8 Questions for Ethan Allen's CEO on Their Collaboration with Disney

Ethan Allen President and CEO Farooq Kathwari amid a few items from the new collection.Ethan Allen’s Disney-inspired furniture and home décor collection (upholstery, case goods, soft goods, rugs, artwork, lighting and accents) launched to much excitement on November 18—Mickey’s Birthday. Here, we speak with Ethan Allen President and CEO Farooq Kathwari about the new line.

Ethan Allen hasn’t collaborated with anyone in 84 years. Why Disney and why now? Ethan Allen and Disney are two iconic American brands focused on the family. Combining our core strengths of quality, craftsmanship and style with Disney’s rich storytelling was an exciting prospect that lets us design not just these wonderful home furnishings, but also an experience that blends tradition, technology and imagination in a way we haven’t before.

The Carolwood night table.How did the idea develop? Last year, as we celebrated our granddaughter’s fifth birthday at Walt Disney World, I had the pleasure of experiencing Disney through her eyes. As we floated through It’s A Small World, and we sang together, the words sounded new to me, too. It is a small world after all. I see the melting pot of the world’s imagination come to life in our styles and designs. I envisioned us working together, using our unique perspectives to build a “magical home.” I contacted Disney CEO Bob Iger, and he agreed that our brands should work together.

What was the appeal of and problematic about a collaboration? The appeal, obviously, was to create an “Ethan Allen/Disney” magical home. Our team explored what Disney inspiration could mean in the world of quality crafted home furnishings. One area that might have been a problem for another company was one we actually have found to be a great benefit: Disney requires that every product be made in workshops that meet strict social, environmental and safety standards.

Is everything made in the U.S.? About 70 percent of Ethan Allen furniture is made in our North American workshops, of which 60 percent is from our U.S. workshops.

Bedding, blankets and pillows from the collection.Does this collection have appeal beyond the obvious kids and young families? There is no age limit on the love Disney inspires in its fans and followers. Our collection, although it’s fun and whimsical and playful, isn’t childish, per se. There’s sophistication and surprise—clever uses of color and shape, hidden Mickeys, lots of unexpected moments.

Did it actually start with the “It All Started With A Mouse Tables”? We and Disney felt that our first launch should focus on Mickey and Minnie. The product name refers to a comment that the late, great Walt Disney made in 1954: “I only hope that we never lose sight of one thing—that it was all started by a mouse.”

I love the Mickey Mouse Club chair-and-a-half. Is it big enough for adults? It’s big enough for two adults or one adult and one child, and it’s a perfect place for story time and nap time. Many of our product development associates are parents of young children; some, like me, are grandparents. I have four grandchildren, ages 2 to 6.

Which piece is your grandkids’ favorite? My grandkids favorites range from beautiful upholstered beds to play stations. 

A version of this article appeared in the December 2016 issue of CTC&G (Connecticut Cottages & Gardens) with the headline: A Mouse in the House.