Gloria plans return to textiles biz

Marvin Lazaro, Staff Staff, August 24, 2001

New York — After almost a decade of absence from the home textiles market, the Gloria Vanderbilt Home Furnishings company is planning to re-introduce the licensed line with items for the bed, bath and tabletop. It is hoping to launch the multi-faceted line sometime in spring 2002.

At present, only two licensed collections carry the Vanderbilt name on them, a wallpaper line and a paper party products line.

Although many may think it is just a reincarnation of the line that disappeared in the early '90s, that is decidedly not the case, said Susan Olshan, vp, marketing and creative services for the New York-based company. According to Olshan, by the time the line was discontinued, a discounter approach had been adopted, with the designs mainly focusing on lush florals. Now, Olshan said, a European designer, whom the company declined to identify, has been found who "defines what Gloria is all about.

"It's definitely classic-meets-contemporary," Olshan said about the original designs, which will be divided into several collages and featured on the new Vanderbilt line. "I think the best way to put it is that it will have a classic look with a contemporary feel."

Olshan went on to say that the designs will not necessarily change from season to season. Instead, an evolving system will be developed in which open patterns will form the basis for each group. As the seasons change, new items would be introduced that would tie back into the core patterns. The style and design of the various products will also hearken back to what consumers are seeing in popular shelter magazines.

"We wanted to bring a high level of design to the middle market," Olshan said. "We thought we could build a brand there and have real value, real quality and challenge the mass market for the customer that's going from high level to discounters with no in-betweens and not being satisfied.

"Our premise is not 'the moderate customer has moderate taste,'" she added. "We think that's totally archaic. Less money does not mean less taste."

Accordingly, sheets would be in the 200- to 275-count range. Currently, 100 percent cotton is the construction of choice, but that has not yet been finalized. Retail price points for a full sheet would range in the $21.99 to $23.99 area. Aside from bedding and top-of-bed items, bathroom products, including accessories and towels, as well as china and glassware are all being developed.

While the company will take a middle-market approach in terms of its design, exactly what retail channel the line will debut in remains a question. Originally, mid-level stores were the focus of the introduction, but the company has since been approached by a higher-end department store and has contemplated launching the line exclusively at that level. That decision will be made after much consideration, Olshan said. The question of what company will manufacture the line is also unanswered, Olshan added, saying only that a target list of manufacturers had been compiled.

Whether Gloria Vanderbilt herself will become involved in the project also has not yet been determined. According to Olshan, the company is currently talking with her about how much involvement she would like to have.

"Retailers have to understand that home customers have extremely high expectations when it comes to style, and they're not getting a lot of satisfaction for what's out there," Olshan said. "That's opportunity that's just being wasted. There's a real style-hungry customer out there, and that's the niche Gloria Vanderbilt Home Furnishings is aiming for."

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