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  • Jennifer Marks

Safer...and sorrier

They didn't mean any insult when they said it. We use a lot of color here. It's not like you in America.

I heard it almost everywhere we went during last week's Texfair do Brasil, the annual home textiles fair for the Brazilian industry.

Granted, there were designs on display that couldn't cross the border if they were riding in the President's motorcade. Squiggly graphics. Personal-pan-pizza-sized dots on plain white grounds. Funky floral dobbies of the sort that just wouldn't play in Peoria.

It was nothing out of the ordinary in non-U.S. terms — certainly familiar to regular attendees of Heimtextil. And as is the case in Frankfurt, there were also a number of designs that could translate perfectly well in the States — and still others that needed just the usual amount of tweaking to work.

But the palettes — I didn't encounter anything that made the gut lurch or the eyes ache. In fact, most of the liveliest color was very livable from an American point of view.

And yet, time and again: We use a lot of color here. It's not like you in America.

Could we possibly be as dull as they think we are? Every U.S. home textiles firm creates at least a couple of new palettes each season — and nearly every retailer is hard at work doing the same. If anything, the U.S. consumer on the prowl for a solid-color towel or sheet set faces an almost overwhelming array of choices.

It's not like you in America.

That comment — always made by way of proviso — might not have been startling had it come from some of the exhibitors at the Evteks trade fair in Turkey — where some of the designs for the Russian and Middle Eastern markets are so garish that even the tackiest honeymoon hotel in the Poconos would have to take a pass.

But most of the Brazilians who said it represent firms already doing business in the States — some of them a good deal of business. So who's telling them we don't cotton to color? Could it possibly be ... us?

It's a question worth asking here in the preview season. This go-round, the challenge of making the right decision early is particularly important. With the New York Home Textiles Market leaping ahead into September, designers will have little to no time in late summer to finesse the final details of their work. Travel restrictions related to SARS are making the job even more difficult. Could it be that in response the market is hewing to only the safest choices?

Ah, now that sounds exactly like us in America.

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