Showtime to have industry seeing red

Carole Sloan, July 6, 2001

High Point, NC — Red will be the key family as color continues to explode across the home furnishings market.

Decorative fabric suppliers launching new lines at Showtime here this week have expanded the role of reds from the regal shades and brights that have been pacing the color world to coral, peach, raspberry and rose into a bevy of pink from hot pink to fuchsia and beyond into apricot and tangerines on the orange side.

Looking at the more decorative part of their businesses - the jobber, retail and home textiles channels (vs. the more conservative furniture segment) - the design mavens for these companies point to a wider range of materials, more complex constructions, better-quality cloths - even in basic fabrics - and lots of innovation as the keys to their new lines. Handcrafted looks in prints and wovens also are fashion-forward.

The slowdown in the economy has not deterred them from bringing out major new offerings. In fact, as Laura Levinson, senior vp, product development and marketing for Valdese, put it, "Our answer to the business slowdown is more product. We've added 50 new shades as well and are emphasizing end product with more creativity as a counter to the European companies, and the demand from our customers for more better goods."

The expansion of color vs. naturals and neutrals of the recent past "brings color to equal importance with layout, pattern and scale," explained Gary Filippone, vp, design director, Robert Allen @ Home. "Color has been so minimal and reductive," he added.

With the return of color as a significant fashion force, Filippone sees "indigo with white, a Balinese inspiration, and turquoise, a whole new take on India from authentic sari designs," as two important trends. In addition, another trend he noted was "anything with a red touch - the whole family of corals, spicy tomato reds, soft peach, tangerines, nectars."

As for design direction, Filippone noted, "There's less specific direction. We're a lot more varied in assortments vs. focusing on specific looks."

For Michael Day, vp, design at Textile Fabric Associates, "Raspberry is a reach color," and anything in the purple family from lavender to deep purples are the colors both for home and apparel.

Day also sees "concept stories that include a feature pattern such as elephants or a fox hunt and novelties" as important design directions. For fabric looks, he pointed to "boucles from melange to wool looks, all-over matelasses and boucle jacquards."

"It's wonderful that color is being used more and more," said Michael Koch, executive vp, Wearbest. "It's really exciting. Neocon last month was really exciting in terms of color - fresh oranges, not pop or flashy plastic colors, and chartreuse."

Overall, Koch sees "fresh, clear, clean colors with brighter warps that can also be toned down with fillings."

In constructions, "There's a lot more high pickage - weft brocades, comfortable embellishments without chenille, a mix of materials," he said.

But Koch also noted that "novelties are important - chickens, geese, birds. They become a signature for the rest of the collection and identify a uniqueness." In addition, "there are good staples - silky plains with weave interest."

Better fabrics, better hand and a relaxed hand are some of the key directions at Portfolio, said Tony Amplo, creative director. Included are velvet prints, linen blends, block print looks and frame florals.

But Amplo also joins others who see novelties as an important design direction. "They're whimsical and embrace the whole ethnic stage. They're what we call conversation designs."

In terms of color, Amplo sees "two palettes: clear, bright and happy with aquas, blues, reds and purples; and rich, deep and traditional with reds, blues, and elegant purples. But I also see a lot of red, white and blue."

"Ethnic across the board," is the way Andrea Warchol, assistant vp, design for Weave, sees design direction. "North American especially, and animals and novelties like tree of life motifs." In addition, she sees "homespun textures, handcrafted looks and rich reds, golds and bronzes as well as mid-tone corals and dusty corals. But raspberry with more intensity also will be important."

"I see more complex structures in fabrics: four layers vs. one or two; sheers showing luster with matte; and surface texture - twill weaves vs. satin," said Wesley Mancini, president of Wesley Mancini Ltd., which creates the Home Fabrics line. "And silk looks with nubs and slubs will be important."

"If I had to pick one color for direction it would be all shades of pink - from hot to fucshia to muted pale gray, almost flesh," Mancini noted.

Pam Maffei-Toolan, design director, Waverly Lifestyle, said, "Wovens are looking like prints, and prints like wovens - all with beautifully drawn designs."

Plaids are going to be strong, she believes, and will be shown with prints as well as woven and printed toiles. New color direction will be "antique colors like sage, linen, mauve and plum," she said.

And as the non-furniture market continues to look upwards, Valdese is "moving into more handwoven looks, emulating silk with rayon, high/low uncut velvet looks and emulating needlepoint," added Levinson.

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