Web Exclusives: Alumni Spotlight

Jesse Johnson ’93 launched Q collection in September

July 2, 2003:
Furniture that's good for you
Jesse Johnson '93 makes environmentally friendly sofas and chairs

By Jessica Dheere '93

Two years ago, when Jesse Johnson ’93 set about furnishing his Manhattan apartment, he looked for furniture and fabrics that wouldn’t harm the environment or his own health. While shopping, he asked questions such as: Did the companies harvesting the wood replant the forests they logged? Were the fabrics treated with nontoxic dyes? Were the fibers organically grown? The answers were always no.

The former investment banker and politics major had just graduated from Yale with degrees in management and environmental studies and had become fascinated with industrial ecology — or how to minimize the negative effects of industrial processes on human health and the environment.

“I’d go into stores asking these questions, and people would look at me like I was crazy,” says Johnson, who in the end decided, with interior designer Anthony Cochran, to start Q collection (qcollection.com), a company that creates the kind of furniture and textiles he was looking for. (Q stands for quercus, Latin for oak.)
In creating headboards, club chairs, coffee tables, sofas, stools, and bookcases, which they will launch in a New York showroom in September, Johnson and Cochran conducted extensive research into the origin and the toxicity of a range of materials, from frames to batting to upholstery to wood glue.

Their wood suppliers replant the forests they harvest. They use fabrics made from organic wool that is untreated and unprocessed. Says Johnson, “This material is so natural that the excess clippings from the factory are used as mulch in the gardens surrounding the factory. And the water used in the manufacturing process leaves the factory cleaner than when it entered.”

Q collection offers high-end home furnishings that borrow elements from traditional and modern design, he says, “to create forms that are contemporary, functional, comfortable” and durable.

“We care about things most companies don’t care about,” says Johnson, who asks, “Why would someone want to buy a piece of furniture that will only last five years and is known to contain carcinogenic materials when they can bring something with great design and pure materials into their home?"

Jessica Dheere is managing editor of Elle Décor.