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American design leads the way

April 19, 2010

High Point, N.C. – As enthusiasm and confidence in the economy are growing, High Point is enjoying better attendance and psychology than it has experienced in some time. Manufacturers are optimistic and open to new ideas to build their business for the future – and buyers are looking for fresh merchandise to satisfy changing consumer attitudes toward home products.

As for new directions in design – I have forecast it before and emphatically confirm again – American design is on the upswing and enjoying support and fresh exploration by designers and manufacturers alike.

As for proof, there is no finer example at this market than the 40-piece furniture collection by the Keno Brothers, Leslie and Leigh, for Theodore Alexander – just introduced here this week.

The brothers gained fame and widespread recognition as appraisers on the TV series "Antiques Roadshow" and gained unparalelled insights through their respective day jobs – Leslie as director of Sotheby’s American Furniture and Decorative Arts Dept., Leigh as the operator of Keno Auctions. They have applied their knowledge and expertise to what they believe will be the collector’s pieces of tomorrow. They are reviving time tested construction techniques, fine woods and materials and a high degree of hand craftsmanship so often forgotten or short circuited in the quest for the lowest price at the expense of quality.

Thomas O’Brien is another well-known designer whose work for Hickory Chair, Safavieh and Reed & Barton reflects his belief in American design. In fact, his book, "American Modern," soon to be published and distributed by Abrahms, will be available to his fans at a special preview and book signing event here in High Point.

Likewise, Joe Ruggiero, a former star of HGTV and Pinnacle award winner who celebrates his 10th anniversary here as a liefestyle designer, draws on the roots of American design for his licensees, among them Sunbrella, Woodard and Miles Talbott.

Lester Gribetz, former co-chair of Bloomingdale’s focused early and exclusively on American design from the day he took office as president and ceo of Lenox, debuting new collections at last week’s NY Tabletop show.

These are just a few of the high profilers backing American design, with many more smaller companies getting in on this growing trend which has re-emerged – part folk art, part mid century, part artisan craftsmanship. Whichever the interpretation, the direction is clear: American design is back in the spotlight.