Velvet Blankets Showtime

Carole Sloan, Staff Staff, December 12, 2005

High Point, N.C. —Anything velvet — faux or real — a renaissance of flamestitch and ikat designs as a key part of the global folkloric movement, and a major shift in the color palette to softer, earthy shades are the major fashion-forward directions at Showtime here this week.

In terms of pattern scale, fabric designers see two extremes— giant, overscaled or small and detailed.

In addition, natural fibers from a plethora of silk constructions to linen used alone or in blends, raffia and cotton are used to create unique looks at the upper end of the decorative fabrics market.

The velvet phenomenon is being described as a post-chenille movement, spurred as well by the popularity of the fabric in both menswear and womens wear this season. In decorative fabrics, there are few velvet mills operating domestically, so much of the product is woven constructions designed to emulate the real things.

“There's so much interest in velvet,” said Bea Spires, vice president, Quaker. “We're creating looks of frieze and cut velvets with pile and dimension with our weaving capabilities without actually making velvet.” Quaker also is washing and puckering its velvet looks to “make it more comfortable for today — not formal and stuffy,” Spires added.

For Valdese, “Anything velvet is fashion-right,” said Laura Levinson, senior vice president. Especially important, she noted, “are tight geometrics, and silk grounds using jacquard techniques to create cut and uncut looks with chenille yarns.”

At Richloom, the velvet trend is being translated into prints on velvet, explained Louise Cullen Robinson, creative director for the firm's Platinum Collection, with a softened color palette, more elegant. While ADF's design director, Erica Youngleson, simply noted, “Velvet is raising its head substantially, especially in plains, wovens and knits.”

At TFA, velvets are being expanded to include embroidered and jacquard velvets, said Michael Day, vice president.

In terms of design themes, flamestitch and ikat are emerging as favorites. “They're part of the bohemian, global theme,” asserted Day. Valdese's Levinson pointed to “bohemian, gypsy and an eclectic mix” with their use of antique ribbons, paisley, embroideries, and simple geometrics as inspirations for today's fabric looks.

The broad bohemian trend is captured at Richloom with the “New Bohemian Collection,” that Robinson calls “happy chic, a mix of exotic patterns with handcrafts as inspiration including ikat, susani, embroidery.”

For ADF's Youngleson, ikat and flamestitch are seen “as the bridges for different design idioms that work with the emerging Jacobean, Kashmiri and paisley designs.”

The color story for decorative fabrics is both varied and focused, the designers agree. “Orange is still important, but the names used now are like mango, tangerine and cantaloupe — and they're all being used with chocolate,” explained Greg Lawrence, print design head for Duralee.

But the big, upcoming color for Duralee, he noted, “is boysenberry — a color between plum and raspberry — a light midtone reddish purple.”

At Craftex, Denise Gutierrez, marketing director, sees color going in two directions — fresh and clean with sherbet orange using a pink cast, and softer cosmetic shades like sand, beige, clean green with a blue rather than yellow cast.

At TFA, important color directions are merlot, sienna, touches of purple, burnt orange, pewter, peacock and teal, Day related. The company's silk collections, he added, utilize the most intense colors.

An array of greens, highlighted by turquoise, citron and emerald, are important directions for American Silk Mills, in the view of Cynthia Clark-Douthit, vice president. In the spice family, cinnamon and curry are gaining favor while a pale blue aqua is another fashion-forward shade. But Clark-Douthit adds, “There's lots of chocolate as an accent.”

Another chocolate partisan is ADF's Youngleson, who said, “Chocolate and lime are now combinations; chocolate and jade are next and chocolate and earthtones are constant.” Reds, she noted, are moving away from the orangey tones to more blue casts and hot pink is emerging as an accent.

At Quaker, soft ginger and apricot, deep avocado and plum rose are fashion colors — all with browns, especially mink as a mixer, said Spires. Softer blues are growing, moving into richer teals.

For Showtime, Valdese is featuring turquoise and chocolate and deep teal and chocolate as further evidence of the strength of the chocolate coloration on the entire palette, explained Levinson. Coming up are woodrose — a brown rose, pale slate blue and a mica lagoon that is more green than blue, she noted.

But brights still will be important fashion colors, Levinson added, with orange, magenta and turquoise leading in this category.

The emergence of silk as a key fashion fiber for decorative fabrics is a recent phenomenon, spurred in good measure by the efforts of the American fabric companies with the growing ranks of Asian suppliers. And synthetic fibers are being developed to emulate the looks and hand of natural silks.

At TFA, “Silks are hot — plains, noils, taffetas, satins, embroideries and velvets,” Day reported. A range of silks from lightweight to silk brocades are important fashion looks at American Silk, Clark-Douthit noted, while jacquards, plaids, stripes and embroideries are finding favor at ADF, Youngleson related. But beyond silk, she added, “There is a huge demand for naturals including cotton and linen.”

In a special move, Duralee is launching a collection of toiles, 10 with Asian themes which Lawrence said reflect the expected impact of the movie “Memoirs of a Geisha” as well as other Asian fashion influences. “The whole Asian mood will explode — it's both traditional and sophisticated.” Duralee also is putting emphasis on what Lawrence calls “classic retro — designs inspired by Billy Baldwin and David Hicks, stars of mid-century modern.”

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