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Off the rack: suppliers dress up upholstery fabrics at every possible price point.

HIGH POINT, N.C.--Fabric lines debuting at this year's winter show here represent the very best the industry has to offer in a price to quality ratio as well as in design and construction innovation.

The battle to create a hit fabric for the furniture industry is tougher than ever, but both woven and printed fabric suppliers are up to the challenge. Printed fabrics, while selling strongly in other business segments, have faced a slow decline with the furniture industry. At the same time, woven manufacturers are vying to keep their market share in the face of stiff competition from their peers in the business.

The word "value" is being used more often as a description for a new fabric. But what does that mean and how does it translate into greater sales for the furniture manufacturer?

Fabric suppliers report that quality in the price to quality equation is more important at this market. Some of these suppliers say that they are building more into each and every price point to make the products increasingly competitive.

"There is price pressure in the marketplace, a price pressure that will be a factor in judging value," says Ted Paccione, vice president, sales of Joan Fabrics.

For printed fabrics, suppliers are working on different base cloths to add textured interest and a greater perceived value. Says Irwin Ginsburg, president of Anju/Woodridge: "We are introducing new greige goods for printing and dying. We are also introducing a variety of wovens that can be used as main pattern fabrics and/or can be used as universal correlates."

Fame too is adding new base cloths and printing on a variety of different textures.

Explains Judy Neu, director of design: "We have some exciting jacquard cloths that we will print on through new technology. We have this gorgeous new cloth we've developed specifically for furniture people." The price, she says, is between $4.75 and $5.95 per yard.

Fabricut and Wellington Sears are also introducing fabrics printed on jacquard base cloths. According to Harvey Nudelman, president of Fabricut, the company's introductions include an allover damask look with a contrasting stripe, both printed on a Fabricut jacquard ground cloth. Price points were not disclosed but Nudleman says, "they are competitively priced with other printed jacquards."

John Wolf's Provence collection features a hammered satin cloth with the look and feel of a decorator fabric.

John Leverett, merchandise manager of decorative fabrics for Wellington Sears, says: "Our mill gives us the ability to take a printed fabric and give it texture. We'll have a duck and add a slub, use a linen instead or a printed jacquard is another example." According to Leverett, a Wellington Sears printed jacquard called Sambuca is priced at $5.50. Madras is a linen weave construction and is priced at $4.25.

Swavelle/Mill Creek is another company working with a variety of base cloths. According to Richard Hanfling, corporate vice president: "We are introducing a new cloth called Summit that was developed exclusively for us. It has a heavy textured slub effect that is very durable. However, it has a soft and supple hand. We are also introducing five new moire looks in order to expand our solid line. These fabrics range from traditional damask looks to stripes to textured dobbies."

Sandown & Bourne is printing on a cotton duck for added textural appeal. Jack Nunnally, the U.S.-based director of worldwide sales for Sandown & Bourne, notes that the company is introducing twelve new screens, a number of them also on a duck cloth. "It gives the fabrics a comfortable, textured look, almost like a linen." All Sandown & Bourne cotton ducks are priced at $5.40.

Bloomcraft is adopting a textural hand by printing on bark cloth. Noting Bloomcraft's new Arts & Crafts Collection, vice president of sales Fred Vechione lists a $5.25 price point.

Golding Fabrics, a supplier of what president David Pearce calls "casual, fashion-inspired cloths," is giving a whole new meaning to textured fabrics. Rather than adding texture by either washing cloths or adding yarns, Golding is introducing designs that are printed with an implied textured effect. "In our category of apparel-inspired fashion, we created textural feeling--a screen technique that makes the color in Magnolia appear like it has had sun baking on it for a number of summers. It's an aging effect, as if sunbleached with white peeking through the color" he says.

"Our printers are required to print perfectly, and now we require them to print imperfectly," says Pearce. "A competitor won't want to try it." Other Golding introductions are listed at a $5.25 price point.

Flexibility is key when suppliers present their new assortments to furniture manufacturers, especially when mixing and correlating printed fabrics with wovens. Covington is one supplier that offers this option. Says Albert Sardelli, vice president of creative services: "For Showtime, Covington truly offers our customers the ability to link woven programs with prints. An example is the Florica sateen print collection of romantic finely etched florals in a monochromatic color that is reminiscent of a French Colonial toile. These delicate florals coordinate with the elegant Candide collection of raw silk-like textured wovens."

