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Shabby Chic in expansion mode

Carole Sloan -- Home Textiles Today, December 2, 2002

Shabby Chic is on the move. It's up to six company-owned stores now, having taken over the New York and San Francisco units that were under a licensing arrangement, "and I'm looking to open a couple a year," said Brian Dell, president.

Dell was in New York for the opening of that store and mentioned that the San Francisco unit now occupies the space of the former Filamento home furnishings specialty store on Sacramento and Fillmore Streets.

The company, founded in 1989 by Rachel Ashwell and her then partner as a company that sold "vintage" slipcovered furniture, has grown beyond its original concept into a full home furnishings business, carrying some original vintage products like tabletop, lamps and accessories to reproduction vintage items like a broader line of furniture, rugs, decorative fabrics and bedding as well as a kids line.

In addition to the company stores, there are more than 300 accounts that carry one or more of the Shabby Chic product lines, Dell and Ashwell explained. Furniture, which was most of the company's business at the start, now is less than half, Dell said. And we're "exploring more licensing opportunities," Dell added. The kids business, launched three years ago, "has been very successful," Ashwell noted.

Currently, Rug Market is a licensee, and it launched a collection at the July gift and rug markets. In January, a rug collection with 15 skus will be introduced, including florals and stripes in sisal, wool, cotton and chenille, "mostly from China, a few domestic as well as some vintage rugs," Ashwell said.

Looking ahead, Ashwell said, "It's my dream to do a dinnerware line. What we do now is vintage that I pick up at flea markets. Lamps are both reproductions and more vintage with shades made for us."

Early next year, the company also plans a major new fabric collection in solids, velvets and linens. "It's the core of what we do," Ashwell reported.

But while the company is looking ahead, Dell said, "In the near future, it's more important not to lose the essence of what we are. We'll be doing a lot of perfecting but at the same time looking into the bath area, beauty products, lingerie."

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