Showtime Pushes Fresh, Light Feel

Carole Sloan, July 11, 2005

HIGH POINT, N.C. — Large scale designs, stripes, lots of silks including a plethora of embroideries, a new palette including chocolate browns and shades of purple are among the major design and color directions that will debut at Showtime here this week.

There is a definite movement away from the years-long domination of the neutral, heavy, highly textured decorative fabrics throughout the home, leading fabric design executives said.

Instead, there is a mood that is younger, fresher and lighter in coloring and bolder in look that is being interpreted for bedding, window coverings, furniture covers and accessory home products.

The explosion of bold color across all home furnishings top-of-the-line fabrics in the last couple of years has moved to the mainstream and now is being subdued but not obliterated.

Looking at near-term trends, “color is rich with brilliant blues, fuchsia pinks, bright raspberries,” said Laura Levinson, senior vice president at Valdese.

But moving to a future forecast, Bea Spires, vice president of Quaker, forecasts “lavender as the most fashion-forward for the home.” For the near term, Spires said, “brown will be used with most everything.”

The fennel colorway at Robert Allen @ Home and Ametex is becoming the most important, said Marion Murray, vice president for design at these divisions of The Robert Allen Group. The main combination, she explained, is “green with chocolate brown.”

Similarly, Pam Maffei-Toolan, vice president, design at Waverly, pointed to “purple as definitely a fashion accent or used as a coloration for a floral that is naturally purple. It’s used mostly with celery green.”

In an unusual trend, stripes have become a major fashion direction. Typically considered a “filler” or coordinate to main major patterns, stripes today and in future outlooks are considered key fashion statements.

Said Julie Wilkster, vice president of design at P/Kaufmann, who this market introduced a full width stripe, “I can highlight my career having designed a print with no repeat.”

Larger scale, in many cases larger than life, is happening across all design segments, the design executives agree. For American Silk Mills, enlarging the scale of the designs “makes traditional looks more updated,” according to Cynthia Clark Douthit, vice president, design.

In a similar vein, Textiles Fabric Associates will have a major launch of silk embroideries on silk taffetas, said Michael Day, vice president.

Looking at pattern design, Greg Lawrence, print design director for Duralee, said, “there definitely is more pattern.” He believes “the English decorating influence is coming back strong with prints — and lots of bright, fresh flowers.” In line with this direction, Duralee is introducing its second collection of prints from the Cyrus Clark Archives, Lawrence noted.

Retro continues to have an important influence on both design and color in fabrics for the home, the designers report. “In color, there are lots of rich, retro colors — brilliant blues, oranges, limes and a lot of fuchsia pinks,” said Valdese’s Levinson.

The stripe phenomenon is singular for the home furnishings market, many designers agree. Typically used as a filler or coordinate, stripes this market are assuming a star role in the introductions.

For American Silk, “We’re doing silk stripes like big awning stripes — large scale and with lots of color,” Douthit related.

Stripes at Robert Allen @ Home and Ametex “will be primarily for outdoor this season. They’re printed with lots of rich, fun colors — white with color,” Murray explained. Next season, the company will translate these into indoor stripes, she said. Overall, she added, the introductions herald “larger scale for drama with monochromatic colorings and graphic designs.”

Current important colors, according to American Silk’s Douthit, are pinks, apple greens and turquoise with darker colors like browns mixing with spas shadings still important. Influences of orange like coral remixed with kiwi are newsmakers.

Looking ahead at color trends, Valdese’s Levinson picks “lots retro influenced shades — brilliant blues, oranges, limes, bright raspberry, butter yellow, blues with greens or with orange. Orange is still the most asked for color family and includes tangerine and apricot,” she related.

For Valdese, fabrics will take a different turn with heavier textures supplanting chenille looks. Boucle, linen looks, thicker cotton yarns, pleat effects, rayon slubs all will be part of the mix, she said.

For Quaker, noted for its extensive influence on the chenille direction of the fabric market, “We are using fine chenilles and novelty chenilles as new yarns. And we’re doing more textural looks with softened and durable boucle yarns,” Spires pointed out.

Looking ahead, Waverly’s Maffei-Toolan observed, “We see a retro-graphic feel, but we’re not leaving out roots and will bring out a vintage collection with a linen rich base cloth that will have a different look.”

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