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And, they're off and running…

At the New York Market — The New York Home Textiles Show kicked off at the Jacob Javits Center this morning, marking the beginning of Market Week even though some showroom suppliers along the avenues began receiving customers yesterday. Many were in the midst of preparatory sales meetings — as the semi-annual show-and-tell ritual inches ever earlier on the calendar.

In terms of design, market previews suggest that paisley and batik are the new gotta-have-'em patterns for spring '04. Stripes are showing up everywhere, whether as towel stripes, ticking stripes, cabana stripes or mini stripes. Windowpane prints, variously scaled, also are getting their due. Beach-inspired novelty designs are also rearing their heads in many assortments — although the beaches in question vary from Maui to Marseilles, Fire Island to the Rivera, and kitschy postcard retro looks to Late Empire tropical manor designs.

Plenty of shimmery and shiny constructions are still on tap (and plenty of Asian-generated frequent flier miles to back them up), but the fashion lead is tilting toward constructions with a drier hand. True linen and linen looks — micro netting, "burlap" and well-executed synthetics — are cropping up in duvets, comforters, window, table and dec pillows. Where embellished, they are embellished judiciously. Where they are not, color is driving the story.

Suede has largely stepped back from its star billing last market to a supporting role. Crochet is the new embroidery. Leather — faux and otherwise — is the new fur. Fur, mostly faux, has settled into a lifestyle niche. Ribbon embroidery is being pushed aside by vermicelli stitching — much of it employing bugle beads.

The product category showing the most design creativity: window. The product category skidding dangerously toward design suffocation: "value-packed" fashion bedding "at a price." A whole lot of heavily embellished piecework constructions smack of narrow looms and 10-machine cut-and-sew shops.

Question of the week: There's a push on better-quality crisp prints. Will buyers respond?

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