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Getting an edge

Carole Sloan -- Home Textiles Today, January 7, 2002

It was fun watching the fabrics roll in for both our Showtime and Heimtextil product previews.

Just when all the pundits were talking gloom and doom, lots of conservatism, patriotism by the yard, and all sorts of other things, the design community at home and abroad took a wonderfully fresh stance.

Design, color, tastefulness and a large measure of fabrics with a wonderful sense of fun and humor kept coming in the door.

Wow, I wondered. Where were all the basic beige chenilles?

At Home Textiles Today, we look for the most decorative directions, the most exotic and creative of constructions, the top of the top in fiber and yarn constructions.

And this Showtime and Heimtex, despite the myriad travails of 2001, the rewards were especially exciting.

Very little red, white and blue was seen, and few flags or other patriotic symbols made their way onto fabrics furniture, windows or beds. The few that did are destined for home products such as decorative pillows, perhaps a shower curtain or two and even a throw.

What was most interesting was the prevalence of humor and whimsy — both among the American fabric producers that in the last year or so have been rediscovering the latent potential of a category called "novelty" or "conversation" patterns.

A growing number of American companies are going full-bore after this category, some even calling the design approach "edgy" or "over the top" in comparison with their regular product offerings.

Of course, this is a product category the international community has embraced forever — and one that influences the direction of color and even design themes in more conservative design segments.

Then, with a 180-degree turn, there has been an abundance of luxury, exemplified in innovative constructions, rich new color combinations bringing new life to omnipresent neutrals, and more use of luxury fibers, from Egyptian mercerized cotton to mohair to silk to mixes of fibers into new looks in yarns — creating matte-sheen effects and iridescent multi-colors among others.

These directions were evident more in fabrics that were not furniture-specific but in types ranging from multi-purpose fabrics to sheers.

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