Raymor was the brand name of an import company, founded by entrepreneur Irving Richards, and was an important designer products distributor based in the U.S. from 1941 until 1980. Although Raymor imported most of its stock, it also oversaw the manufacture of a comparatively small quantity of goods in the U.S.
During its lifetime, Raymor worked with many leading American, Italian, and Scandinavian designers. Richards became a very influential figure in mid-late 20th century design, and was at the cutting edge of popular American tastes during the period.
Raymor’s catchphrase was ‘Modern in the Tradition of Good Taste’. Richards himself was described as a ‘merchandising tastemaker‘ by Donald Albrecht, co-curator of the Russel Wright exhibition at the Cooper Hewitt Design Museum in 2001. He forged strong relationships between designers, manufacturers, retailers, and advertising and PR agencies which resulted in the best of modern design at all levels being brought to the wider American public.
Richards’ first, and arguably most critical, relationship was with designer Russel Wright (1904-76). The two were introduced by Richards’ mentor Andy Rouge, a buyer for merchandisers Stern Brothers and Ovington’s, in 1935. Richards was impressed by Wright’s spun aluminum lamps and domestic wares which were being produced in a small Midtown workshop by Wright, his wife Mary and a couple of other assistants.
This began a fruitful relationship with Wright, and led to the formation of Russel Wright Inc. on March 10, 1936. The pair’s most celebrated and successful collaboration was over Wright’s landmark ‘American Modern’ ceramic tableware range which was first produced in 1938 by Wright Accessories, but ended up being mass-produced by Steubenville later that year. In 1941, the Wrights sold their share of the Wright Accessories business to Richards. Following the sale, Wright Accessories Inc. was renamed Raymor Mfg Division Inc.
The Wright relationship would have also provided him a huge range of contacts and contracts with distributors, manufacturers and retailers across America and probably beyond. By 1952, Raymor had an office on the prestigious 5th Avenue in Manhattan.
In the early 1950s, following the loss of exclusivity over the 'American Modern' collection, Richards looked for other options to continue and develop his business. He began to work with other notable designers and which would include George Nelson, Gilbert Rhode, Donald Deskey, Walter Dorwin Teague, Ray & Charles Eames, Ben Seibel, Eva Zeisel, Hans Wegner and Peter Max.
He traveled to Denmark which led to him importing Danish furniture and lighting. He also established relationships with many factories in Scandinavia, Mexico, Italy and West Germany from the early to mid 1950s, including Italy’s Bitossi and West Germany’s Carstens. He made at least two trips a year to Europe, and presumably visited many countries and different companies The 1950s can thus be seen as the start of the extensive importation and distribution side of his company, which grew to include furniture, lighting, glass, wood, and ceramics.
Raymor also imported large amounts of Italian glass and pottery, mainly from factories in and around Florence and Murano. These included Bitossi ceramics designed by Aldo Londi, Bagni ceramics designed by Alvino Bagni, ceramics by Mancioli and Ceramica Pozzi, and glass from factories around Empoli. The focus on importing and promoting Italian products reputedly led to him being awarded a knighthood by the Italian government, This award has never been confirmed, however. Richards was also instrumental in introducing Ettore Sottsass to ceramics around 1956, placing him firmly under the wing of Aldo Londi at Bitossi.
In 1963, Raymor was sold to furniture company Simmons, which itself was later sold to Gulf & Western. During the mid-late 1960s and early 1970s, Richards was placed in charge of furniture. One of his great successes was the ‘Omnibus’ range of Scandinavian-style wall units.
Richards collected Latin American art, and took up sculpture and painting, exercised his creative spirit. In the 1990s, his apartment was filled with design classics by great names in postwar design from across the world, as well as his own artworks.
Through the tireless network of Irving Richards contacts, clients and factories Raymor's activities led to the global introduction of many of the most important 20th century designers to the collecting public.
Credit and thanks to Mark Hill Publishing for contributing much of the above information.