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Bardwil Leads the Way with Vera

Cecile Corral, Staff Staff -- Home Textiles Today, March 8, 2009

The vintage, 1950s and '60s designs of Vera Neumann are returning to their home textiles roots with a new collection of table linens and kitchen textiles, this time by Bardwil Linens.

The Bardwil collection to be unveiled during market is one of several pieces that together make up the new generation of Vera-branded home textiles springing up in several soft home categories, now under the aegis of Atlanta-based The Vera Co.

"Vera's company started on her kitchen table in New York City with her husband," explained Susan Seid, president of The Vera Co. and a fashion industry veteran who bought the design assets Neumann's brand in 2005, including original artwork, trademarks and copyrights to more than 7,000 designs.

Nancy Kristoff, president of sales and marketing for Bardwil, started her career working for Vera.

"I went to work for Vera right out of college in 1977 in her Linens by Vera division," said Kristoff, referring to the then-company's table linens and kitchen textiles business. The other two divisions were dedicated to scarves and sportswear.

Fast forward to 2009, and Kristoff is finding her re-connection "intriguing" on several levels.

"First of all, I get to work again with all these designs that I grew up with and in some cases saw them being painted and drawn," she said. "But also, these looks bring back so much color and vibrancy. Our industry has become very safe, very vanilla. And this is so much more exciting. What's more, it appeals both to the young and to the older customers who remember these looks."

While Vera, as she is popularly known, started her signature line in the scarf category in 1947, soft table came soon after, forming the cornerstone of her home textiles collection.

The Vera Co. maintains that strategy today. Home is positioned as an integral business, poised for expansion via licensing partnerships. Creative Bath Products was the first to sign on as a new licensee, last year producing bath coordinate collections and picnic boxed sets. Mohawk Home joined the brand last market for a line of woven and printed tufted area rugs — some made of polypropylene and others of nylon. Bardwil is the latest partner to show. And come September, newly-inked licensee Home Source International will present its collection of bedding and bath towel ensembles with matching bath rugs and beach towels.

Bardwil's program, launching this week, includes an assortment of seasonal looks for the fall and holiday as well as some everyday styles in table linens. For the kitchen textiles category there are aprons, potholders, cotton linen kitchen towels and calendar towels. There are also some giftable sets, including eight-piece sets of coasters and cocktail napkins.

"The most uncanny thing is that when we saw the archives, everything is so trend-right for today," said Julie Chisholm-Polich, vp design of Bardwil, who created the collection with the help of Bardwil designer Mary Topinko.

Patterns for harvest include Royal Leaf and Turning Leaf. For holiday there are also two — Vintage Poinsettia and Candy Dish. And for everyday use, Bardwil is offering Spice Jar and Apples, both of which draw directly in color and fabrication on Vera's original offerings by the same names.

Constructions are largely 100% cotton and cotton linen. "Quality is important here," Chisholm-Polich said.

Price points are positioned in line with Bardwil's upscale Lenox collection, made to serve department and specialty stores.

Other licensees will add new patterns to their programs. Creative Bath is adding five bath coordinate collections — Tropic Butterfly, Traveler's Stripe, Chiffon, Dinner for Two and Fish School.

Mohawk Home is showing two additional designs for a total of eight Vera-branded styles of area rugs.

Meanwhile, at Home Source, "The fall will be the ideal time, in my opinion, to bring some fresh, new, abstract art and design with high-energy color to the United States marketplace at a time when safe, white and cream promotional-type product [prevail] in an economic atmosphere that is difficult, at best," said Keith Sorgeloos, owner, president and ceo. "The timing of our line will be just what this country and consumer need heading into a more positive 2010."

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