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Bardwil and Lenox tackle towels

In a move that marked a milestone for both parties, century-old table linens supplier Bardwil Linens and tabletop and giftware brand Lenox Inc. forged a licensing partnership earlier this month that will carry them into uncharted territory — bath towels.

The three-generation, family-owned Bardwil Linens, based here, has spent its existence producing almost strictly table linens — with kitchen textiles joining the assortment less than three years ago.

Similarly, Lenox, based in Lawrenceville, N.J., manufacturers only tabletop and gift items. Its first foray into textiles came when it partnered with Bardwil in September 2001 to produce table linens matching some of its core tabletop designs. Bardwil has also been the licensee of Lenox's more casual alternative brand — Dansk — since last June.

"Our line of fine (table) linens has performed very well at retail," said Kathy Thie, executive vice president, Lenox Brands. "We look forward to our launch of Lenox bath towels this fall, as we expand our flagship brand throughout the home."

Peter Cobuzzi, vice president, Lenox brand development, explained there are no plans as of yet to build on the Lenox bath towel collection with other bathroom-related items like rugs, accessories and shower curtains.

The new Lenox bath towel collection will target department and specialty stores in the same way the table linens line does. While it is slated to officially launch in the fall during the New York Home Textiles Market, Nancy Kristoff, Bardwil's president of sales and marketing, said she expects to have some of the product ready for preview by June. The initial program will include a solid color program in 25 colors, as well as some jacquard styles.

Kristoff said Bardwil wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to fill a void left by the exit of the Royal Velvet brand from the bath towels category. Bardwil was formerly a long-time licensee of now-defunct Pillowtex's Royal Velvet, Fieldcrest, Charisma and Cannon brands for table linens.

"Our thinking was — with the timing of the whole Royal Velvet towel line leaving the market combined with the strength of the Lenox brand, plus our sourcing capacity overseas — it only made sense for us to expand our Lenox line with bath towels," Kristoff said. "Brand is very important now to retailers."

Helping Bardwil enter the bath towel category is Meg Connolly, who was appointed to the newly created post of vice president of the Lenox bath division. Connolly most recently worked for WestPoint Stevens in its global sourcing operation for bath towels. She spent most of her career at Pillowtex as division vice president of sales and marketing of the Fieldcrest Cannon division, helping build its Charisma, Royal Velvet, Fieldcrest and Cannon brands.

"She intimately knows the towel business, and we've put her in charge of it," Kristoff said. "Meg brings a wealth of towel knowledge to our newest endeavor."

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