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Winter Market heats up

NEW YORK -At Winter New York mini-market, taking place this week, the mood is geared toward casual country living motifs, but also with plenty of novelty and dressy holiday themes to cater to a variety of retail needs.

That is how many manufacturers of table linens, kitchen textiles, decorative pillows, throws and other home textiles are envisioning holiday 2001.

Ex-Cell Home Fashions Inc., based here, is making casual table linens and kitchen textiles bearing "an Adirondack lodge statement" this year with moose and bear prints, buffalo checks and "a lot of wool" to achieve "a very woodsy look," said design director Elizabeth Miller. On a complementary, yet dressier effort, Ex-Cell is also introducing its new "Nature's Christmas" line of "more delicate natural images, like acorns and topiaries," Miller added.

TerriSol Corp., also based here, is calling its new "Country Lodge" line of rotary prints with woodcarving effects "the highlight of our fall collection," according to the company. "It has all the rustic elements of the North woods: a bear, canoe, pine tree, cabin and moose."

Celebrating nature in a big way is Mohawk Home, Sugar Valley, GA, which is recycling plastic bottles in-house to make the filling for its holiday decorative pillows. "We are helping to reduce the landfills of America," said Patrick Moyer, vp of marketing. Also made of recycled material-old car tires-are Mohawk's holiday doormats.

A variation of the country setting is the animal and animal skins motif, which many manufacturers are introducing to capitalize on the long-lasting popularity of animal prints.

Lance Orlick, executive vp of Windham Weavers, based in Ridgefield, CT, explained the new trend. "Still hot are animal skins, but what it's evolving into this year is actual animals wearing their skins," he said. "We saw this happening in Europe, and you know whatever happens in Europe eventually happens here."

Banking on that theory, Windham Weavers is producing 10 new tapestries titled "Exotic" and creating for it, among other table lines and kitchen textiles, three tablecloths.

Neil Zuber, president of Ashford Court, based here, said animal prints "make up more than 25 percent of our new line" of decorative pillows. "We are making pillows with animals in every description-animal skins, snake skins, tapestries and jacquards of every imaginable African animal in a combination of scenes," he said. "The trend is basically animals in every shape, size and combo. Even ostrich will be very big this year, following the trend in ready-to-wear."

Ashford Court's new "On the Prowl" pillow, for example, features a cheetah with a background not only in a red-and-green scheme, but also four other non-traditional holiday colors, like yellow.

"This market scenery is big and so is anything with animals, but things that don't necessarily scream Christmas can be left out on the couch afterward," said Cheryl McLain, vp of merchandising and marketing for Montgomery, AL-based Riverdale Decorative Products.

Riverdale is calling its new line of appliques of animal skins on crushed velvet with Christmas motifs "Wild Things for the Holidays." They include decorative pillows donning Christmas trees and reindeer in animal prints-a characteristic that puts Riverdale's holiday 2001 collection somewhere between fashionable and novelty driven.

"Reindeers of all kinds are here to stay," said Michael Tauber, president of Avanti Linens in Moonachie, NJ, which for the second year is a licensee of Rudolph.

"Rudolph has been around for a thousand years, so we are really running off this year with this collection."

This year's offerings "are very novelty driven," Tauber said, and include ensemble, hand and tip towel collections with designs of female reindeer taking showers, painting their nails and blow-drying their hair in addition to male reindeer also showering and shaving.

From New York-based Arlee, retailers can expect to find decorative pillows decked out with novelty images-snowmen, reindeer, penguins and toys-all in traditional Christmas colors.

"For us, mini-market is strictly a Christmas market," said owner and president Bud Frankel. "We are not doing any basic pillows. We bring new product out every month."

Stone Brook Linens, of Edison, NJ, has assorted offerings for this holiday. But for its novelty lines, snowmen are king. "They are fun and whimsical," said Anthony Abbadessa, vp of product development.

As are Santa Claus, snowmen and gingerbread houses, according to Fashion Industries in New York, which is introducing assorted table linens with novelty designs, among other higher-end products.

Striving for a more formal, elegant and "opulent" Christmas this year is Portland, OR-based Newport, said executive vp and fashion director Belinda Ballash.

"Our holiday theme is rather unconventional," she explained. "We are working with pomegranates, very light golds, rusts, pumpkins, fern greens, light yellows. It's very upscale and very fun."

Louisville Bedding in Louisville, KY, likewise has made its holiday 2001 decorative pillow and tabletop looks "festive, dressy and luxurious," said designer Marliese Krivobok, who used in her designs embellishments of embroidery, taffeta and velvet, as well as fashion-forward color schemes like midnight blues and deep purples.

Classic is also the look coming from New York-based Bardwil Linens this holiday, said Gretchen Dale, executive vp of marketing. But more importantly, Dale noted, is that "we are also continuing square packaging. It allows us to put five skus on the shelf instead of just four-which means 47 percent more merchandise."

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