The look of luxe is in their eyes...

Carole Sloan, January 5, 2004

High Point, NC — Decorative fabric introductions at Showtime this week will follow the route of other consumer product directions toward luxury looks and products, as well as a return to classic looks and just simply pretty designs.

But don't count out trendy looks like retro contemporary and what has now become a separate home furnishings fabric direction — tropical-inspired design.

And a number of leading decorative fabrics designers see a resurgence of pretty florals — more open and colorful than in recent years.

Overall, there is a growing direction for surface interest, whether in the slowly regrowing print category, or in wovens that are expected to follow the long-time reign of chenille as the dominant look in jacquards.

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Silk and silk looks are moving into high gear as base cloths for prints and for a plethora of woven look.

As for color, there's lots more of it, and more saturated, a number of leading decorative fabric designers reported. Interestingly, browns — especially in the chocolate family — are moving into the forefront of the home furnishings color palette. They are being used as mixers with complex groupings including cream, pink and vintage effects.

There are shifts in the way the families of yellows, oranges and greens are seen as fashion-forward colors.

For the top rung fabric designers, new technology along with yarn and finishing developments are playing a significant role in their product development activities.

"The fashion accessories arena like Kate Spade with her bright stripes and mix and match is influencing the home area," said Laura Levinson, senior vp, Valdese. "But on the opposite end, retro contemporary with its bright colors and constructions pulled from contract and washed cotton in vintage looks are important directions."

At Waverly, Pamela Maffei-Toolan, vp, said, "We see our Sonoma Valley collection reflecting and arts and crafts look — and it has a more robust color palette, rich, opulent."

Waverly "is moving to a more modern/contemporary look with cleaner, more subtle designs and colors. We've always been known or our florals but we're moving to more ornamental looks."

"We see a look back to classics, and for bedding more satiny constructions, framed damasks and surface interest," said Wesley Mancini, head of Wesley Mancini Designs, which is the design arm for Home Fabrics.

Hand, Mancini explained, "is getting softer and softer."

As for color, Mancini sees apple green, yellow/green with pink, and chocolate mixed with anything that has pink or vintage looks. Rich colors like red for depth, taupey beiges with blue grays, greens ad warm yellows are emerging. Orange is moving to blue red and magenta to tomato.

Color, like jewel tones in peridot and ruby among 14 new shades, in velvet and silks, are key points in the direction for American Silk, said Cynthia Clark-Douthit, vp. "We see clear, crisp colors — chocolate and cream, black and white, tonal greens, and complex contemporary colors like amethyst and lilac."

Clark-Douthit added, "We see warm spicey reds, mid-greyed blues and lots of copper accents."

"Lots of greens — apple, moss, sage, olive, and bottle — are key colors," said Michael Day, vp, Textile Fabric Associates. "But pretty spa colors like camel, blue and pink also are important."

Novelty effects in fabric constructions like gingham eyelashes, silks from dupioni to embroideries and a "big push on fun contemporary, young looks like circles, and shapes are important."

For Louise Cullen Robinson, creative director at Richloom's Platinum, is among the design mavens who see tropical as assuming a new role. "It's morphed into a coastal ocean scene, batik, shells, coral — rather than just palm trees."

There's also a more exotic direction — ikat and florals with an Indonesian influence "and on the horizon a swing to contemporary, even influencing traditional."

At Craftex, Christy Almond, design director, decorative fabrics pointed to the "juxtaposition of conservative looks with an edgy hand, luxury fibers and distressed finishes with shiny fabrics."

She added "I am seeing other detailing elements like couture detailing, pockets and pleats in weaving, honeycomb and waffle weaves and thick and thin yarns." New to the equation, she related, are design elements like polka dots, quirky conversation patterns, large happy florals and small ditsy patterns."

"I see a big move to drapier constructions for soft window treatments, and a big move into performance fabrics for interiors beyond furniture — windows, tabletop, pillows," said Marion Murray, vp, for The Robert Allen Group.

"Colors are absolutely cleaner, more saturated, with lots of crimped and boucled yarns," she noted. "Tropicals are important but not the in-your-face looks. It's now a category, not a trend."

And almost in a whisper, Murray said, "I hope in two years or less, we will see more chintz. I'm now experimenting with glazed linens."

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