with satellite offices in New York and Chicago. His latest effort, the Designer Speakers Bureau, is currently being launched nationwide.
How exactly would you describe the Designer Speakers Bureau?
We've just announced the program, so it's still in flux. Overall, the aim is to raise designers' profile outside their own community by booking professionals for speaking engagements.
Who are your target audiences?
So far, we've been developing a series for an international cruise line. And we're focusing more on the corporate world than on industry events like NeoCon or WestWeek. It's about approaching high-end users, the people who are going to hire a designer for an office or a home.
Which corporations do you have in mind?
Mostly Fortune 500 companies. When executives are educated about design, they're more likely to understand its importance—particularly for the spaces where stockholders' meetings are held.
Other prospective speaking venues?
Perhaps a furniture show or something that, say, Home Depot is organizing.
Any response so far?
Brunschwig & Fils called looking for a motivational speaker for its internal sales meeting this fall, but nothing is confirmed yet.
Do manufacturers often come to you directly?
When Karastan hired us to rejuvenate the brand, we made a video of big-name designers like Campion Platt talking about their history with the company.
Normally, though, you approach manufacturers on behalf of designers?
We help designers visualize a product and identify their passion, like we're doing for Sherry Donghia with jewelry, fragrance, and accessories. We brought Charlotte Moss to Brunschwig and Thad Hayes to Boyd Lighting.
What do you look for in a licensing arrangement?
From manufacturers, we seek longevity. We say no to "too low too fast," à la Target. For designers, there are two criteria. They have to be either an established or an emerging talent. Oh, and they have to be nice people.
How much of your business is licensing?
About half of it.
And the rest of what your firm does?
We're partners with our clients. We shape overall vision, plan corporate retreats, prepare financial statements, oversee hiring, and interview a firm's key employees to identify problems. We're therapists, too—dealing with the relationships that designers have with their clients.
What's your cut?
From 10 to 25 percent.
Do you have a minimum contract length?
It's often two years, but it varies from client to client. Most have been with us much longer. We just did a 12th retreat for Appleton & Associates, and we're preparing for the 12th for Kirkpatrick Associates Architects.
What's your client count?
There are 40 active ones. We've worked with more than 300 firms, total.
Who are some of the newcomers?
Carolyne Roehm just hired us for garden-product development and licensing, Campion Platt for furniture, tabletop, fabrics, and lighting. And we're finalizing a deal between Victoria Hagan and a major American fashion designer to do a "black label" furniture collection.
And the Design Leadership Summit?
When I did a series of roundtable discussions in six cities with Peter Sallick, the chairman and CEO of Waterworks, we found that designers were hungry for knowledge of business practices. That led to the first Design Leadership Summit, held last year in Aspen, Colorado. The speakers were critic Paul Goldberger, Barry Sternlicht from Starwood, and Claudia Kotchka, Proctor & Gamble's vice president for design innovation and strategy.
This year's summit is in October in Montecito, California. Graydon Carter from Vanity Fair is giving the keynote address. Also speaking are Tom Kelly from Ideo; Shawn Henderson, design director for eBay home decor; Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia's president of merchandising, Robin Marino; and Richard Wright of the Wright auction house.
What's up next for you?
In New York, we're opening a Charlotte Moss shop on Madison Avenue and developing a SoHo boutique for Elton John and Jon Bon Jovi's designer, Monique Gibson. The concept for Monique is the reinvention of an antiques store, with limited-edition items from global artisans. We raised $4 million in three weeks, mostly from angel investing.
I'm also doing literary-agent work, packaging books to give designers a broader voice.