Leverett notes that Wellington Sears has been expanding its contemporary and transitional designs using coordinated groups of prints and printed jacquards. "Our overall thrust is to provide coordinated packages in terms of construction, yarn and styling. We will introduce several jacquards. And we will also have a nice collection of patterns that are transitional in nature, such as plaids and stripes. They can be packaged together or with an allover toile-like floral with a cotton construction for $3.75."

The bottom line, says Neu, is "we're giving a better looking product for a better price from the bottom to the top. It's a direct response to the market and our commitment to being there. We want to give our customers full service, and we will try to accommodate them in all product categories. We know prices are important so even though we have spectacular fabrics that are higher priced, we also have price sensitive product."

Some suppliers of woven fabrics such as La France derive quality and value from the construction of the fabric and then price the fabric accordingly. "We are upgrading our product to a higher style and a higher price," says executive vice president and general manager Glynn Thomas. "We just make a fabric the best we can and then price it.

"We are introducing about 85 patterns in flat wovens, dobbies, jacquards and a dozen cotton and cotton/rayon piece-dyed velvets" he continues. "We are also bringing cotton chenilles." He cites the top of his price points at $9.95.

Michael Marzen, general manager of J.L. de Ball, a producer of velvets, subscribes to Thomas' theory of quality. "If you push the value aspect, you will sacrifice quality," he says. "We have traditionally gone the other way." De Ball introductions include washed velvets from the Vintage Hampton collection, jacquard velvets from the Art Deco collection and a moire. Price points were not released except for Village Hampton, which is listed between $7.95 and $10.95.

Jack Eger, vice president of marketing for Craftex, learned some lessons at the last Showtime but will stick to his tried and true formula of textured fabrics. "We are following up on the success of our rayon chenille and polyester," says Eger. "And we are looking into rayon and linen in chenille to sets ourselves apart.

"We are doing followups on Cornerstone, a polyester tapestry," he continues. "Still, we have a lot to learn about the more commercial market. Patterns will be railroaded and more price-oriented to eliminate waste factors. It is also a different game in terms of color. We will introduce four warp color combinations instead of one."

Eger adds, "we are introducing Mosaics: a series of mosaics that run across various constructions like damasks and tapestries using chenilles and cotton. We are also doing Animal Skins in damask constructions in monochromatic flat skins." Eger listed a price point range of $12 to $14, admitting that certain cloths, such as the Ophelia and Oberon chenilles, can reach $19.50.

Several woven suppliers are adding new constructions to their assortment to supply manufacturers with a variety of options. Alfred Bolton, vice president of marketing and sales for Microfibres, says, "In the past we merchandised solid and printed velvets. Now we are coming out with a wide range of textured fabrics to complement the velvets." Price points for the textured cloths were not disclosed but new velvet designs are priced at $4.25.

Bruce Allen, vice president of marketing for Burlington House says, "Furniture manufacturers want application options." He listed the company's Coastal and Bernini collections as examples of novelties and stripes that coordinate well together and have valueadded options. Each is priced at $3.95, "If there are ways to add value with different constructions, making collections of patterns, we do it. If it doesn't show that value, we send it back to work on it some more. We prefer quality in introductions rather than quantity," adds Allen.

Doblin, a division of Collis & Aikman, will be adding a cotton/rayon boucle damask for $8.95, to its assortment of wovens.

Another supplier with different available constructions is Sunbury, which will be introducing Octavia, a woven stripe, Sadie, a painterly tapestry and Midwinter, a chenille landscape leaf panel. All are priced at $10.95.

Some suppliers of woven fabrics are confident with past successful collections. Among these are Joan Fabrics and Collins & Aikman Home Fabrics. Collins & Aikman is introducing its Wesley Mancini damask collection at $6.50, while Joan Fabrics is promoting new velvets for $4 to $6, new textured cloths for $3 to $7 and its Design Portfolio Collection beginning at $5.

Lawry Bump, vice president, sales for Phillips Mills, says: "Fugitive at $4.95 is an existing construction and a follow-up to Nouveau, which was successful last market. Darlington for $4.25 is a follow-up to last season's Tally-Ho with a chenille added."

