At the High Point Market earlier this year, Vanguard Furniture quietly launched its first outdoor collection, which was designed by Michael Weiss and engineered in collaboration with industry veteran Gary McCray.
The Conover, North Carolina-based company has begun production of the collection, with initial shipments going out to customers this fall. Marketgoers at Casual Market Chicago July 19-22 can see the products in the former Lexington/Tommy Bahama space on the 15th floor of the Merchandise Mart, the company told Casual News Now.
“We have been studying the outdoor marketplace for more than three years, and the collection has been in development for at least 18 months,” says President Andy Bray.
Bray says the outdoor arena is a large and growing category, and the channels of distribution are evolving from patio-specific merchants to the high-end retailers and designers.
“Covid accelerated the trend to enhance outdoor areas,” he says. “We would not have gotten into the category if we did not have products that were different and better than what is currently in the marketplace. This is something that our customer base has asked for over the last couple of years.”
Vanguard is offering an extensive line — everything from sectionals to lounge chairs to daybeds to barstools, and many types of tables.
That was in part with the help of McCray, who Bray says was instrumental in educating Vanguard about the segment’s competitive environment, niches in the marketplace, key materials, design trends and distribution channels.
Like others who enter the outdoor category, Vanguard brought its indoor style outside in a few unique ways — and McCray helped pioneer new materials.
“Design, materials and 50+ years of mastering the art of fine tailoring, impeccable craftsmanship and comfortable upholstery make our line stand out,” Bray says. “Most of our case goods are crafted from a synthetic teak material made from polystyrene, giving it the look and feel of teak with all the natural characteristics like wood grain, heft and color. But it kills no trees; will never fade, mildew, chip or crack; and requires virtually no maintenance.”
The upholstery pieces feature four different weaves of synthetic wicker and a broad range of performance fabrics. Cushions incorporate stainless steel coil springs to prevent rust and are engineered to provide supreme comfort, according to the company.
“What we are really trying to do here is to bring the many features we offer in custom indoor upholstery outdoors — pitch, comfort and the details of dressmaker craftsmanship.” Bray says. “Most importantly, we are a custom shop. Anything we offer can be customized to reflect the aesthetic sensibilities of the professional interior designer. We provide the basic design, raw materials and craftsmanship that allows him or her to make it their own.”
So far, Vanguard says the reception from buyers has been outstanding. “Designers and retailers alike appreciate the unique styles, innovative materials and, most importantly, the ability to customize,” Bray adds.
He also says the company is excited to debut at Casual Market this month and that several new SKUs and micro collections are in development.
“We will adapt existing Michael Weiss designs to the outdoors, and experiment with new materials,” he says. “We intend to add covers, though we will not add umbrellas at this time.”