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Walkin' and Talkin' at the NY Market

Party time! Mike WalshParty time! Mike Walsh of Sunham Home Fashions, left, and Mike Doherty of Ellery Homestyles caught up during HTT’s market kickoff party
NEW YORK - They came, they saw and - if they didn't exactly buy - retailers shopping last month's New York Home Fashions Market had plenty to look at and even more to talk about.
     From new celebrity lines to Made in America programs to the growing impact of online to the industry's favorite topic - prices and raw material costs - buyers and sellers alike said it was generally a positive market. Now comes the hard part: Getting all those new products onto store shelves
     Yarn prices, a subject of concern at Heimtextil in January, received amplified attention during market two weeks ago. Several suppliers noted yarn prices rose as much as 25% during the first two months of the year. In addition, the price of cotton on the Cotlook A Index was holding at 97 cents during much of the week, spurring conversations about possible cost hikes on new programs.
     Made in the USA, a topic that generated buzz during the fall 2012 market, had a higher profile this market - again in light of higher overseas production costs. And there was product on display - whether cut and sewn in the U.S. from fabric made overseas (Veratex and others) or 100% U.S. made (towels from 1888 Mills and HomeTex as well as bed linens from Ellison). Rug manufacturers Maples and Mohawk also put the spotlight on their U.S. production, as did utility bedding suppliers Hollander Home Fashions and American Textile.
     While at least one Indian manufacturer continues to explore the idea of establishing some U.S. production, HTT was told a handful of Chinese producers are considering the option as well. South Carolina is said to be particularly aggressive in encouraging off-shore companies to relocate some of their production.
     Several suppliers spoke enthusiastically about the possibilities opening up via ecommerce. Pure play sites aren't as concerned about exclusivity as the big-box stores, many noted. Meanwhile, brick-and-mortar retailers are using their sites to both offer a wider range of goods than they can stock on the floor and test new looks they might otherwise shy away from carrying.
     Design in the past several markets has emphasized contemporary. At market, that focus swung decidedly in the direction of what some suppliers called transitional and many others characterized as updated traditional - especially in bedding and window. Often this took the form of overscaling traditional motifs - paisley, damask, document prints - rendered with fresh color.
     Redefining traditional also means dispensing with tassels and other fussy ornamentation, instead relying on surface texture to convey richness. Several designers described the distinction by using the word "grandma," pejoratively.
     Engineered prints are making a comeback, especially in top of bed and window. Chalk this one up to digital printing, which is allowing designers to get more colors and crispness into their patterns.
     New products also employed a lot of dense embroideries as accents - flowers, medallions, etc. The type of scattered, all-over embroideries that ushered in the Age of Embroidery a few years ago were in scant supply.
     Also emerging are watercolor prints, especially florals, and eyelet - the latter frequently seen as an accent but here and there used as an all-over textural statement.
     In luxury bedding, hues are getting darker, richer and more saturated. There is also a tandem move away from hotel looks, which are now being regarded as either too Plain Jane, too tapped out or both.
     Outdoor living continues to be an important trend in rugs and window - and is picking up smartly in accessories such as table linens and dec pillows. HFI introduced a new outdoor chenille collection. Foreston Trends debuted vinyl placemats for indoor/outdoor use, and Elrene displayed a big seasonal offering with indoor/outdoor applications.
     The market's three biggest brand introductions all involved celebrities: Iman at Alok, Taylor Swift at Aussino and Diane Keaton at Pem America.
     In other brand news, Peking Handicraft previewed mini-beds for its new license with fashion designer Nanette Lepore, and CHF is working on the introduction of an Ivanka Trump collection for the September market - which is only 25 weeks away.

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