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When Will Fashion Return?

Listening to the various comments of the many Americans attending Heimtextil in Frankfurt, Germany last week was a fascinating study in points of view.

Many agreed that the preoccupation with price-price-price of recent years was slowly giving way to a more rational focus on price-value relationships. Whether this is just so much talk in terms of the reality of the American marketplace, only time will tell.

One reason for the uncertainty lies in the way so much of the home textiles business is done in this era — via auctions of one type or another. Once a wide range of suppliers is aware of a direction in a product, the potential for the rest of the marketplace to discover it is high.

This begins again the price-price-price drive.

As for color and design directions, a number of Americans observed that the main, overriding theme was “safe” — an unfortunate happening for an industry that desperately needs a good jolt of something new, an antidote to the overwhelming sameness that has prevailed for far too long.

Could be that this sameness is a major contributor to the less-than-sterling home textiles retail results of 2005. One wonders whether the design community has had its creative juices turned off one year too many.

Overall, there has been an acknowledgement of some yarn and technology advances — due in part to growing investment of Western chemical, fiber and weaving specialists in Eastern economies. This activity should accelerate even more this year.

And then there is the quiet, unheralded influence that could be more potent eventually than others: the growing amount of Western products, including home products, available in countries like India and China.

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