Showtime goes formal; adds texture, colors

Retail Editor 2, Carole Sloan, July 8, 2002

A new spin on formal, dressy looks; layered effects in wovens and prints that offer a fresh spin on texture; and lots of color are the key themes for decorative fabrics that will be launched at Showtime here this week.

Overall the message from the fabric community is diversity, experimentation, technological advances in fiber and finishing and a definite move from the casual domination of fabric market in the 1990s.

"We see traditional and more elegant looks emerging," said Jennifer Welge, vp, styling/design, Sunbury. As part of this, she added, "We are giving a big push to rayon chenille, which offers the gloss vs. the casual look of cotton chenille. And we're crushing it for added elegance."

In addition, Welge said, "There's a lot more calendering of high-count constructions. They're very, very dressy."

This push to more elegance also is reflected in fabrics designed for second homes, Welge explained. "We know more about this market since our involvement with Sunbrella — we're doing damasks, elegant stripes."

"I believe we're swinging back to a new spin on formal fabrics, especially with the downturn in casual dressing," added Gary Filippone, vp, design director, Robert Allen @Home. He sees "hints of Victorian, especially with rose motifs. But like anything else, it needs a new sophistication and interpretation, but with recognizable elements."

For Michael Day, vp, design for Textile Fabric Associates (TFA), the elegance is reflected in what was shown on the apparel runways. "We're featuring Global Glamour — treatments of fabrics that include embroidery, quilting, pleating — and in colors in the red, orange, blue and green families."

Fabrics also are more elegant, Day related. "We're doing a lot of linens, taffetas, silks, boucles. And even with fabrics like denim and suede, we're doing lots of embroideries, as well as a velvet denim, pleated demim and a woven denim with a classical damask frame."

Similarly, Bruce Pachter, creative director for Chris Stone, observed, "we see a return to elegance. People want to be at home — in elegant but comfortable surroundings. Minimalism is going away. People want softness and comfort."

The layering of fabric to create new dimensional effects and textural looks ranks high on the direction list for Cynthia Clark Douthit, vp, design for American Silk Mills. Metallic yarns and filament rayon are two of the keys to aid in achieving such looks, Clark Douthit explained.

Dressier materials like satin are rejoining the fabric fashion statements, according to Wesley Mancini, head of Wesley Mancini Designs, which creates the Home Fabrics line. "Texture is so important. You have to be able to feel it with your eyes closed," he emphasized. "There's more weight as well."

Looking specifically at the home textiles fabrics arena, Mancini sees rug motifs, woven patchwork looks and tropicals as directions. "The market is tired of beige," he added.

For Laura Levinson, senior vp, Valdese, "while chenille is still important at the mid and mainstream levels, at the upper end dry texture is key. Mercerized cotton warps are taking off."

Texture also is being enhanced with combination quilt looks like matelasse/damask and kilim motifs with new yarns, Levinson explained. "The challenge is how complex can we make these constructions. Reversibles are coming on strong. Linen yarns are taking off and heavy cotton yarns that create embroidered looks also are emerging."

Most important in this season's fabric directions, according to Michael Koch, executive vp, Wearbest, "is that whatever the look, it can't try to hard to be right, they can't be gimmicky."

Designs, Koch added, "are more simplified by using new materials such as monofilament with chenilles, and secondary processes like finishes including resins and raffia offer a sense of basketry as an architectural effect."

As for color directions, the fabric design community is of a single mind — cleaner, clearer and lots of it.

Said Peter D'Ascoli, vp, creative services for Covington Fabrics, "lavender is directional but overall colors are happy and fresh."

D'Ascoli also pointed to aqua, butter yellow, fern, robin's egg blue and aquamarine as key colors. "Greyed out looks old; even vintage is clearer."

"Color in general," said Wearbest's Koch, "is more of a mix of warm and cool. The market has been so warm, now it's cooler."

As an example, Koch cited cool lavender with acid olive green, hot pink and tangerine accents. Robin's egg blue, Tiffany blue and the cool side of purple as well as accents of pink will be important. In naturals, a warm wheat gold and greyer linens will be significant.

In addition to specific colors, TFA's Day noted "color is so important we added 40 colors to our raffia collection, which now includes jacquards and two-tones."

Color for Sunbury's Welge "is clean but not as bright as a year ago. It's comfortable but not cheery."

It's more of blue, said Robert Allen @Home's Filippone, who cited "all variations — robin's egg/turquoise, navy used with less expected colors and vapor blues." In addition, he pointed to a redder cast for the plum/purple family, reds, and yellow greens.

Valdese's Levinson said, "we tried to pop color in everything. They're brighter, cleaner, clearer. Buttercream yellow is important, as are Chinese red, robin's egg blue, and kiwi green — a bright and clear green."

Levinson also noted "color between the contract and residential markets is blending even more than ever, although contract still is a bit brighter. We're even sharing artwork between the two markets."

Colors for the decorative market are brighter, said Mancini, and rayon warps provide a definite patina. "More blues are coming up. Overall there are gray blue greens, soft butternut, golden sage, fresh apple green, and grayed beige among the newer colors."

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