November 4, 2021

10 Years of Industry West: IW Goes East

As we celebrate 10 years of Industry West, we're highlighting the milestones and memories that still impact our business today.  Co-Founders Anne and Jordan England took time to reflect on 10 of the most impactful moments in Industry West's history.  Jordan looked back on his first trip to Asia and discusses how travel is reflected in our designs and company values.

1. Why go to Asia?

Our first factory relationship was in Guangzhou, China. I think 12 years ago— everybody went to China to manufacture. But honestly, I really wanted to know who I was working with. Like any business relationship, you've got to get together and break some bread and get to know them to understand their processes and systems.

2. Tell us more about that experience.

I think it was 2009. It had not been even 3-6 months maybe, and I was like, "We've got to go over and meet these people and see what they're doing." There was a lot of excitement and a little bit of fear, because I had never been to China. So, I took both of my brothers with me, and it turned out to be quite an interesting trip. I remember almost all of the trip, but there was the first night stands out. They do what's called an Emperor's feast. So, they bring the whole team and start doing shots of this rice wine. I turned around, and there were like 30 people, and every time they complimented you, you'd have to do a shot. And this stuff is like 78% alcohol. Halfway in, I'm like, "I can't. I can't do this."

man sitting in orange chair smiling at the cameraman sitting in orange chair smiling at the camera
man smiling and holding baby who is cryingman smiling and holding baby who is crying
“Global relationships really matter."
two men clinking glasses at a dinner tabletwo men clinking glasses at a dinner table
three men overlooking a laptop as they workthree men overlooking a laptop as they work
man wearing a welding mask as he builds a chairman wearing a welding mask as he builds a chair
man sitting in a red chair in a factory with many red chairs behind himman sitting in a red chair in a factory with many red chairs behind him
man wearing a beanie that looks like a pandaman wearing a beanie that looks like a panda

3. Does that first trip still influence the business today?

Today, travel is the main source of the catalog's inspiration, development, and curation— whether it's something we're designing within the states or manufacturing in Asia. If it's from the ground up where we're meeting an interesting designer with his or her own factory and designs and figuring out how that works into the mix. It still informs and influences how that all works together. So when people talk about our collections and how our furniture works together, it's very global. It's very eclectic. For us, we're always looking for edgy ways to kind of mix styles, new designs, and things that people aren't doing. That happens through traveling. 

4. So these global relationships are pretty important, right?

Global relatiobships really matter because, for one, you're kind of always chasing, as a business, the better manufacturers. Those that are skilled in different ways of producing products. The other piece is that we really want to know who we're working with, how their employees are treated, the working conditions, the type of machinery they have, and the facilities.

We've seen those relationships grow, and some have grown way faster than others. We're a global company and a manufacturer in close to 16 or 17 countries— from Eastern Europe to the Pacific Rim and Western Europe to the states. When we travel, and we realize that— even going back to that factory in 2009— that factory at the time was 75 people, it's now 550 people. And we make up 25-30% of their business, which means that we're supporting you know, 150 people that work there.

We think of ourselves as being global citizens. The people in the global factories, and their development and growth, are just as important to me as our team is here. So, that's always important for us to remember that we're supporting a huge ecosystem.