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Jennifer Marks

Embracing the Future

WHILE INDIVIDUALS within the industry continue to debate when markets should take place and how many there should be, not to mention what the fundamental purpose of market has become, the market has been changing on its own.

Springs, the country's largest supplier, has dispensed this market with its traditional presentation of overwhelming amounts of open line product — an acknowledgement of the fact that open lines are no longer its core business. The real action takes place in private showrooms, where key accounts are presented with custom-made merchandise.

This is a path blazed in recent markets by WestPoint Stevens, Revman and AvonHome. WPS sets its showroom as a gallery of merchandising solutions. AvonHome's airy studio space functions as an idea lab. And although Revman offers an edited display of some non-exclusive merchandise on the floor, all else resides behind a series of closed doors — each dedicated to a single key customer.

It's not just the fundamentals of presentation that are evolving. The fashionability of the goods being presented has taken a big step forward this market.

The two biggest trends are casual and contemporary, each of which have come fully into their own. In terms of overarching design influences, the nod has to go to Rachel Ashley's Shabby Chic, Williams-Sonoma's West Elm, and last spring's apparel update on Coco Chanel's famous tweed look.

The old ways are being cast off even among the most resolutely traditional. The Home Fashions Products Association has at long last decided there was nothing to be gained from soldiering on with semi-annual awards programs in the face of dwindling retail interest of participating in such events.

In a welcome shift, it scrapped the fall program entirely and announced a new spring event that will honor achievements in marketing, product development/design and retailing, as well as a “special achievement.”

It also opened nominations beyond the traditional supplier/retailer grid to embrace professions allied to the industry. Best of all, the HFPA is moving the nominating process from a fax format to the Internet.

The industry has finally entered the 21st century. To use a last-century term: way to go.

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