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Dean Miller: riding the waves of fashion to bedding biz

Marvin Lazaro, Thomas Russell -- Home Textiles Today, November 26, 2001

When Edward McLean got a local dry cleaner to make a duvet cover out of a Hawaiian print fabric he had purchased two-and-a-half years ago, he had no idea his idea would evolve into a small, but rapidly growing bedding company carving a unique niche.

McLean's duvet cover soon became an entire array of bedding, and with the help of buddy Doug Smith, Dean Miller Hawaiian Print Bedding, the brainchild of two California surfers, was born.

"This whole company got started on $10,000," Smith told Home Textiles Today. "Now, our sales gross for 2001 will be roughly $650,000.

"I think the buyers for the larger stores didn't recognize the potential of the line."

In addition to the patterns, the Dean Miller name is also taken from the world of surfing. According to Smith, he and McLean were surfing in Hawaii when they were told the story of a man named Dean Miller who lived off the ocean and surfed his way to fame. "We just thought he'd be a great guy to name our company after," said Smith.

The idea to make the duvet cover was born when McLean, then 28, went to a local store in search of some bedding. After finding only floral patterns and children's licensed bedding, McLean, an avid surfer, bought fabric he liked that had a Hawaiian theme.

"He showed me the stuff he had had made up. We got some money together, and the demand was unbelievable," said the 30-year-old Smith.

Originally, the entrepreneurial pair worked out of a two-bedroom apartment and shared the tasks of building their own fledgling company. But the company has since expanded to include seven employees, a production and sales office in California and production overseas from China.

All of Dean Miller's products feature prints that are designed to be popular on the shores of Hawaii and all are made from 100 percent cotton. In addition to its bright prints, the company offers a softer Aloha line that utilizes pastel tones. Dean Miller has also gone beyond duvet covers. Comforter covers, throws, decorative pillows, shower curtains, window curtains, crib sets and stroller blankets are all offered. A full range of sizes is available, with a twin ensemble starting at roughly $100 at retail and approximately $150 for king. At any given time, approximately 18 different tropical/floral/surfboard looks are offered, with certain designs extended over time due to popularity and other looks being phased out.

"The big stores have been carrying the same thing for so long, the consumer just got tired of it," Smith said. "We really filled the gap for that kind of demand."

Dean Miller is being offered at select specialty stores "with great success" as well as via the Internet and through surf shops. The company is hoping to successfully penetrate larger distribution channels throughout the nation.

"We're just trying to bring a little Aloha into everyone's bedroom," Smith said.

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