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Exotic feels, far lands influence Showtime

Carole Sloan -- Home Textiles Today, January 6, 2003

The exotic influences of Asia, India and Morocco will be the major influences on design and color for the coming year.

They won't be typical motifs, such as elephants or monkeys. Instead they'll offer more interpretation of both the exotic in fabrics from silks and batiks to elements of design that come from jewelry, textile products and apparel translated to home furnishings fabrics for all applications, leading design directors agreed.

And these looks will be evident here this week at Showtime Winter 2003, the kickoff international fabric show, followed later this week by Heimtextil in Frankfurt, Germany. Showtime boasts more than 225 exhibitors — a record number — that are showing here this week. In addition, a record-breaking 147 exhibitors are in temporary spaces at the Suites at Market Square.

Design influences are not the only change in store for the home fabric world, the designers agreed. "Think pink" might well be another color mantra for the coming year, as a number of designers for high-end, fashion-forward companies pick pink from blush to slipper, and from faded and pale shades as the fashion color direction of the year.

Even from the design leaders in chenille, there is a move to other yarns and constructions to enhance and further the reach of the chenille impact.

Moreover, as Americans increasingly acquire second homes, the fabric design community sees the almost generic American Lodge style as a still-growing design statement — with both beach and mountain overtones.

One direction is a contemporary interpretation of mid-20th century Nordic design with bright blues and yellows with lots of crisp whites.

Along with this is an extension of the tropical or surfing design phenomenon of recent years that will be seen in designs that go beyond the palm trees to more sophisticated looks.

Fall River, MA-based Quaker's Bea Spires said, "Our Bohemian Collection is the most fashion forward of our seven new groups. It's definitely fashion oriented and reflects eclectic Asian and Moroccan influences with rich colors and new exciting constructions."

Spires, vp, design, also sees Outdoor Living "as a more rugged, lodge look with sweater and flannel influences. And Living Color reflects a younger look — pop colors."

"We see a flashback to Asian influences, as well as novelties that are more sophisticated," said Michael Day, vp, design for Textile Fabric Associates, Carlstadt, NJ.

TFA also has dramatically expanded its denim, bouclé and suede offerings with embellishments, crewel effects as well as jacquard raffias, he said.

One important part of the new design direction, said Cynthia Clark-Douthit, vp, design for New York-based American Silk Mills "is a return to elegance with a definite edge of simplicity. We see a lot of double cloths, applique pattern effects and opaque drapery sheers that also can be used for top of bed applications."

But it is the top-of-the-line Atelier that is generating the most excitement, Clark-Douthit explained. "We're doing pocket weave silks in a new way, creating 17th century brocades as well as silk and rayons emulating silks that are very elegant."

As part of that new elegance, she said, "We've recolored our entire line of basic items with 35 new rayon colors."

"We see a softer edge to everything," explained Margaret Coffin, vp, design, Circa 1801/Doblin, Connelly Springs, NC. "We see 12 ways to enrich your life. And we designed a collection of fabrics for each."

The newest direction, she said, "is our collection with Nordic looks — influences from Iceland and Sweden with lots of crisp whites and bright blues and yellows."

Besides the Nordic look, she pointed to Flower Garden, which reflects a country manor mood, and Provencal, which has definite inspiration from the flea markets in Provence.

Within fabric constructions, Coffin pointed to eyelash rayon yarns and "chenilles that are done to look like velvets. It's so hard to find good velvets anymore."

Laura Levinson, senior vp Valdese, based in Valdese, NC, said, "Vagabond is an eclectic mix of cultural influences with lots of layering of pattern, and Cottage features dramatic flowers — sophisticated novelties."

Also important is "our new mercerized cotton yarn with a needlepoint quality for updated tapestries. We only brought out two new chenilles," she said.

Concerned about the impact of imports on the American home fabrics market, Wesley Mancini, president, Wesley Mancini Ltd., Charlotte, NC, the design source for Home Fabrics, added: "American mills are so geared to big volume," which he sees as having an influence on fabrics produced domestically.

For Home Fabrics, "we see the Asian influence expanding. It always has been in the background," Mancini said.

American Lodge will become even more important, he asserted. "People are putting more money into second homes — both at the beach and mountains, which will see more texture, casual and ikat looks coming forth," Mancini said.

Bruce Pachter, creative director of Vernon, CA-based Chris Stone, is another proponent of elegance and simplicity. "Things will not be as trendy; they will be more refined [and] feature more natural fibers," he said.

"We're seeing tropical as continuing to be strong and expanding," said Pam Maffei-Toolan, design director, Waverly, New York. But at the same time, she observed, "we see a lot of modern with a classic twist in texture and sculptural effects. We're looking to clean and more modern across the board."

An important direction, Maffei-Toolan added, "is that there is a lot more print product coming to the market. Different base cloths are making them important."

Apart from typical influences on design directions, Todd Bowles, vp, design for Costa Blanca, High Point, NC, noted "the influence of television's 'Trading Spaces' and 'The Christopher Lowell Show' are definitely having an impact. The shows are exposing consumers to a new way of addressing their interiors."

Beyond these influences, Bowles sees "traditional as being red hot — because people want an acquired look sort of handed-down vintage."

For New York-based Richloom's Platinum Collection, there are three directions, said Louise Cullen Robinson, creative director: Devon evokes an aged, faded English country look; Tea Garden has a "reflective quality with Asian overtones; and Mirage evokes the exotic cultural influences of Persia, India and Mexico."

Turning to color, pinks in a variety of softened hues are the fashion statement this year. Costa Blanca's Bowles sees "blush, which is a soft pink in the rose family," while Mancini pointed to "peachy tones in the mid range of peach and pink."

Circa 1801's Coffin picked "faded pinks to work with browns," and American Silk's Clark-Douthit opted to slipper, "a pale pink, as the new color."

Maffei-Toolan of Waverly said, "Red isn't going away. It's moving into raisin and fig with antique gold." Cilantro, purple and plum are other important colors for Circa 1801's Coffin, while Chris Stone's Pachter picked earthy shades of rust, gold and burgundy.

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