Simple Elegance to Seduce at Showtime

Technologies Drive Luxury Fabric Looks

Carole Sloan, December 4, 2006

Metallic looks, fabrics that reflect a more luxurious pedigree, a color palette tending to the blue family, and a 21st century interpretation of traditional and transitional looks are the key design directions for Showtime, which opens here this week.

More than anything, the terms "luxurious" and "elegant" are constant statements from the design community.

Textures and fabric techniques are coming into play as major forces across the home furnishings fabrics world. Designers see a new generation of flocks — once relegated to the promotional end of the business — now bringing new technology and design cachet to the marketplace. Quilting techniques, embroideries of all kinds, and pleating that is permanent within the fabric weave are among the other technological enhancements that are upgrading the entire fabric scene.

And technology is moving into the realm of metallics as well. It's no longer a matter of Lurex or other metallic fibers mixed into the weave. Instead, different fibers are being adapted to create the subtle sheen of metallics.

Interestingly, a number of designers are talking about "green" products or directions, with most seeing this happening, if at all, at least several years down the road. The price premium still remains an issue, as well as the availability of an organic fiber crop to satisfy the needs of both the apparel and home furnishings markets.

In terms of pattern designs, decorative fabrics designers are looking to a contemporary translation of traditional looks, whether toiles, botanicals, or documents. Contemporary, they believe, is taking a back seat for the moment. Simpler, rather than elaborate, is the key word for design interpretation. As for companions to showcase designs, most designers peg stripes of all varieties as the main players.

"The key looks are rich and luxurious, as well as bold and graphic," said Cynthia Clark-Douthit, vp, American Silk Mills, who also noted that modern design was being heavily influenced with traditional techniques. "Traditional elements are not being applied in a traditional way," she explained. "There are lustrous yarns, mixing of materials like suedes and velvets." In color, Clark-Douthit sees lots of blues, ruby and purple, platinum with onyx and jewel colors — "as high end as it can be."

Laura Levinson, senior vp, Valdese, sees a major trend as "being a lot about velvet, cut velvet, linen velvet — and we're creating the looks using our jacquard capabilities." And there's a new trend, she related — "the green environmental story. People you wouldn't expect are embracing the concept and we will tap into fabrics that lend themselves to this; we'll find a middle ground."

As for design trends, Levinson sees "a focus on paisley, Moroccan influences, Chinois. Traditional will be '80s florals but not graphic." As for color, "We are introducing eight new warp colors including turquoise, mango, Chinese red, cinnamon, and brighter and clearer green."

"We're bringing traditional designs like tiles and country French into the 21st century," explained Pamela Maffei-Toolan, vp, Waverly. Toiles are resurging in fashion and the company is adding to matelasses and textures with rustic glamour on a linen/rayon cloth. Spice, golds, and cobalt are the key colors, she added.

For Erica Youngleson, design director, Westgate by adf, "There's very little direction on the contemporary side. There's a comfort mood-like documents, but not dressy looks. Traditional and casual are no longer hard to put together." She sees the new color palette as "very soft, chalky, pretty, and environmental." Grayed blues, soft greens, shell pink, soft butterscotch, and soft cinnamon are key directions.

"We see colors getting richer and deeper like mulberry, and reds turning to the blue family," said Denise Gutierrez, merchandising director, Craftex. Neutrals, she added, are now moving to the linen side and the pink cameo side of the palette. She is one of the design mavens who feels the "green" movement is happening in decorative fabrics, noting, "It's not just natural fibers but the concern for the environment." Recycled polyester is but one of the elements, she believes, "and customers will understand the need for the different price points."

"We're modernizing traditional," explained Louise Cullen Robinson, creative director for the Platinum division of Richloom. "It's now updated and simplified." In color, she sees a resurgence of black, especially when used with brown in what she refers to as tortoise shell. And there are fewer prints, she observed, with many on linen for an organic feel. "There is an intensifying move to organic looks — textured slubs, things that are not overly processed."

"There are skins everywhere again," said Michael Day, vp, Textile Fabric Associates. "They're very dressy." As important, he said, "is the direction of sophisticated texture and techniques, both part of the return to elegance: things like quilted embroidered velvets, pleated satins, waffle weaves and very elegant, luxurious silk jacquards." In color, he sees aqua, browns, especially taupe and chocolate, and browns mixed with greens, pink and aqua.

For Mark Denecour, vp, Robert Allen@Home, "Flocks in a higher echelon of construction, velvets and silks are key. Flocks especially because of better hand, processing, and double flocking technology. There's also a lot more technology in embroidery and metallic printing."

The latter, he explained, has led to a rebirth of metallics. They're no longer your grandmother's metallics, but use filament metallic."

In terms of pattern, Denecour said, "We're seeing a return of vintage nostalgic designs — and damasks, botanicals, tile and ironwork looks are being revisited."

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