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Design Works buys into imports

Design Works

Atlanta

Ceo: Michael Bernstein

Principal business: Calvin Klein Home; Royal Sateen bedding; private-label bed and bath

"I just can't believe what has happened to this industry, the way imports have taken over," said industry veteran Michael Bernstein, former ceo of Crown Crafts. "It used to be, years ago, that we made virtually everything with American raw materials. Now it's maybe 10 percent."

Virtually the entire Calvin Klein Home program "is made of imported material, just about everything except the inserts and the packaging. And Royal Sateen is all imported, 100 percent," he added.

Royal Sateen, which created the surge of interest in super-soft sateen luxury bedding products several years ago, is cut and sewn in the United States using fabric woven by Kitan Consolidated Ltd., a leading Israeli textiles producer.

"That's where the business is going. Who on earth wants to own a U.S. textile manufacturing business? Certainly not me. Right now I've got a $100 million business, with virtually no manufacturing and just 185 employees. I contract out the cut and sew. Who needs the headache?"

Bernstein said a key component of his new company, Design Works, is a new sales agency business, acting as U.S. representative for off-shore manufacturers. "And you want to know something, I think by growing just that one business, we can double the size of this company. But that's the way you do it, with imports."

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