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Echo hits 80 — and looks to improve

This is a sweet September for the Echo Design Group.

On Sunday, the company will accept a HomeTex design award during the Home Fashions Product Association's annual honors ceremony at the Fashion Institute of Technology here. Two days later, Echo will mark an even more impressive achievement — its 80th anniversary.

The key to longevity, according to chairman and ceo Dorothy Roberts, is attitude.

"As good as we are — as good as we think we are — we can be so much better," she told HTT.

The daughter of the company's founders, Roberts has presided over Echo's aggressive retail and product expansion during the past two decades. "You've got to have a good relationship with everyone — resources, customers, employees, banks," she said.

In the eight decades since Edgar and Theresa Hyman launched a scarf business — on their wedding day — Echo has grown into a diversified company creating scarves, umbrellas, cold weather accessories, and rain gear for women and men as well as home products. Its range in home includes bedding ensembles produced under license by Revman Industries; fabrics by Kravet; area rugs and throws by Trade Am; bath coordinates by Creative Bath; wallcoverings by FSC Wallcoverings; and paper goods by C.R. Gibson.

"We deal with the most exciting and vital products that touch consumers," said co-president Steven Roberts, who is Robert's son. "Echo's design is rooted in classics, but it's really about updated patterns, integrity of design and fair value for product that's always timely."

Echo's design expertise touches on four core abilities: print, pattern, color and fabrication. The company works to ensure that each product "incorporates the combination of all those elements," said Lynn Roberts, vp of advertising and public relations, who is Dorothy Roberts' daughter.

"Echo has a sensibility, but you can't pigeonhole it. It encompasses everything from modern to rural," added Meg Roberts, senior designer for the home division and Steven Robert's wife. "We want customers to feel confident with our products. We want them to say, 'That looks like me.' "

Going forward, Echo wants to position itself as "a fashion leader in home," said Steven Roberts. He and wife Meg have already produced two Echo décor books and, against all their earlier expectations, now find themselves mulling another.

On the product end, he said, the company is considering extensions into furniture and table top. It also believes there is still plenty of room for growth with its existing licenses and lines.

Overly rapid expansion is not on the agenda.

"We're pursing focused strategies and focused maneuvers so that we can be in the right place five years from now," he added. "We know what we are in our guts — and yet we're a moving target."

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