February 1, 2018

Arthur Edelman, Co-Founder of Edelman Leather, Dies at 92

Edelman Leather co-founder Arthur Edelman passed away on January 30. He was 92. Preceded in death by Teddy Edelman (d. 2016), his wife of 66 years, Arthur is survived by their six children: Sam, Sally, Toni, David, Mary, and John.

Interior Design spotlighted Arthur and Teddy Edelman in a 2007 Fall Market Tabloid feature on icons of design. Here, the couple is pictured holding 1925 crystal candy dishes by Oswald Haerdtl through Lobmeyr. Photography by Paul Godwin.

Arthur Edelman was born in the Bronx on July 19, 1925, to Russian immigrants. After serving in the Navy, he studied acting at Sarah Lawrence College through the G.I. Bill. “He went there when it was the first year they allowed men in,” recalls Echo MacKenzie, vice president of marketing for Edelman Leather. “He figured his odds were pretty good to meet a girl!” He met Teddy Edelman shortly thereafter. They wed four days after graduating and became the longest married couple to have met at the school. 

Teddy and Arthur Edelman.

After Arthur’s acting career hit a standstill, the couple joined Teddy’s family tannery business, Fleming-Joffe, which became the leading supplier of high-fashion leathers. Andy Warhol joined their team as a graphic designer. After a six-year stint, he left the business in 1964, the same year the Edelmans received the Neiman Marcus Award for distinguished service in the field of fashion.

The Edelmans sold Fleming-Joffe in 1971 and launched Edelman Leather a decade later, with the goal of providing luxury upholstery to architects and interior designers for high-end residential, office, hospitality, aviation, and marine projects. Warhol contributed the iconic This is a chair upholstered in Edelman Leather poster that distinguished the brand.

Andy Warhol met Arthur and Teddy Edelman in 1957 and became their graphic designer a year later. Warhol designed a coloring book featuring all the Edelman beasts that gave their hides to fashion: snakes, lizards, crocodiles, an exotic calf, and water buffaloes, pictured here in Interior Design‘s April 2002 issue.
A water buffalo illustrated by Andy Warhol that appeared in Interior Design‘s April 2002 issue.

“Both Teddy and Arthur dreamed up ideas and were inspired by so much,” MacKenzie says. “Being around that energy was life-changing. They cared about our lives, taking stock in who we were, helping us to grow and be inspired by more… encouraging museum visits and much reading.”

Although the Edelmans sold the brand to Knoll in 2007, Arthur continued designing patterns—and the imaginative stories accompanying them—until 2009. Today, the line includes more than 800 colorways and over 80 types of leather, all sustainably sourced. 

Edelman Leather’s Spice Market collection, featured in Interior Design‘s Spring Market Tabloid in 2005, come in mouthwatering tones of saffron, cumin, paprika, and cinnamon—as spotted in the open markets of Istanbul.

Arthur and Teddy leave behind a resounding appreciation for design. Their youngest son, John, is president and CEO of the modern furniture giant Design Within Reach, which boasts 35 retail locations including the New York flagship. The oldest son, Sam, founded a series of successful fashion and footwear brands now owned by Caleres.

Editor in chief Cindy Allen posted a eulogy for Arthur on her Instagram. “He was the man! So dashing and charismatic, movie star looks, completely in love with Teddy, fiercely devoted to John and his entire family… It was my honor to call him my friend.”

A two-page Croco Loco advertisement by Edelman Leather.
Full-page advertisement of Edelman Leather’s various collections in vibrant red.

Edelman Leather featured in Interior Design‘s Spring Market Tabloid in 2012.
Edelman Leather’s Bare-Ly There collection, which appeared in Interior Design‘s Spring Market Tabloid in 2013.
Capsules by Edelman Leather, featured in Interior Design‘s Spring Market Tabloid in 2014.

Kyle Bunting’s graphic hides at Edelman Leather, revealed at NeoCon 2016, is an aniline double-dyed stitch-free hair-on-hide wall covering with a paper backing fused to its substrate.
Arthur and Teddy Edelman pictured in Interior Design‘s Fall Market Tabloid 2007 issue. Photography by Paul Godwin.

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