The New York–based textiles company Maharam is a fourth-generation, family-run business. It has been reinvented by each successive generation, which probably accounts for its unusual longevity in the dysfunctional realm of family businesses. Louis Maharam, its founder, was a Russian immigrant who started out selling fabric remnants from a pushcart on the Lower East Side more than a century ago. This month, Lars Müller is publishing the company’s first monograph, which covers its work with collaborators as diverse as Maira Kalman and Nike. Maharam’s current director, Michael Maharam, recently sat down to talk about its storied past and the future of textiles in a digital world.
Process 6 by Casey Reas for Maharam Digital Projects
Type by Polly Apfelbaum
Wood Wall as Safari by Phoebe Washburn
New York Times Headlines (1990-2005) by A.J. Bocchino
Many of your recent projects have come from digital technology. What is possible now that wasn’t five years ago?
Circles by Ray and Charles Eames
On This Day by Maira Kalman
We initially relied on consulting graphic designers to create our identity, advertising, and collateral. We are an OCD-driven organization and recognized that extreme consistency and cohesiveness were critical to conveying an integrated message. We dreaded the moment when we would have to acquaint every new hire with our corporate culture, visual language, strategy, and tactics, all with the hope that they A) got it, and B) were gifted enough to do something with it. We formed A4 Studio, our in-house graphic design arm, for this reason. We love the control and the outcome, and embrace the graphic design medium with fervor equal to textile, architecture, interior, furniture, show, and interior design. We feel that expression as a corporate entity committed to design is a fully dimensional experience, and anything less is merely commerce. A4 interacts with our in-house and consulting contributors on every project. A pleasant example presently at work is a sample bin or box for our client’s libraries being developed by Konstantin Grcic, in Munich, with the Dutch graphic-designer-cum-cartographer Joost Grootens handling embellishment, all orchestrated and made harmonious by A4.
Transition by Kees Goudzwaard
Recombinism by 2×4