Throughout the New York Metropolitan area, AF New York (AFNY) – the select division of the AF Supply Corporation – is recognized as one of the premiere showrooms for kitchen and bath products, tile and architectural hardware. This past month at ICFF in New York, AFNY thrilled designers with its PURA VIDA book launch. PURA VIDA is a conceptual artistic endeavor – a photographic essay of human scars, tattoos and their stories as interpreted by photographer Tasja Keetman. We had the opportunity to speak to AFNY Principal, Bennett Friedman about AFNY and the book launch.
Bennett, AFNY is a landmark in New York’s design community. Tell us a little about growing up in this third generation family-owned business? “My grandfather had a solid vision when he founded AF Supply that included ethical, hard work – taking care of customers and business. Those things haven’t changed in 88 years. My dad is 91 and only semi-retired. He still keeps an eye on the business from his kitchen table. My brothers are also smart, passionate and caring. And not just about our customers – but about our vendors too. We treat vendors as true partners. Growing up, the warehouse was summer camp for us. We had all kinds of sports including washing bathrooms and shelving products. My father firmly believed we needed a background in business. We weren’t coddled. All of us had a stint in business through college and high school.”
How does AFNY differentiate itself? “AFNY is a brand – a culture that is about innovation, change, service and a philosophy to provide greater value to our customers through our extensive knowledge and selection. We offer value to clients in practical ways that differentiates us from traditional venues, ecommerce, home centers, etc. We are an SAP run company. Same as large multinational companies. But it’s not about using technology. It’s the culture. We are proactive in an industry that’s reactive. We employ over 200 people – but our family values haven’t changed.”
How did you become involved with the PURA VIDA project? “All year long we do events at the AFNY showroom including brand launches, CEU credit presentations and more. Over the past 7 or 8 years at ICFF, we’ve coordinated an outside event for designers that would be fun, cultural and a destination. Our AFNY brand and our image is a fusion of art and design that appeals to a more sophisticated customer. Events like the PURA VIDA launch extend our brand image, offer an opportunity to interact with our audience and make us a must-see stop on the ICFF event circuit.”
4. The PURA VIDA book is pure art. To describe it for our audience. Imagine a book of up close scar images. The embossed title is itself a scar on the cover. The binding is open with a visible, scar-like red thread running through. The pages are perforated together so you are forced to physically tear the book open to read it. Scarring your own personal copy of the book from inception. But the book is not meant to shock. It’s human stories told by the scar-bearers themselves. It is about healing and the spirit of renewal.
Bennett, tell us why projects like this are important to you and to AFNY. “PURA VIDA is about life. Scars are landmarks in our life. The ability to be injured, healed and to grow. Over 2,000 people volunteered to be photographed for the book including myself. We achieved over 1,500 images which were narrowed to 62. There’s no commercial message behind the book launch. PURA VIDA gives our clientele a view of our culture – it’s about innovation and design – about being perceived as on the leading edge. It’s not a typical book, just as we are not a typical company. It took nearly 4 years to complete this project and we have several more art and fashion projects in the making.”
Tell us a little about the BLANCO portfolio of products at AFNY. “I think BLANCO is recognized as an innovative company. We like to associate with companies like BLANCO where the quality of company is instilled in the culture and product ingenuity… and in the quality of their people.”