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Jobbers spread out.

NEW YORK--Jobbers say they are offering a more diverse mix of fabrics this season than ever before, with such key style categories as brights and retro looks, as well as soft colorations and textures.

Aiming for a wider audience, jobbers are packaging collections for easier selection and sales, or offering a variety that runs the gamut of prints and wovens, from traditional to contemporary. As the marketplace becomes more competitive, many feel diversity is the only way to go.

"We're doing everything," said Dee Duncan, senior vice president for sales and marketing for Peachtree Fabrics, a regional jobber based in Georgia.

David Titlebaum, retail and jobber sales manager for Robert Allen, said the company has identified five lifestyle themes, and grouped prints and wovens within these categories. The coordinated packages, he said, "go hand in hand with what works well in jobber books. We're going after every segment of the market. It just depends on what the customer is looking for."

Calling the company's line "eclectic," Titlebaum said Robert Allen creates each book around one of its five lifestyle themes. "We don't mandate that the customers have to buy it this way. It's our concept, and we believe in a book; it tells a great story."

On the supply side, Ed Garguilo, executive vice president of Anju Woodridge, said the company is packaging products. "We have full coordinations, " he said. "It's where it's at today with jobbers because it makes it easy for the customer."

Fabrics in bright colors are unanimously the top category choice of jobbers.

"We're continuing to find the market strong in European brights," said Duncan. "They're really making an impact. " He said color was everywhere, in prints and wovens.

Scott Kravet, vice president of Kravet, said, "The '60s are back." He said electric colors are doing well at retail throughout Europe, but felt they would have to be dusted and toned down for the American market--"to give them more of a lifespan. "

Tony Zelner, vice president of operations at commercial jobber Irvin Allen, said color was very important, but he saw a softening palette, "with more accents of golds and yellow. Forest green and blue continue to be strong."

Garguilo said jobbers have been interested in the bright, young colors in the plaids, stripes and solids from the company's Hunt Club and Casino collections.

"The fashion-forward jobber has his pulse on what is needed," he said. And that is colors that are "lively and happy"--like banana, kiwi, cherry and cobalt--that re place the washed and faded hues of vintage from the last couple of seasons. The new brights "are livable," Garguilo said. "I can't stress that enough."

Textures in wovens will make a strong showing, according to jobbers.

"Textures are hot," said Duncan. "Chenille groups are anywhere and everywhere." He said their prominence was due partly to a continuing casual, elegant trend that emphasizes softness and deep texture. He called it "pizazz on the upper end of the market."

According to Titlebaum of Robert Allen, "The company is putting more of an emphasis on wovens, such as jacquards and tapestries, in its collections. We've changed from being just a print house to a fabric house."

In wovens, Zelner said tapestries, especially chenilles, were strong. "Chenilles are in everything--plain to plaids to florals. It's a great product," he said.

Boucles and chenilles, "anything lush," are popular, washed and printed, are making a comeback.

He said washed, sanded and sueded fabrics, "fabrics with after treatments, are still a tremendous category." This includes the vintage look in prints and wovens, in chenilles, damasks and jacquards.

Prints, especially transitional, are more in demand than in previous seasons.

Duncan said most of the prints Peachtree is featuring are transitional. He described a new group as "really a niche of ethnic-look mosaics." Another addition to the company's line is "a '60s sunflower motif."

Kravet said there is a great need for contemporary prints in new colorations and the company would feature such a line. At the other extreme, medieval designs with "a heraldic look" is a smaller category receiving attention, he said.

Heat-transfer prints is a growth area for Irvin Allen, said Zelner, and more cotton prints "on sophisticated jacquard backgrounds" are being added to the line. He said people have tired of the chintz look, and part of the appeal of prints on jacquard backgrounds is that they are perceived as wovens, making them transitional.

"Prints are definitely staging a comeback," said Garguilo of Anju/Woodridge, adding that furniture manufacturers and wholesalers have been asking for them because "prints are easy to decorate with." This season, grounds with surface interest and different constructions will be a plus.

Kravet will continue to show animal-skin looks. The category remains prominent, since current trends in home furnishings reflecting the use of such patterns in women's apparel, he said.
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Title Annotation:fabric offerings
Author:Brannigan, Kathleen
Publication:HFN The Weekly Newspaper for the Home Furnishing Network
Date:Sep 30, 1996
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