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Meet Anthropologie’s 25-Year-Old In-House Designer

People

You may not know 25-year-old Jerri Hobdy by name, and we'd wager that you probably wouldn't be able to recognize her face in a crowd, either. We'll tell you one thing you're probably familiar with, though: her furniture. In March 2015, shortly after graduating from the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), Hobdy landed a position at Anthropologie as an in-house designer specializing in furniture, upholstery and lighting.


To say her pieces have been wildly successful would be putting it mildly. Hobdy's Elowen Chair – which features a plush velvet seat and elegant, polished brass legs – became an overnight success once it hit stores. Since its debut, it's sold over $1 million in volume, and has earned the title of Anthropologie's leading item in the Home category. Hobdy is also responsible for their whimsical Bumblebee End Table, handsome Metallic Mosaic Coffee Table, and stunning Geo Brass Inlay Bed, among many other pieces.

Her Passion

“I have always been a hands-on creative," Hobdy told SWAAY. “Bringing ideas to life, whether it be drawing or actually building furniture, I have found to be a hugely satisfying outlet for myself. When I discovered that I could earn a degree – and more importantly, make a living – as a furniture designer, I pursued it fully and am loving it!"

Hobdy begins her morning with a pour over of Rival Brothers Coffee (her fave), and then walks her seven-pound Pomeranian Dixon. Then it's off to Anthropologie, where she busies herself sketching, styling, and photographing.

“Every day, I learn new ways to channel my creativity and excitement about furniture and home decor design into sketches, digital renders, and technical drawings that eventually come to life," she says. “There is always a scribble filled stack of papers and a spattering of fabric swatches and eraser bits on my desk."

Her Aesthetic

Hobdy describes her aesthetic as “rooted in simplified silhouettes, fine and layered textures, and pure finishes that showcase materiality." She is also passionate about utilizing more sustainable practices in furniture making and manufacturing, which goes hand-in-hand with her pure, refined aesthetic. She is one of only a couple hundred Green Accredited Professionals who currently live in the United States, and she was the 2015 Cradle2Cradle Professional Design Challenge winner, where she incorporated solvent-free, vegetable-tanned leather and steel into her winning design.

Despite her age, which can be a hindrance in any professional field, Hobdy has found success in furniture and design by being both true to herself and tuned in to the brands she's designing for.

Her Future

At this point in Hobody's career, her mission is to focus on channeling a brand's language and the consumer's needs. But she has every intention of building her own brand and fully exploring, and showcasing, her personal aesthetic.

As a young, twenty something who's already found success in the furniture design field, Hobdy offers these words of wisdom to others just getting started:

“Don't be afraid to stop and give yourself time to really analyze what you love, what you desire to change or impact, and what your skills are," she says. “Identifying those clearly, and then searching for and building strategies on how to merge them, is the most rewarding and motivating self-actualization. Each of us has unique abilities, and even if they don't fall into traditional or clear-cut career routes, stick with your guns and carve out your own space."

Culture

Why Whiskey Should No Longer Be Categorized As “A Man’s Drink”

I walk into a room full of men and I know exactly what they're thinking: "What does she know about whisky?"


I know this because many men have asked me that same question from the moment I started my career in spirits a decade ago.

In a male-dominated industry, I realized early on that I would always have to work harder than my male counterparts to prove my credibility, ability and knowledge in order to earn the trust of leadership stakeholders, coworkers, vendors and even consumers of our products. I am no stranger to hard work and appreciate that everyone needs to prove their worth when starting any career or role. What struck me however, was how the recognition and opportunities seemed to differ between genders. Women usually had to prove themselves before they were accepted and promoted ("do the work first and earn it"), whereas men often were more easily accepted and promoted on future potential. It seemed like their credibility was automatically and immediately assumed. Regardless of the challenges and adversity I faced, my focus was on proving my worth within the industry, and I know many other women were doing the same.

Thankfully, the industry has advanced in the last few years since those first uncomfortable meetings. The rooms I walk into are no longer filled with just men, and perceptions are starting to change significantly. There are more women than ever before making, educating, selling, marketing and conceptualizing whiskies and spirits of all kinds. Times are changing for the better and it's benefitting the industry overall, which is exciting to see.

For me, starting a career in the spirits business was a happy accident. Before spirits, I had worked in the hospitality industry and on the creative agency side. That background just happened to be what a spirits company was looking for at the time and thus began my journey in the industry. I was lucky that my gender did not play a deciding role in the hiring process, as I know that might not have been the case for everyone at that time.

Now, ten plus years later, I am fortunate to work for and lead one of the most renowned and prestigious Whisky brands in the world.. What was once an accident now feels like my destiny. The talent and skill that goes into the whisky-making process is what inspired me to come back and live and breathe those brands as if they were my own. It gave me a deep understanding and appreciation of an industry that although quite large, still has an incredible amount of handmade qualities and a specific and meticulous craft I have not seen in any other industry before. Of course, my journey has not been without challenges, but those obstacles have only continued to light my passion for the industry.

The good news is, we're on the right track. When you look at how many females hold roles in the spirits industry today compared to what it looked like 15 years ago, there has been a significant increase in both the number of women working and the types of roles women are hired for. From whisky makers and distillers to brand ambassadors and brand marketers, we're seeing more women in positions of influence and more spirits companies willing to stand up and provide a platform for women to make an impact. Many would likely be surprised to learn that one of our team's Whisky Makers is a woman. They might even be more surprised to learn that women, with a heightened sense of smell compared to our male counterparts, might actually be a better fit for the role! We're nowhere near equality, but the numbers are certainly improving.

It was recently reported by the Distilled Spirits Council that women today represent a large percentage of whisky drinkers and that has helped drive U.S. sales of distilled spirits to a record high in 2017. Today, women represent about 37% of the whisky drinkers in the United States, which is a large increase compared to the 1990s when a mere 15% of whisky drinkers were women. As for what's causing this change? I believe it's a mix of the acceptance of women to hold roles within the spirits industry partnered with thoughtful programs and initiatives to engage with female consumers.

While whisky was previously known for being a man's drink, reserved for after-dinner cigars behind closed doors, it is now out in the open and accessible for women to learn about and enjoy too.

What was once subculture is now becoming the norm and women are really breaking through and grabbing coveted roles in the spirits business. That said, it's up to the industry as a whole to continue to push it forward. When you work for a company that values diversity, you're afforded the opportunity to be who you are and let that benefit your business. Working under the model that the best brand initiatives come from passionate groups of people with diverse backgrounds, we are able to offer different points of view and challenge our full team to bring their best work forward, which in turn creates better experiences for our audience. We must continue to diversify the industry and break against the status quo if we really want to continue evolving.

While we've made great strides as an industry, there is still a lot of work to be done. To make a change and finally achieve gender equality in the workplace, both men and women need to stand behind the cause as we are better collectively as a balanced industry. We have proved that we have the ability to not only meet the bar, but to also raise it - now we just need everyone else to catch up.