Announcing America's Next Great Home Textiles Company
Retail Editor 3 -- Home Textiles Today, August 5, 2013
New York - Home Textiles Today is spotlighting six first-time exhibitors at the NY Now show (previously the New York International Gift Fair) in our second annual America's Next Great Home Textiles Company series.
Three industry judges will visit the companies at the Javits Center here during the show, which runs from Aug 17-21. In future issues of HTT, they will evaluate the companies on their booth presentation, product development and marketing.
The winner will be announced during the winter 2014 edition of NY Now, which is set for Feb. 1-6.
The contenders are:
Courtney Collection began with a small store front, Luxury Pillows, which opened in San Francisco in December 2000 and remains in business today.
Store owner and interior designer Kathleen Courtney Chan will be coming to Javits with the first showing of Courtney Collection custom-designed pillows drawing on her background of doing high-end hotel and resort projects in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Jakarta, Indonesia, Chennai, India and resorts in Bali and Thailand.
Most of the pillows are made in San Francisco, though some are manufactured in North Carolina and other oversees. Chan's aim is high-quality, heirloom pieces with staying power.
"I feel things need to be classic and timeless," she said. "I don't want you to throw this away. I want these to be passed on."
Her current design mood swings toward whimsy. (She also designs bedding as well as wearable art - jewelry and scarves).
"What has me jazzed right now is authenticity and genuine things. What are you going to add to something classic that gives it a twist?"
Chan believes buyers and consumers are looking for something different, yet comfortable, inviting and affordable" in a savvy way."
Tim O'Hearn is a career retailer who recently got into the supply side of the business.
He began as an apparel buyer in Portland, Ore., for May Company's eight Meier & Frank department stores. He also lived through the wave of acquisitions and consolidations that roiled the department store sector.
"There was such a shakedown, and so many stores went out of business. Most stores were over-assorted and had become unfocused either to the sales people or the customer," he recalled.
So O'Hearn struck out on his own, opening his first retail store in Portland in 1995, French Quarter Linen, which still operates today. Two years ago, he bought the Scheuer Linens store in San Francisco, renaming it Samuel Scheuer. This month, he opens his third boutique, Maison de Blanc in Beverly Hills, Calif.
His new Henry Handwork business is also an acquisition. Last fall, he acquired a small company called Statements when he learned the owner was retiring - along with the client list and the inventory of hand and guest towels, cocktail napkins, dinner napkins, and wine bags.
"I'm taking an old business and making it relevant to today's consumer with new designs and inventories," he said. "The idea is to branch out. We want to get into more linens stores, more sophisticated stores."
Henry Handwork still carries Statement's original patterns to service the previous company's base, which focused on gift stores. In March, O'Hearn travelled to Vietnam to work with producers there on expanding the product, which had always been embroidered on a white cotton base.
He added pure linen in natural and ivory as well as colored cotton and introduced dozens of new designs. Between legacy and new artwork, Henry Handwork now carries 300 patterns, which will be ready to ship mid-September.
Asked what's most important in the new business, O'Hearn replied: "Focus." He added: "We don't do everything, but what we do we do well."
Sunghee Kim launched her business in 2011, spurred by a love of home décor. But there is also some family precedent in home furnishings.
Kim's parents own a business in South Korea that manufactures curtains and blinds for the hospitality trade. When it came time to create her own company, however, she gravitated toward the sleep end of the business.
La Cozi's product assortment includes duvet cover sets for adults and kids, sheet sets, baby blankets, dec pillow covers, napkin sets, and printed fabric by the yard in light, medium and heavy weights. Some products carry her own designs and others use the work of outside artists.
"I try to create high-quality products that are still affordable," said Kim.
Kim began selling from her web site, lacozi.com, in late 2011 and wants to expand her products into boutique customers.
La Cosi does custom order work, often made in the U.S. Larger orders are manufactured in South Korea.
Serendipity (in the form of his wife's job transfer) brought Arun Jain to Shanghai, where he discovered silk "needle paintings" called SiXiu. Relocation to Bangalore got him into the business of bringing SiXiu from China back to India. And involvement with silk got him into the home textiles business.
"The idea of silk being used in unusual ways is Silk Story," said Jain, ceo, who brought his nephew Devesh Jain into the company as vp.
Founded four years ago, Silk Story's range includes silk-filled duvets with silk or cotton covers, pillows blankets and accessories. Bedding launched this past January and the company is revamping its web site as it broadens its reach to the wholesale market.
"At the end of the day, I think our products speak for themselves," said Jain.
"Conceived in Ireland. Born in Peru" is the motto for Simple Things, a Dublin-based producer of alpaca throws, shawls, baby blankets and slippers.
Owners Shane and Sabrina (aka Breezy) McGlynn were pursuing careers in business before they started the company - he in commercial real estate and she as an art director at a major advertising agency.
"We were looking for a change," he said.
On visit to the West of Ireland they found it, crossing paths with a man raising alpaca. They began researching, which ultimately lead to a trip to three-week trip to Peru. "That included an element of surfing, too," McGlynn admitted. Away from the water, they travelled the Andres, checking out everything from large ranchers to small farmers and production facilities ranging from commercial mills to family groups.
Simple Things was founded five years ago, the company's first big account coming from Harrod's. From there, business expanded into other highly regarded British retailers, including The Conran Shop, Liberty and Selfridges. Two years ago, the company opened its first door in the U.S. - at Neiman Marcus.
"We're a small brand and very niche, with an absolute focus on superb quality at moderate to upper moderate price," said McGlynn.
Mary Lazarus, ceo of Vestiges, is a brand launch pro. Lazarus was a co-founder of Caldrea and Mrs. Meyers, the earth-friendly home cleaning brands that were eventually sold to SE Johnson. Like many supply-side entrepreneurs, her roots are in retail: the former Federated Department Stores company (now Macy's Inc.) and Dayton Hudson Marshall Fields.
Lucy Consonni Pelizzer, Vestiges' vp, hails from the Italian section of Switzerland. She moved to Minnesota in 1991 and began teaching Italian - which is how she met Lazarus. Consonni Pelizzer also went to work for Lazarus' company, and after the sale it was she who decided Lazarus should start another business.
"I said, ‘C'mon, we have to do something European,' " Consonni Pelizzer recalled.
During her student travels in Europe, Lazarus had fallen in love with souvenir towels and that became the inspiration for Vestiges, founded in 2010, which produces high-quality cotton printed pique towels. Designs now include all 50 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and some major cities.
The artwork is created by students at the Minnesota College of Art and Design, where Lazarus is chairman. Students get paid for their work and keep the original art for their portfolios, she said.
Vestiges is hoping to expand its client base into more regions of the country and is also interested in meeting flash sale retailers, said Lazarus.
"Our differentiation is we operate with large company discipline, even though we are a small company," she added. "We are always in stock and we fulfill excellently."
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