• Cecile Corral

Brentwood Celebrates 50 Years

Brentwood Originals has much to celebrate in 2008.

This year marks the company's 50th anniversary, not just as a decorative pillow supplier, but by far the largest among its competitors in the United States.

Founder and chairman Hal Alden started importing velvet decorative pillows from Japan in 1958. But it was in 1972 when the company took a major leap upon then-U.S. President Richard Nixon's legendary trip to China. Brentwood attained one of the 50 business visas garnered for U.S. companies to work with China, explained company president Loren Sweet.

Brentwood was one of the first U.S. home textiles companies to start importing from Asia long before it became the norm for American industry players to source all or most of their goods from the Far East.

"Overseas we maintain strong business relationships," Sweet said. "In some cases we're working with the third generation of these family factories."

Five decades since opening its doors, the importer is considered to be the country's 15th largest home textiles company, at $169 million in sales last year — and by far the largest decorative pillow supplier, reporting $145 million in sales for 2007. Throws and soft window treatments are part of Brentwood's product mix, but at a considerably smaller scale.

While 2005 and 2006 proved tightly competitive years for Brentwood, the company is taking a turn lately and has forecast "continued growth," Sweet said, this year and onward.

To support this increase, Brentwood is expanding two of its three domestic distribution facilities — which together boast one million square feet — with new capacity. The sites being revamped are in Walls, Miss., and Youngstown, Ohio. The third site is in Long Beach, Calif., near company headquarters.

"In this difficult marketplace, retailers need to be conscious of their vendor structure," Sweet said. "They need to work with well-funded, sound companies that can afford to invest in their business."

For this market, the company is showing four new collections.

Charleston is a traditional grouping of looks — solids, textured solids, embroideries, crewels, woven stripes and others.

Tonals and Textures is the second collection. Its core six-color palette groups reds with golds and browns, and silvery to charcoal grays with olive greens and teal blues. The 11 fabrics used here include jacquard chenille, solid chenille, printed plush and pleated plush.

Borrowed From Nature is Brentwood's response the environmental movement. Using iconic imagery like trees and branches, the company came up with this nature-inspired group that next market will graduate to sea life and shell motifs on tapestries.

Finally, Global Craft speaks to the new Bohemian trends with looks that are inspired by folk American art, Asian ikat weaves, Eastern European/Central Asian suzanis and Mexican serapes, among other textile-related muses.

Cecile CorralCecile Corral | Senior Product Editor, Home & Textiles Today

Cecile B. Corral has been a product editor with Home Textiles Today since late 2000. She covers the area and accent rug, kitchen textiles, table linens, beach towels, decorative bath and decorative pillow categories, as well as some retail subjects.

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