Absolutely Luxurious Bath Accessories
October 30, 2017
A West Hartford importer cleans up in the luxury bath accessories market.
Text by Maria LaPiana
It’s hard to say exactly when the “necessary room” became a necessary luxury, but we’ve been giving our bathrooms the spa treatment for some time. They’re retreats now, rejuvenation rooms, sanctuaries—outfitted with Japanese soaking tubs, steam showers with pebbled floors, mouth-blown glass vessel sinks. Where can you find accessories that will do justice to such lavish spaces?
Enter Labrazel, a twenty-year-old company headquartered in West Hartford, and source for artisan-made bath accents found in luxury hotels and residences all over the world. It’s a niche market, and they’ve got its top tier covered nicely.
In 1997, after a stint on Wall Street and a decade with a family-owned import business in Texas, Labrazel president Brad Zeligson and his wife, Lauren Klein Zeligson, moved to Connecticut to be closer to family. They purchased an odd-lot inventory from an accessories importer in Hamden, “a mish-mash of low-end home accessories,” says Brad, “but there were some gems: a couple of gold- and silver-leaf wastebaskets, tissue box covers, and trays from Florence.” At the Dallas Market that year, he met the buyer for Neiman Marcus, who bought the Italian pieces—and asked for more. “The next week I was on a plane to Italy,” he adds, “and the rest is history.”
Connecticut proved the perfect place from which to launch a new company. “We’re so happy we made the move,” says Zeligson. “Not only have we been able to put down roots and develop great friendships, but living in West Hartford allows us to manage our clients and business in New York, while enjoying four wonderful seasons, proximity to Boston, the beaches in the summer, and the mountains in the winter.”
Labrazel’s product line features wastebaskets, tissue covers, soap dispensers, canisters, tumblers and brush holders, soap dishes, trays, and pump tops. What differentiates these accessories from the kind you can find in dozens of department stores? Craftsmanship and choice materials, which include gold and silver leaf over ceramic and wood, travertine marble, mouth-blown glass, polished alabaster, Capiz shell, cast cement, limestone, bronze, hand-painted enamel, onyx, polished nickel, and crystal.
The company sells to high-end retailers, including the Bloomingdale’s flagship store and ABC Carpet & Home in New York City, Harrods of London, and Lane Crawford in Hong Kong, and outfits upscale homes, yachts, private jets, and luxury resorts and hotels (the Four Seasons is a customer). Its products are also available through catalogs like Frontgate and Neiman Marcus.
Zeligson, who serves as unofficial creative director, says, “inspiration comes primarily from trends and materials in the marketplace that we see emerging—or coming back in style.” He has collaborated with several well-known designers, including Michael Berman and Jamie Drake, and over time the line has become more transitional and even contemporary.
Approximately 80 percent of the company’s production takes place in Italy. “Most of our supplier network is in the Tuscany region,” Zeligson explains. “I travel to visit our various artisans, who are mostly small, family-owned operations.”
He’s proud of the collaborative network they’ve established with Italian artisans because it allows the company to combine materials: brass bases with marble, for example, or semi-precious stones with ceramics.
When he ventures outside Italy, it’s for a material or a process unavailable there. For example, Labrazel produces some items using varieties of onyx and marble found only in Mexico; the shell work is done in the Philippines, and Zeligson turns to Rocky Mountain Hardware, in Idaho, for cast architectural bronze.
Labrazel may be a purveyor of specialty goods, but you don’t have to be special (or well-connected) to enjoy its products in your own home. All of the collections you see on the website are available at all times. That’s important, says Zeligson, because his company caters to customers who don’t want to wait once they complete new construction, a renovation, or a bathroom redo.
For fourteen years, Labrazel had a local presence with a brick-and-mortar location in West Hartford Center, run by Lauren. As the company evolved into a brand with an international presence, the couple decided to close the store and embrace global opportunities instead. Lauren is now focusing on designing a line of Italian-made fine jewelry called L. Klein Jewelry, which launched last year. Luckily, her new venture requires travel to Italy, so she and Brad get to go together. Says her husband, “There are definitely worse places to work.”