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Croscill mixes 'brand' new formula

Durham, NC — Stoking additional fuel into its brand-building engine, Croscill is moving aggressively into the back half of the year with some notable departures from the classic Croscill formula — including its first line of imported bedding.

The New-York based home textiles manufacturer previewed its fall market offerings over the past two weeks at the facilities of sister company Royal Home Fashions, the manufacturing arm of the business. Contained within the assortment were enough new looks, new products and new

licenses to underscore the scope of the company's ambitions.

"We're going to continue to build and expand the brand throughout the stores," president and ceo David Kahn told HTT, "and we're going to continue to drive the brand through product development."

Most noteworthy among the fall collection was a group of upscale beds that eschew the company's trademark fringes, cording and other classic detailing in favor of supple texturations and grace-note embroideries.

Eva features a multi-colored embroidery of intricate bouquets on a textured ground of butter yellow. A subtle sheen adds dimension to the top-of-bed. Paired with it is a floral printed sheet whose fabric is repeated on the sham under a sheer overlay. As is the case with all beds in the imported group, the bed is rounded out with a Sheer double Illusion bed skirt of sheer cloth overlaying the ground cloth.

Vivana features an organza overlay with all-over rose embroidery on the top of the bed accompanied by a simple tailored sheet. Coordinates employ overlays of honey and sage organza.

The highly tailored Averi's top of bed is constructed of a yarn-dyed plaid of linen, celadon and light blue, with coordinate window treatments featuring mother of pearl buttons and decorative pillows of organdy overlays and pleated organdy.

Rounding out the look is Maila, with a multi-colored embroidery on a pale gold cotton/rayon sateen ground with a poly/satin embroidered inlay. Accent pillows incorporate iridescent seed beads in some cases, tossed embroidery in others. Croscill also is bringing out coordinating drapery, window sheers, shower curtains and towels for the pattern.

"Those beds are not what you'd expect from Croscill. Our problem was, How does Croscill translate into casual looks and still make them Croscill?" Kahn said of the new direction. "We're going to make a specific quantity; we don't want to distribute these to all doors just yet."

All four are imports, a first for Croscill. The company has long sourced product internationally as well as domestically, but cut-and-sew for bedding lines previously has been done exclusively in the United States.

"There are some things you just can't do here [domestically]," Kahn said, adding that while the beds represented a small portion of the fall line previewed by retailers, "it's 25 percent of what they like."

Also a departure among Croscill's new product introductions is a line of luxury, open-stock sheets that will be branded Croscill and labeled "The Couture Collection." The line will consist of three solid colors — white, shell and khaki — all of which will be offered in 310-count, 100 percent combed sateen Supima cotton. This free-standing line will tie in with many existing Croscill beds and, Kahn said, will also tie in with many future introductions. Made in Thailand and cut and sewn domestically, Couture will bow with two embroidered patterns, two floral prints, two latticework prints and three solids, while a lace border sheet will also join the Couture line at a future date. Retail price points will range from $89 for a flat queen sheet.

The Couture line will be constructed with 16-inch pockets. According to Kahn, every sheet manufactured by Croscill will be redone to fit 18-inch mattresses by the end of first quarter 2002.

Croscill will also expand its presence in the basic bedding business with its new licensing agreement with the Loveland, OH-based Down Lite International. The all-white line, offered in the full gamut of sizes, will follow a good-better-best-luxurious strategy for its comforters, which will feature, in ascending order of quality, white European goose down, Hungarian goose down, Siberian goose down and Canadian goose down. Down pillows will also be introduced in standard and king sizes. A sateen comforter cover, which may tie in with Croscill's sheet line, will also join the down collection at some point.

Croscill already has a licensed line with Louisville Bedding Co., Louisville, KY, for a line of synthetic basic bedding.

"I think there's an opportunity to work with Down Lite and to work with retailers and get into the down business," Kahn said about the line, noting that two of the bigger manufacturers of down bedding are currently in Chapter 11.

Also joining Croscill in a licensing venture for bedding and bath is Portmeirion, a British dishware manufacturer. Three patterns, Botanical Garden, Dusk and Dawn, are among the initial introductions. Towels and shower curtains will all be part of each pattern as will bathroom accessories, which will feature ceramics imported from England — another departure from Croscill's usual practice of importing ceramics from China. The set will be complemented with lacquerware from China.

The bathroom accessories line has also been expanded to include a broader depth of products for the bathroom. A novelty shelf, mirror, combination tissue/toilet paper holder and pillbox, among others, will now be offered. At some point in the near future, bedding will join the collection.

"The line has great design and color," Kahn said. "The tie in to bath was a no-brainer and we can do a great job of translating it to bedding, too."

"There's always a lot of opportunities for new, fun items for the bathroom," said Carl Legreca, vp, merchandising and marketing, bath products and decorative accessories. "This license gave us the opportunity to do just that."

Croscill also introduced a number of beds styled in the classic Croscill manner. Stemming from the company's elegant roots is Chandelier, which features an embellished, embroidered floral on a champagne ground. From the Chambord family of design is Memoir, which combines many elements, such as subtle script and a subdued floral, into a neo-classical mixture on an elegant silver and gold ground. Following a bolder color scheme is Highland, in two versions: an elegant red on a bronze ground and a bronze ground accented with reds. Highland will not include sheeting; instead, sheeting from the new Couture program will be shown with the product.

On the bath side, Alouette, Electra, Pompano and Calypso are new and represent a deeper foray into casual, novelty looks. Alouette utilizes a more provincial design and color scheme while Electra and Calypso feature frosted or iridescent glass looks. Pompano is done in a light or dark wicker and is a design first for the company in terms of material. Croscill has also expanded patterns from four existing bed lines, Windsor, Josephine, Aubusson and Masquerade, to the bathroom.

On the soft window coverings side, Croscill continues to show a variety of looks, constructions and patterns. "We've got a lot of different looks in window," Kahn said. "I'd say we're about one-third casual looks, one-third traditional and one-third really sexy."

Altogether, the fall line serves up a broad assortment of product under the Croscill brand, which the company insists is capable of growing even broader.

"What's to say we can't get into other things?" Kahn said. "I want Croscill to be for the whole home, and we've just gotten started."

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