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Texture feels right to suppliers

It may be that texture answers a need for products that appeal to consumers' longing for comfort and safety. It may be that it provides relief from print-laden designs. Or maybe it's a bit of both. In any case, texture emerged during the fall New York Home Textiles market as a significant movement across all product categories.

From floor to ceiling, from rugs to windows and from the kitchen to the bathroom, home textiles products featured textured designs that appealed to the eye as well as the hand.

"I think it's the natural transition from a not very good print cycle into things that can be perceived by the customer as being different," said Joan Karron, executive vp, CHF Industries. "I think it's a big story, and its about reaching deeper to find the new and unusual."

At CHF, that translates in the Peri bedding collection as a dimensional ribbed textured ottoman duvet, suede and leather pillows, and window treatments featuring velvet burnouts, herringbones and dimensional laces. "It needs to be eye candy," Karron said.

Bringing texture into bedding design also means a company doesn't "have to dwell on thread counts," noted Diane Piemonte, vp of creative services, Revman Industries. She pointed to a new sheer dobby stripe that added a visual and tactile difference to one of Revman's Laura Ashley beds, the luxurious finish in the POSH bedding line and the way embroidery enhanced the perceived value of Revman's Bed2Go line.

"We want to take creativity beyond artwork and out it into our use of materials," she said.

Nor is the trend limited to fashion bedding.

"Texture is a more important aspect of our design — and that could be in the design of our basics as well as our fashion items," said David Lonczak, vp of marketing, Pacific Coast Feather Co., which has introduced bobby weaves and jacquards into its lines.

"It expands the potential for products and expands product base itself," he added. "Down products are historically used in the bedroom alone. We're seeing an expansion in 'use occasion' by bringing them outside the bedroom and into the family and living room."

Dan Schecter, vp, sales and marketing, Consumer Products Division at Carpenter, believes that texture constructions today are helping consumers understand quality "better than at any time that I can remember," which is one reason the company has enlisted a designer to help develop products that feature a unique hand as well as unique designs.

"In my product line, the product must 'feel good' and perform in a specific manner that enhances comfort, but must also appeal to the growing sophistication required by consumers," added Schecter.

That's a requirement positioned to grow more important with consumers in the wake of troubling global conflicts, according to Loren Sweet, vp and national sales manager, Brentwood Originals.

"In my mind, one of the biggest trends, which was only compounded and magnified by the Sept. 11 events, is the whole casual, comfort, softness, cozy story," Sweet said. For Brentwood, this translates into the application of jacquard chenilles to execute pattern and texture where there was only solid color before, he added.

Richloom Home Fashions' Wendy Keryk said that for window fashions, a tremendous uptick in texture over the last couple of years ties into what trends are prevailing in floor coverings.

Chenille is very, very strong, said Keryk, president, window division. She's also seeing a move toward more opulent fabrics and looks, though not necessarily more expensive or luxurious. Instead, the styling is loose, casual and clean.

"Two years ago, texture was happening more on the upper end [of retail]. But now, it's gradually filtering down to the mass merchant level."

Window treatment maker S. Lichtenberg is addressing the trend through dimensional texture, such as a style called Lucia, an iridescent, woven jacquard taffeta, noted Amanda Houck, design director.

She also sees great potential in sheer crushed printed voiles, embroideries, and the use of novelty, appliqued motifs.

"Our angle is really more in dimension as opposed to a nubby, surface type of texture," Houck added. "We are finding that there is great demand in the market for well-designed, unique, value-added novelty window treatments."

In the bath category, Saturday Knight Ltd. is finding success in a woven gingham with a chenille combination as well as burnouts, said Dianne Weidman, vp of marketing, sales and design. And, she noted, "There is always a lot of interest in texture in accessories."

Similarly, John Ritzenthaler Co.'s Chip Steidle pointed out that, in the categories of kitchen textiles and bath towels. "Texture has been a strong trend for us for quite some time." Nor does the trend show signs of abating, he said. "It seems to just get stronger as we develop it more."

In recent introductions, for example, Ritzenthaler added terry to place mats in the Cuisinart collection and showed embroidered kitchen towels and pocket mitts featuring a variety of textures in their base weaves, said Steidle, vp, sales and marketing.

Rug vendors are also huge — and natural — believers in the importance of texture in design.

"Texture is a design aspect that we are focusing a great deal of attention on," said Tom Etheridge, co-owner and president, Lacey Mills. "Everyone knows that solid-color products generally outsell multi-colored looks; so for Lacey, texture is where it's at."

To that end, Lacey recently developed the accent style Premiere, which fully utilizes the capabilities of a three-level FRS machine, and, with the help of DuPont, developed a high-twist nylon bath product with a bright luster, a new construction that the company will be promoting heavily in the fall, he said.

Hellenic Rug Imports also is pursuing the push toward greater texture, with tone-on-tone looks using different yarn counts and various types of yarn such as cotton and wool, said Steve Mazarakis, president.

"People need to feel secure in these times with textured things that you can lie on and feel a sense of warmth and security with," he said. "Flokati rugs are the mega-textured rugs for these times. But any product that gives you height and depth will give the same sense of warmth."

At Nourison, which recently introduced washable rugs that are highly textured through carving, Ed Vairo, director of creative marketing, pointed out that the concept of texture is integral to the business.

"The word 'texture' comes from the same Latin root as the word 'textile.' It is, in a sense, the key to the category," he said.

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