Plugging into the 21st Century

Carole Sloan, February 22, 2010

While putting together the home textiles supplier report on the internet and how these folks are using the various social and business media out there (page 1 of this issue), I was dumbfounded about how much the apparel industry has jumped on this bandwagon.

Last week was Fashion Week in New York and not just the venerable bible of the industry — WWD — was alive with news, but also the New York Times, the New York Post and surprisingly under its new ownership, the Wall Street Journal.

But what was the most surprising part of how each of these papers played their coverage was the space given to talking about and interviewing bloggers, website mavens and all the Twittering Tweeters who suddenly were almost as persona grata at the runway shows as Vogue doyenne Anna Wintour. In fact, many were seated in the front row at significant designer showings.

And from the early reports, consumers were responding well to the electronic reports with both praise and criticism as well as requests for purchases.

The designers appeared to have found themselves in a new ice cream parlor where they could have all the flavors, topping and whatever at once. In many cases, consumers are being invited to buy clothes directly from these activities — a move that seems to abort the need for retailers — and create some delivery challenges since these clothes are termed “fall” intro lines.

Relating this phenomenon to how it would play out in the world of home textiles, one would begin to wonder about the super secrecy involved in many lines with back of hand whispers that “XXX is interested in this so we can’t show it” or “YYY has put it in 30 of their many hundreds of stores for a test, and if it works it could go to 100 and maybe chain-wide by next year.”

Then there is the basic issue of newness and fashion forward-ness in the home textiles world. For entirely too long this business has been dominated by a pervasive “this was a winner last season, so we want something like it for next season” mentality.

In the last several home textiles markets we have seen a couple of bloggers at press previews where there are pros involved in the handling and the product actually says something more than same old, same old.

If this industry ever really gets discovered by any of the aforementioned publications as well as the blogging community, it could be a rather interesting experience for all of us.

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