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Susan Sargent inks deal

Carole Sloan -- Home Textiles Today, August 17, 2001

Pawlet, VT — Rug and bedding designer Susan Sargent has signed a broad-brushed licensing agreement with the Robert Allen Group to produce a collection of decorative fabrics with a launch date of April 2002.

The designer, noted for her hand-painted bedding and signature rugs, sees the fabric collection as expanding her influence in the specialty retail fabric, interior design and specialty furniture retail distribution channels. At the same time, the fabrics will be used on furniture under the Susan Sargent label that also will debut next April.

And although licenses have not yet been signed, negotiations are under way that could bring bed and bath, wallcoverings and rug collections to the home textiles market at the same time, Sargent said.

Sargent, whose signature is a contemporary colorful statement mixed with sophisticated casual design, is based in this rural Vermont community where she designs in a genre that could be called "farmhouse casual," reflecting her rug designs that at first were one-of-a-kind and later expanded into high-end open-line designs. The rug collection was followed by hand-painted bedding, and this year, decorative pillows with the Susan Sargent look in color and design made their debut at the High Point furniture market.

"Susan is a designer on the [rise] — she brings a fresh look to the market and a distinct point of view," said Andy Pacuk, senior vp, product development for the Robert Allen Group, which will offer the program under its Robert Allen @Home label.

"Her look is especially identifiable in terms of color, and she's not afraid of it," Pacuk said.

"My color palette ties together easily in books for interior designers, and on the retail floor and on furniture," Sargent explained. "It's a different palette — colors that are under-represented in the market."

The colors, which often include an orangy red and lots of yellow, are expected to include fabric constructions from sheers to upholstery, though Pacuk said "specific constructions haven't yet been determined, but the fabrics will be used for windows, top of the bed and furniture."

Robert Allen @Home plans to distribute the fabrics across all its channels — retail fabric stores, interior designers and through Lexington Furniture, which will use the fabrics on its upholstered furniture.

In addition, the John Richard Collection will offer a collection of bedding ensembles for the furniture store channel as well as decorative accessories, and the soon-to-be-added license will offer bed and bath for all other distribution channels, Sargent said.

And while Sargent is moving more into the mainstream of distribution, she emphasized, "I'm definitely not giving up my signature line."

Consumers, Sargent said, "want more color in their lives, more comfortable color — not shocking." And her target customer is a "woman in the middle to upper income [range] with kids; busy; not interested in being dictated to but involved in decorating decisions."

Not by coincidence, Sargent's book, "New Country Color," is scheduled for publication in April. "And it definitely will tie in with my approach to lifestyle," she said.

And as Gary Filippone, Robert Allen Group's vp, creative director and the day-to-day mentor of the program explained, "She will redefine country with a very comfortable feeling."

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