Showtime colors come alive

Gerri Hunt, Carole Sloan, January 7, 2002

High Point, NC — Color and lots of it will be the key fashion direction in home furnishings for this year, based on introductions this week at Showtime here.

They will be "happy" colors, warm colors, pure and cleaner but vibrant. What they will not be is "plasticy" or shocking, key fabric designers agreed.

And while the social pundits are proclaiming patriotic red, white and blue as universal colors after Sept. 11, the home furnishings design community sees blues and reds but definitely not in flag shades. In fact, blue has been such a dominant home furnishings color that these designers see its reach only expanding into new hues.

In design and fabrics, the consensus is toward a return to formality — not starchy, stiff formal, but a upscale move away from washed casuals, more elegant designs and richer looks.

At the same time, there is a clear move to wovens and prints that evoke fun and fantasy, whimsy, and light- hearted animal designs, the latter more part of a theme or story rather than the pure animal motifs of recent seasons.

Contemporary will be even more important, and significantly more sophisticated, as fibers and yarns are developed to create specific contemporary statements. Geometrics will be important players, and Art Deco will once again return to favor.

Above it all, sheen, shimmer and glitter will be omnipresent, with opalescence, pearlescence, and iridescence all playing significant roles.

And while not new, there will be an expansion of tropical themes, at once part of the fun and fantasy movements, as well as a reflection of the migrating and growing influence of Tommy Bahama from apparel into home furnishings.

From the color perspective, an articulate statement was made by Gary Filippone, vp, design director, Robert Allen @Home, who said, "Yes, it can be patriotic but not necessarily flag red, white and blue. Think more berry red, cranberry and add grass green."

More than anything, Filippone believes "colors need to be really familiar, happy colors, more vibrant — purer, cleaner. People are really tired of beige chenille."

Echoing that view is Michael Koch, executive vp, Wearbest. "I feel very strongly about color," he said. "There will be lots more multi-color product with strength and intensity — not shocking nor bright plasticy colors. I recognize raspberry, fresh green and documentary colors like apricot, cherry red and denim blue."

In addition, Koch related, "We're doing a multi-color stripe warp series. We're calling it our 'drink it up' series," one of which is a sangria warp using saturated red/orange and warm corn gold.

In what he called "a clear and fresh palette," Michael Day, principal and vp of Textile Fabric Associates, cited mist blue, sage green, nectarine to cinnabar, rajah red to ruby and frost iris to eggplant as key color directions for the year.

Laura Levinson, senior vp, product development and marketing at Valdese, said, "We're looking at clear, clean, very dramatic colors — our customers have been asking for them." Among them are Chinese red, royal cobalt, robin's egg blue and spice.

Equally important are "our our six new neutrals," she added, including deep sienna, neutral gold and latte.

Picking up on the move toward more sheen, Valdese is introducing 12 new mercerized cotton warps, which create a sheen effect, Levinson said.

At Richloom's Platinum label, the color palette is anything but bashful — but also not shocking, Louise Cullen Robinson, creative director, explained. Mirage blue, which has a watercolor effect; saffron gold; leafy green; and Platinum pink, a coral-influenced pink that is a Platinum label signature all are important directions, she related.

Working at an increasingly higher-end woven and jacquard level, American Silk Mills sees "softer aquas in new combinations, lilacs and deep chocolate as important emerging colors," said Cynthia Clark-Douthit, vp, design. Overall, "the palette will be clear and lighter colors."

At Waverly, "red will give a robust infusion of color and surround other colors with lots of warmth," said Pam Maffei-Toolan, design director. Lavender and sage will be important, and in wovens "we'll have rainbow warps for more color."

From a design and fabric perspective, Richloom's Cullen Robinson sees "two directions" going into home furnishings. The Platinum label's Far Away Places collection "offers escape; the exotic and tropical are married with influences of Gauguin and Tahiti as well as a tree of life, a jungle look and a lush tropical with birds."

On the other hand, she noted, "there is so much interest in Vermeer, the coziness of Dutch interiors, that we introduced Four Seasons with toile, rich paisley and a lush bouquet of florals and fruits."

At the upper end of the American Silk collection, "we're adding silk and wool mixtures," said Clark-Douthit. "We're also reviving our heritage Gerli dupioni twills in 16 warps colors with cotton and silk." Overall, the collections will be more upscale, with much more silk or proprietary yarns twisted with silk, she added.

For TFA's Day, the trends definitely begin with "a relaxed formal with Asian influences moving to tropical themes that mix colored raffia and animal skins to create texture and eclectism."

But contemporary continues to be important, and new will be boxes and circles with sheen, Day related.

"I see formality returning," said Filippone, "but in a Chateau mood, more formal French country."

To accompany this, Filippone sees fine ottomans and other tightly woven fabrics and cotton jacquards that relate to print designs. At the same time, he sees matte/sheen effects that mix color, especially in contemporary.

At Valdese, vintage country with a linen yarn used to create an "old look" will be important, said Levinson. Americana folklore or sampler looks with heavy cotton constructions also will emerge, "and home textiles is looking for contemporary — Art Deco or Larry Laslo looks," Levinson said.

At the same time, she related, "tropicals are getting more interest, especially because of Tommy Bahama in apparel and its move into home furnishings."

As for the offbeat, fun and whimsical designs, Wearbest's Koch pointed to "our fun and games series that also are more contemporary and with fun names — Cut and Paste; Hoola Hoop, which is tossed circles; Promenade, a sunbleached English paisley document; and Promenade, an old bandanna."

At Waverly, the new collection will be American Rose Garden, "a quintessential Waverly look on a rose jacquard ground." But Maffei-Toolan also noted that Waverly is joining the fun fest with a novelty collection of prints and wovens using bees, frogs, snails and shoes as design elements.

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