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West Elm branches out with catalog

Andrea Lillo -- Home Textiles Today, May 6, 2002

Though both have fashion in their genes, Williams-Sonoma and its recently launched West Elm catalog — like many parents and children — have different aspirations.

For while Williams-Sonoma aims its merchandise at older, higher-income professionals, the hipper West Elm covers a younger, apartment- or first home-dwelling clientele.

Unlike Williams-Sonoma, which is based in San Francisco, West Elm chose to hole up in Brooklyn — and in the industrial-turned-artsy DUMBO neighborhood at that.

After several years of development, West Elm, formerly called Elm Street, mailed its summer 2002 catalog to customers recently, with its website, westelm.com, to launch soon.

"The West Elm strategy was developed to fill a gap in the home furnishings market," said Lisa Versacio, senior vp and creator of the West Elm brand. "We are offering fresh design and style at price points accessible to not only a younger audience but to those who appreciate the relationship between aesthetics, quality and, most importantly, inherent value. West Elm also gives Williams-Sonoma entry into a market not currently covered by any of its existing premium brands."

Textiles are featured heavily among the 64 pages of the debut catalog, with bedding, bath, window, decorative pillows, rugs, and table linens intermingling with the hard goods. Layouts show color-coordinated product, from soft neutrals to bold oranges or greens, merchandised together in uncluttered spaces.

Bedding products are shown on seven dressed beds — including daybeds, an apartment space-saver. Top-of-bed merchandise includes a linen duvet (full/ queen, $129) a white voile quilt with vertical top-stitching (full/queen, $129), box pattern silk quilt (full/queen, $159) and printed duvet with graphic design (full/queen, $69). An organic stripe 200-count cotton sheet set (queen, $89) is offered in sheets, as is an embroidered 200-count sheet set (queen, $89).

A selective offering of bath includes honeycomb embroidered cotton towels (bath towel, $19), a sheer organdy shower curtain with bottom pleating detail ($39) and an embroidered shower curtain ($49), as well as a cotton bath rug (2' x 3', $19).

Window treatments receive an impressive three layouts all to themselves. Soft window offerings include a solid sheer cotton panel (84-inch, $19), a textured linen panel (84-inch, $36), an all-over embroidery panel (84-inch, $36), and a silk box panel (84-inch, $40).

Decorative pillows and throws are shown throughout the catalog. An embroidered silk 12-inch square pillow retails for $19, while a dip-dyed silk floor cushion is $69. Throws include a color block product for $39 and a silk one for $49.

Natural fiber rugs are found on a one-page spread. Offered in 2' x 3', 3' x 5', 5' x 8', and 8' x 10' sizes, products include a wide-stripe jute (5' x 8', $64) and a chunky weave jute (5' x 8', $69).

Dining is also covered with napkins and place mats. Open-check linen napkins (set of four, $24) and place mats (set of four, $24) are found among dishes and flatware. Other linens include embroidered linen napkins (four, $29) and ombre linens (four, $19), with coordinating place mats.

Four seasonal editions of West Elm will be published annually with a total circulation of 5 million estimated for this year. Other product categories include furniture, decorative accessories, and tabletop items.

And don't look for any Williams-Sonoma products on West Elm's pages: 95 percent of West Elm's products are designed and developed in-house by its product development team and are manufactured globally.

Price points overall range from $19 to $99 for textiles, $99 to $399 for furniture, and $9 to $49 for decorative accessories and tabletop products. The initial catalog showcases a mix of product categories in living and work vignettes to evoke specific moods and taste.

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