Yang's back, and new ideas abound

Carole Sloan, October 13, 2003

Jay Yang, the creator of the legendary — and highly successful — Orient Express decorative fabric collection for P/Kaufmann in 1974, who went on to other successes before stepping aside from fabric design, has returned with his own specialty design company, ECMills.

After P/Kaufman, he joined with Bill Zales, another P/Kaufmann alum, to form Fabriyaz, which later closed. Most recently, Yang dabbled in fabric design while working with his wife's interior design company, Hines & Co.

"I often went to a Chinese restaurant near my studio and realized I missed this industry," Yang related.

"I started to do a few designs, and I didn't know how I was going to produce them and sell them. Jablan approached me about doing a line of trims, and I agreed. My fabrics are also sold exclusively through Jablan except for Howard Altizer, who has exclusive distribution in the Southeast."

Yang, who has a highly recognizable color and pattern signature, now approaches design "on the basis that every product has its own type of color statement." Another significant point in his design philosophy is that "home fabrics need continuity; replacement with new is not everything."

Yang approaches design with a color sense that moves from one year to another, adding new hues but keeping the fashion and basic colors from previous seasons. And, he emphasizes, "everything starts with the fabric. Everything I do in fabrics — wovens and prints — is engineered for the product it's designed for."

Now he is approaching this turn in decorative fabric design differently from his past. "I design for product-specific items. Bed-in-a-bag, for example, has different perceived color needs. Colors that are too clear and distinct wont work.

"Now I design to customers' needs and end products. There's no more silver bullet in this market that carries across all products."

Looking at the various distribution channels, Yang sees the jobber market "as having changed less than others, all around. They know what works and why, and there are generally accepted colors that are influenced by the auto industry."

As he started his new business, little more than a year ago, he "decided that I just would design fabric. I keep it simple. Someone else takes the fabric to the mills and manufacturers. And we have sewing facilities in China."

Even more important, Yang explained, "I no longer design with one design for all markets. Therefore my need for skus and units are reduced with product-specific designs."

In discussing China, Yang noted, "Even the Chinese are farming things out to Cambodia."

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