Esprit returns to home at Bed Bath

Carole Sloan, February 23, 2004

Esprit — the young, contemporary, apparel- and home-design brand of the '80s, with a decidedly California signature — will return to bed and bath in the United States in time for back-to-school.

The home brand, now re-emerging under new ownership, will be an exclusive at Bed Bath & Beyond for the first year, according to Carmine Porcelli, director of licensing for Esprit. Bedding will be launched first, he said, with bath to follow within a six-month period.

The liason with Bed Bath, Porcelli explained, "represented an opportunity for exposure and distribution. It is a perfect match for us." Bed Bath will feature it in 500 stores.

In determining distribution, Porcelli pointed out, "Bedding is a destination point for department stores, while at Bed Bath it is a whole shopping experience."

While the designs and colors will be today, Porcelli said, "It is keeping somewhat of the spirit of the original — lively, contemporary. Colors will be oranges, turquoises, brilliant golds and greens and real jewel tones."

Porcelli calls the time right for Esprit. "There's a lack in the market of real color and aesthetics — a sea of beige."

Esprit was founded by Susie and Doug Tompkins in the '70s, and created a design stir among consumers into the '80s.

Martex was formerly the home textiles licensee. The company foundered as the Tompkins personal lives turned apart, and in the '90s Susie Russell (Tompkins) joined forces with Hong Kong and German partners. The company now is owned by Hong Kong-based Esprit Holdings Ltd.

There will be several prints "within the Esprit footprint that are still in development — forms of modern geometrics and florals," said Porcelli. Stripes are Esprit basics, "for others they may be their fashion piece," he said, as a way of differentiating the design approach. "This will be our design point of view, not adapting from another bedding source. They're not basics."

The mood, Porcelli explained, will range "from romantic — softer but with lots of colors, to exotic stripes with rich jewel tones."

Kitan, the Israel-based home textiles supplier, will produce the goods for U.S. licensee Brownstone. Kitan also produces the global product that has been in distribution for several years.

There will be eight beds in the first collection using combed cotton and Pima cotton. Next season linen will be introduced. There will be a complete collection of bedding and accessories. Sheets will range from 200-count to 350-count with the average retail for a full-size comforter at $129.

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