Showtime wakes up to new colors

Carole Sloan, July 12, 2004

It's all about color — lots of color — bright, happy and energetic color.

That's where the decorative fabrics market is, and will be going even more in the future, according to many fabric designers whose lines will be showcased at Showtime here this week.

The color revolution started several seasons back as a reaction to the color explosion in the European markets with brights, especially yellows and oranges, moving into the headlines.

But as important as the color explosion is, a number of fabric designers are looking at what had been negatively termed the "C" word — chintz — as staging a comeback, albeit in very different interpretations.

In addition, designers see a wider array of fabric choices being offered this week and in the next several markets than has been the case with the domination of chenille constructions and faux suedes.

In design, retro looks, fun, happy prints and wovens and a plethora of kids to tweens designs will be an important part of this Showtime and increasingly in future markets.

Silk is increasingly important as a fashion fabric with current introductions ranging from exotic plains to embroideries and prints and more exotic constructions planned for future markets. Expanded or new programs include Textile Fabric Associates, The Robert Allen Group, and American Silk.

With little fanfare, designers are pointing to fabric collections for the kids market — from infants to tweens — as well as indoor/outdoor fabrics that are creating major interest among jobbers, retailers and manufacturers.

As fashion-forward as the retro looks and preppy influences are, dressy with a livable 21st century attitude also is making a statement at this Showtime, the designers say.

The new chintz looks are subtle, Ametex now is offering a linen with a glazed finish and plans to move forward with different cotton-base cloth constructions in the next collection, said Marion Murray, vice president of design for The Robert Allen Group. Looking back to the home textiles market in April, Ralph Lauren Home introduced a chintzed linen used on furniture and bedding accessories.

Todd Bowles, vice president of design for Costa Blanca, also sees chintz as a new look for decorative fabrics, not just for what he sees as "an emerging English look — sweet, delicate flowers but with character." Bowles also sees a resurgence in Asian design influences in color and construction.

Discussing color directions, Pam Maffei-Toolan, vice president at Waverly, observed, "Colors are brighter, happier, upbeat. And we've expanded our color offerings to include turquoise, lime green, orange, fuchsia in our solids as well as prints."

At the same time Maffei-Toolan noted, "We are going opulent with spices and reds in our Eastern Origins collection." But as with most of the other fabric houses, a broad range of design statements is the Waverly mantra including clean moderns, some retro as well as the classic Waverly florals, Maffei-Toolan explained.

The company's Sun & Shade program will be accelerated to two collections a year with wovens added to the print offerings, Maffei-Toolan said.

For The Robert Allen Group, kids and outdoors are key collections among the variety being offered, said Murray. "We see kids designs from infants to tweens exploding over the next few years."

The fun colors and designs for the 125 sku kids group will be expanded to two more collections in January, Murray related. And the mood of these themed collections is influencing the rest of the line.

Colors, she reported, are upbeat "and driving the looks with pinks, greens, chocolate with pink or aqua and most important — crisp white as the foundation."

For upscale American Silk Mills, "We have lots of silks, silks and linens, dressy, sophisticated," said Cynthia Clark-Douthit, vice president of design. Color is the key, she remarked, with pale mint and celery, pinks, yellows, greens and sophisticated spice tones with blue as important directions.

Overall, she said, "Color really stands out versus neutrals."

In terms of color, "Blue is a comer from turquoise to warm robin's egg blue to pale mauves," she added.

Color again is the message at Valdese where Laura Levinson, senior vice president said, "Everything bright — fuchsia, pear green, oranges are across the board and in contemporary lichen with teal blue is important."

Looking at design directions, Levinson sees transitional moving into a modern Scandinavian mood with bold shapes and wavy lines. Cottage will be white plus bright and including bright blue, while the jobber collections will emphasize brights and saturated colors.

For Wesley Mancini — president of Wesley Mancini Ltd., the design arm of Home Fabrics — "Color is more vivid and brighter with less ambiguous color and more true to hue. Coral, a long time void is back and blues, formerly dusty, are purer."

Design, said Mancini, is definitely globally influenced with a touch of Asia, India, and Russia, for example. In addition, he noted, "Contemporary is emerging strong with vivid wave colors, and simplistic geometric shapes."

"We are showing the first printed raffia and lots of color," said Michael Day, vice president of Textile Fabric Associates. But as important as the expansion of the raffia program is the major introduction of the silk program with 20 styles from taffeta with satin, embroideries and a flower collection of designs, each with a silk coordinate, Day related.

Tropicals also are a specific segment, "but they are not so overstated as they have been," he said.

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