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WPS creates new look with Designers Guild

Gary Evans, Marvin Lazaro -- Home Textiles Today, October 29, 2001

The addition and subsequent unveiling of the new Designers Guild line of licensed bedding for the United States market by WestPoint Stevens may symbolize the beginning of a different design direction for the major mill.

Designers Guild, which had a working relationship with WestPoint for the major mill's European product offerings, was signed on for a larger, more expanded line for American consumers in February. This fall market was the first time the full breadth of the line was revealed. Done in a signature look of modern patterns complemented with bright, cheerful colors, the line is designed by founder and creative director Tricia Guild, who continues to jointly run the company.

The line, which Guild described as "contemporary, sensitive, relaxed and dynamic," is a departure from the male-dominated looks of the Ralph Lauren collection as well as the cartoon character-driven Disney Home.

According to Guild, it was WestPoint's understanding of the license that led to the increased relationship, as well as the absence of many of the barriers associated with partnering with a major corporation.

"This company understands the integrity of what we're trying to do," Guild told Home Textiles Today, "and they've enhanced it through their own market expertise and knowledge.

"It's done in a way that's completely in tune with our brand."

Simon Jeffreys, chief executive of the Designers Guild Group Ltd., said, "There was no other major player that could give us this variety of product. It all seemed to come together very well."

The line traverses the spectrum of design from master bedroom looks, to younger, more contemporary feelings to ensembles designed specifically for children. It was presented in its own showroom space complete with unrestricted natural light streaming in through uncovered windows.

Guild, who began her company in 1970 in England and has designed mainly for the European market since, said the U.S. market was more challenging than its overseas counterpart as a result of the amount and quality of product American consumers have available. Despite the differences, she feels American retailers and consumers are ready for the designs and patterns that adorn the line bearing her name.

"My palette is bright and vivacious, slightly glamorous and more alive, but not brash or crude. The whole line is contemporary and relaxed," she said, adding that there was no difference between the palette used for her bedding and the one used for her fabrics lines. "It wouldn't be right if [the bedding] didn't work with the main collection."

To date, Guild added, American receptiveness to her designs and products has been excellent and consumers seem very happy with the news that Designers Guild will soon have a much greater presence on retailers' shelves.

Chip Fontenot, WestPoint's president and coo, said, "This is going to be good," citing the line's "refreshing color." And he was "very, very optimistic" about its success, as was Bob Dale, president of the West Point, GA-based company's Bed and Bath division.

"There's nothing comparable to it," Dale said. "The line has the right execution of color, products and capabilities. There's a desire from our U.S. customers to get away from the traditional look.

"This is a fresh new presentation of product that makes you feel good," he added.

Fontenot also said increasing the breadth of the line, perhaps to include a licensed collection of bathroom accessories, is "clearly the next step."

Said Guild, "We're going to look at all different aspects. As long as it's a good fit, I think we'll do it. One thing will certainly feed off of another."

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