When I met chandelier designer Michael McHale for coffee one early and cold morning at La Colombe in Soho, one of the first questions out of my mouth was “How did you meet Tom Colicchio?” Mr. Colicchio features prominently as an endorser of Michael McHale designs; and, as a huge Top Chef fan myself, I had to know what brought the two together. The story, I learned, started as a brief online correspondence with Mr. Colicchio’s wife’s sister, which turned into a successful friendship between two very creative individuals.
As Michael McHale sees it, every luxury brand has a story behind it. Customers aren’t just buying the product, they are buying the individual history. For Michael McHale Designs, the story, like the product, is one of transition and reinvention, as he calls it “The re-purposed lighting of a re-purposed lawyer.”
In early 2007, Michael McHale was an entertainment lawyer, “doing the legal work of creative people,” when a search for a lighting fixture left him feeling less than inspired. While most of us might have kvetched and kibitzed, McHale took the matter into his own hands—literally—and set about designing an entirely new type of chandelier. His pieces combine repurposed piping materials with fine crystal, for a high-low silhouette that are anything but ordinary.
It could have ended with a single beautiful piece, but McHale saw an opportunity to develop his design into a business and bring some creative energy back into his own life. Now the company boasts three distinct lines. The Tribeca Collection is the lowest price point and most popular line, featuring black pipes and hung crystals that are all ready-made. Custom pieces fall under the Industrial Collection, which include a billiard and corner chandelier. The Bryce Collection is the highest-price point and features McHale-designed hardware that references the original industrial influence.
Growing a small business is never easy, particularly during “the great recession”, but McHale says that his greatest challenge is being his own boss. As any freelancer knows, self-motivation and discipline are key to being successful. For McHale, finding a business partner is also key, someone who has strengths where the other has weaknesses, and someone who is willing to form a design partnership.
With an eye towards the future, Michael McHale Designs recently re-launched its website and has several collaborations in the works. As McHale said “the time has now come to evolve” and I can’t wait to see what he comes up with next.