Bump adds that Phillips Mills will continue to add new lines as part of their effort to produce middle range fabrics. "Pompeii is our new chenille construction at $6.50," he says. "We are also introducing acrylic jacquard velvets listed also at $6.50."

Woven fabric manufacturers are also defining value by supplying fabrics with different price points. For example, explains Mike Rice, senior vice president at Merrimac, a division of Barrow Industries, "We have a greater value at $8.99 as well as at the other end of the line. We have damasks at $3.99. Then we have two new programs of tapestries, damasks and prints that are correlated and presented together. In this program, the damasks are $5.95, the prints are $3.25 and the tapestries are $6.95."

Louise Feuerstein, corporate art advisor at Malden Mills and Malden's Glenn Street Studio, says that the company is working on a mid-priced jacquard velvet that "looks like cotton and feels like cotton and is in the $10 range. It's 100 percent recycled polyester so there is an environmental story as well. There are some traditional and some contemporary (designs). The concept is right."

Feuerstein adds that the company is also adding to the top portion of its line. "We also have more in the high density product as well as a linen we're working on at $28 to $30. It's a sculpted linen," says Feuerstein.

Reynolds Long, vice president of sales for American Silk Mills, says that its latest innovation is a jacquard weave. "We want to pursue the styling of jacquards on the same level of design and quality as our dobby plaids and stripes." American Silk will continue supplying its popular and colorful dobbies.

Long lists a price point range of $7.95 to $20 for fabrics the company is presenting at Showtime, "depending on the percentage of silk in the weave," says long, though most American Silk placements are in the $7.95 to $12 range.

Through technological advancements, weaving mills say that they are able to produce a high quality fabric at a fraction of its historical price. Said Mike Shelton, vice president of Valdese Weavers: "Valdese is geared toward primarily furniture manufacturers so our new product offering this time is a 12 warp color palette--a full-count Dacron warp type in the $5.50 to $8.00 range. We as an industry are offering better values at a price and with a look. With the technology we employ, we can make a product in the $5 to $8 category that a few years ago was $10 more. Now that is expected."

Suppliers such as Joan and Dicey produce their own yarns, which helps control overhead costs. "We are vertically integrated," explains Paccione. "Only Joan and Quaker produce chenille yarns. We take advantage of that in our styling."

Ed Auten, director of merchandising and design for Dicey, says: "We are a family-owned business, and we have total control of the whole process in style and look. We make everything in-house from yarn to the dye process. It makes us more competitive. We don't have to buy raw materials or ship materials all over the place." Auten notes such company introductions as the Gloucester, English Garden and Aspen in price point ranges of $3.95 for dobby plaids to $7 for the jacquards.

Other ways suppliers are building more into each price point include signing on distinctive design hands. At Mastercraft, new design name Jorge Barragan will debut at this week's market. While Barragan has been on staff as an in-house studio designer for seven years, this year marks his first royalty line, according to Tom Byrnes, vice president of marketing for Mastercraft. "His specialty is modern and also casual. I think he has a great transitional hand." Other company design names include Liore Manne and Stanley King.

Waverly will officially launch its new Mario Buatta collection this week at Showtime. In addition, according to Reuben Lentz, vice president and general sales manager, the company will also add to its Wimbledon collection. "We have a cross section and variety of textures. I still believe that it's important to mix in upholstery wovens with prints."

Unique looks include a variety of textures in both printed and woven fabrics. Toltec is adding seven new collections this market each with a distinct texture story. One such collection is Rough Surfaces which includes a faux chenille, swirls and a leaf pattern. Les Essentials includes textures inspired from seashells and coral reefs.

Coordination remains an important aspect of any new line. Weavetec is displaying its new line of printed and overprinted stripes for $6.75. Mission Valley is introducing its Thoroughbred Collection of stripes for $5.25. Chris Stone is showing a coordinated group of 9 patterns in six colors each for a total of 54 SKUs according to president Chris Stone. "A lot of it has an apparel feel to it. We're very excited about it."
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Author:Rush, Amy Joyce; Herrera, Camilla A.
Publication:HFN The Weekly Newspaper for the Home Furnishing Network
Date:Jan 9, 1995
Words:2505
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