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WolfHome finds a niche for fashion fabric

New York - It was only about two years ago that longtime home textiles industry veteran Warren Kay found what he saw as a veritable void in the business.

And almost as quickly as he spotted it, he sought to fill it.

"I was disenchanted with retail," Kay told HTT. "It was such a difficult time in the retail business."

At that time, Kay was designing drapery, window treatments and home textiles for as many as 2,000 stores, including the majors such as JCPenney and Ethan Allen.

"It was then that realized that in the home textiles market, you could only buy very low-end drapery," Kay continued. "I had designed a ready-made drapery that fit in a box called ‘Drapery out of the box' and that was basically what was available in the marketplace. You could only get low-end product or serve a very high-end customer. But you could not get the instant gratification of a luxury product you could go out and buy and then hang immediately in your home."

That proved to be as major "catalyst for where I am now."

And that would be WolfHome - Kay's high-end fabric and home décor shop located in New York City's Flatiron District at 936 Broadway.

"The retail and home textile industry at this point is either low end or high end, and a lot of the product is just mass-produced in China. So what you have are home furnishings that are very bland, very boring, with no color. Just sale oriented," Kay said. "That's not for me. I wanted to change that for myself, and now have a vehicle to sell my textile designs and furnishings at the retail concept I am developing here - for everyone. My product is made in America and consists of completely unique pieces of interest."

Kay described the WolfHome business - which also operates a store on Chicago's Michigan Avenue shopping district - as a home textiles-based company that "weaves fabric in house or commissions it."

"Not a lot of people buy fabric anymore," Kay noted. "It's the same thing in the garment industry. Garment people these days rather buy the finished product than buy the fabric. Home furnishings have gone in that direction, too. People buy product - not a yard of fabric."

But now they can - and are - at WolfHome, where "we do the whole job. We offer a very unique, customized-sort of retail."

In addition to growing roster of shoppers, WolfHome's clients include television and movie companies and major fashion shelter publications - many of which use his products and designs on their sets and pages, respectively.

"WolfHome is primarily a fabric store. We're really a textile and textile design store," Kay continued. "Everything we have begins with fabric, and everything is about fabric and color."

From there the company manufactures most of the products, which in the home textiles segment includes drapery, pillows, bedding, and wall covering as well as some upholstered furniture pieces.

"We can manufacturer anything you want to make out of fabrics," Kay said. "Everything is highly customized. There is nothing standardized about what we do."

He explained WolfHome operates its own workroom on site for cut and sew, as well as a big facility off-site in New York for upholstery work.

WolfHome on average carries more than 2,000 different rolls of fabrics - sometimes as many as 3,000 - and the vast majority of them - Kay estimates 99% - are made of natural fabrics, including silk, linen, cotton, mohair and others.

Kay said color is the most important aspect of his fabric designs.

During the recent holiday season, one hot item included cashmere linens in bright schemes - silver, fuchsia, daffodil yellow and deep purples.

But the company does work with some outside vendors in select areas, such as luxury linens house Schlossberg Switzerland for sheets and bath towels.

On that note, Kay explained that WolfHome is "working on" a private label program for the store.

"We are very interested in working and partnering with other expert vendors," he said. "We are the best in fabric and window, but not necessarily the best in other [home textiles] areas, so we are looking for the best partners to help us be the best across the board."

WolfHome also recently added candles and home fragrances from Europe to its merchandise mix.

"We are about offering the best of anything and everything from around the world for your home," Kay said.

Looking to expand its presence, WolfHome hopes to soon open units in Los Angeles, Sand Francisco, Dallas, and Houston.

"We are actively looking for partners to help us open in those locations," Kay said, "but one of the hardest things I've found as a creative person in running and managing a store. So we are looking for partners to help us to that."

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