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Ashley gets in decorative fabrics

New York — Laura Ashley is moving into the decorative fabrics business in a major way with the launch next month of a 700-sku, all-encompassing fabric collection from Kravet Fabrics, its licensee for fabrics and trimmings.

The fabrics evoke the Laura Ashley signature looks — graceful embroideries and laces, rich velvets, English chintz, washed linens, canvas, chenilles and textures as well as basic decorator necessities such as linings and an array of Laura Ashley classic print statements.

Under the direction of Meri Stevens, creative director for the brand under the Kravet aegis, the collection will have a four-part launch.

The first wave is via fabric and home accent retailers Calico Corners and JoAnn Fabrics, each launching the collection in mid September.

The second wave will be the distribution of a 14-volume "Fabric Library" embracing the entire collection to a select list of 7,000 interior designers. Third will be the introduction of the fabrics at the October furniture market in High Point, NC, by Kincaid, the upholstered and case goods licensee, and Whitecraft Rattan, the rattan furniture licensee.

And last, but not least, Stevens noted "We will have some small coordination in this first introduction with Imperial Home Decor, the wallpaper licensee. "This first time around we couldn't do any planned coordination across the 700 skus."

Looking ahead, Ivy Tan, vp, operations for Laura Ashley, commented that while coordination among the present 23 licensees was possible, only Kincaid and Whitecraft Rattan were definite because of the fabrics for the furniture covers. "Where suitable, we'd like to see more coordination," she added.

The Kravet fabric program is another significant step in the revival of the brand that had faltered in the last decade under a number of managements and ownerships. The present management, led by Paul Ng, recently moved from Boston to the Charlotte, NC, area.

Long-time bedding licensee Revman Inds. has put a fresh spin on its Laura Ashley program, while other major home textiles licensees, including Hollander Home Fashions, Franco Home Fashions and Beaulieu in rugs and carpeting, have aggressive design and marketing programs. "And we are in the midst of discussions with a number of other potential home textiles licensees," Tan commented.

The Laura Ashley Fabric Library offers "decorating solutions for both the interior designer and consumers," Stevens observed.

The wovens are packaged by color with crushed strawberry and sapphire, two classic Laura Ashley colors holding a focal position and "timely for today," Stevens remarked.

Within the 14-book library, there are two print collections including Laura Ashley Classics — archival patterns now printed on beefy 54-inch fabric vs. the previous 48-inch widths — a five-book set of upholstery fabrics and lots of multi-purpose fabrics. The prints often are on a dyed ivory ground and overprinted to create "a new vintage colorway," Stevens said.

Retail price points will be $15 to $20 per yard for the prints and $10 to $20 per yard for the embroideries. The upholstery fabrics will be available cut order.

Kravet is supporting the program with a brand brochure, postcards and national advertising in September in House Beautiful, HomeStyle and Victoria magazines.

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