Once More — with Feeling
February 23, 2009,
"The home textiles business has not embraced fashion forwardness nor spotlighted its potential star young designers."
It was an interesting eye-opener, especially in view of the upcoming home textiles market here in New York next month, which is expected to be challenging at best.
Sitting and chatting with a number of exhibitors, I was watching the behavior patterns of the retailers working the lines in each show space. Many were the run-of-the-mill "today's buyer," essentially looking and buying according to a rote pattern.
The standouts were at least a dozen different groups of buyers who actually exhibited a passion for what they were doing. Observing them was a sheer pleasure — and a throwback to when most buyers had a similar zest for product.
When was the last time you actually saw buyers having fun working out a color assortment, or working over a towel program to create a proprietary program for the store — or surrounded by piles of swatches in order to craft a style or color story for decorative fabrics?
And the players were all ages — a couple of 50-something women, a group of coed 30s confreres, and a trio of young women shepherded by an older man — among those I watched.
What made these observations even more interesting was the weekend page 1 feature of WWD during the recent Fashion Week in New York. The highlighted fashion collection was designed by one of "the fresh crop of new designers" — a radical concept for a front page feature during a major market in any business segment.
One of the problems facing this business is the replication of same-old, same-old that has created a sameness across a broad spectrum of price points and distribution channels. The home textiles business has not embraced fashion forwardness nor spotlighted its potential star young designers. The age-old copout has been: "If we spotlight our designer(s), someone will steal them."
With the industry at its most challenged level, perhaps it's time to take a look at fashion overall and develop a new focus on design innovation and design stars. Next month's market might be a good time to start.