In an understated, sun-filled loft on the Greenpoint waterfront, Farrah Sit and her team are quietly building the business that she always aspired to work at. Having spent years designing for the home in fashion Farrah had “not only lost interest, but also began questioning why I was designing in the first place.” The road to answering this question required a decisive return to making and culminated with the launch of her eponymous brand Light + Ladder.
To jump right into things, before founding your company you spent a good amount of time working for larger brands like Calvin Klein, Vera Wang etc. What was it about that experience that made you want to start producing and selling your own work?
Can I start by recommending the documentary “Fast Fashion”? It’s streaming on Netflix.
I had a great start designing for home in fashion. During my time, I designed freely and worked directly with factories all over the world that had deep-rooted expertise and superior craftsmanship. After a few honeymoon years, it was very clear that the entire industry was very quickly shifting to accommodate a different type of consumer demand. At the time of the boom of Walmart and Target, consumers were enthralled with the prospects of sheer quantity over quality for their buck. This global shift caused retail buyers we were working with to seek lower priced, more salable “market-tested” designs. Quality and innovation was no longer a part of the conversation. I not only lost interest, but also began questioning why I was designing in the first place. I delved back into making, and it was a journey from that moment to the launch of Light + Ladder. L+L is my pursuit to produce quality goods made in the US. Yes, it is more expensive, but definitely not out of reach. Ultimately, it’s not just what we buy but what we are buying into and who we are supporting that has the power to change the economy. From where I stand every small decision makes a difference.
The follow up question here is what has your experience been like since you started your own studio and in what ways has it been different than you expected?
My experience has been beyond positive. Maybe I didn’t expect it to be this wonderful. From peers to collaborators, everyone is so incredibly creative and supportive on so many levels.
I didn’t have expectations going in because I had never done anything like it before. At that point I was most familiar with more corporate design, so everything was completely new to me. That said, I always appreciate when a small piece of knowledge gained in my previous career pops in like an old friend. My feeling is that everything leading up to this point was meant to be and I wouldn’t change a thing.
In addition to all of the products that you design and produce under the Light + Ladder brand you also have a collection of larger design objects and furniture that you sell under your own self-titled brand. What made you decide to separate these practices?
By separating the two brands I am able to focus the Light + Ladder brand identity, while allowing myself full creative freedom under my own name, Farrah Sit. If I feel like experimenting, I do it under my name so that I don’t have to worry about whether or not it’s compatible with Light + Ladder’s visual brand. This freedom also feeds the ongoing creative development of Light + Ladder.
At this point in your career it seems like you’ve already worked with a pretty broad range of materials in your work. Are there any new materials or techniques that you’re super excited about at the moment?
3D printing ceramics! We are working with Kwambio, a "print-on-demand ceramics company” conveniently located downstairs in our studio building.
As we approach 2016 what are your thoughts and expectations like for the new year and how do you hope to see Light + Ladder evolve?
Light + Ladder will evolve beyond the horticulture focused product line and make a larger scope of small home accessories. Now that we have more US factories and fabricators to partner up with, we just need to come up with the designs!
INTERVIEW BY ISAAC FRIEDMAN-HEIMAN
PHOTOGRAPHS BY MELISSA WALBRIDGE