Sargent pulls back the drape on new fabrics

Carole Sloan, April 1, 2002

Susan Sargent reacted to her first decorative fabrics collection for Robert Allen @ Home by asking "aren't they fun?"

The whole collection, she said, "kind of evolved from where we started out —sketches for other products that we put into digital format as archives."

Sargent, who has been producing high-end rugs and hand-painted bedding ensembles, said, "My color palette drew the Robert Allen folks. We spent a whole day looking at their line, and nothing of mine duplicated what they do." As the project evolved, Sargent said, "we adjusted some colors to reflect home decorating. And one of the interesting things is that we were able to use digital technology as a tool and then create hand-done art."

The collection, she said, is the result of a close dynamic "of my color and design sense paired with their industry knowledge." Basically, she explained, "there are 12 colors we worked with, and we see these colors through the various fabrics."

Having worked in Sweden for some time, Sargent said, "I'm trying to change American design ideas by marrying the bold Scandinavian look with color and furniture that works here."

Consumers, she said, "are a savvy group; and what they see at the high end, they like — but [they] don't have that kind of money. It shouldn't have to be that way — you shouldn't have to mortgage the house to recover the couch."

The fabric collection, which falls in the moderate price range, will have a sneak preview this month at Lexington Furniture, consisting of furniture covers for the Susan Sargent upholstery and a case goods collection. It's official launch will be at Showtime in July, according to Andy Pacuk, svp, Robert Allen @ Home.

Calling the collection "colorful and focused," Pacuk sees it as "a new American approach to contemporary — fun and easy. She's first and foremost about color."

While Lexington kicks off the collection, "the biggest push will be to fabric retailers — and she has lots of appeal there — and sample books to interior designers," Pacuk related.

About her experience with Lexington, Sargent said, "I looked at all the olive and beige and said, 'You don't need me.' There are so many men in the furniture business who are fixated on furniture but not furniture design." But after lots of one-on-one with Lexington, she said, "I'm very happy with the furniture."

Both the fabric and furniture collections follow the launch in February of her bed and bath collection at Springs for adults, teens and infants.

Robert Allen @ Home found her a hands-on designer. "She was at the print plant overseeing the strikeoffs," said Pacuk. "There's no ego or pretense here."

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