In celebration of LDB Interior Textiles’ 90th anniversary, our annual State of the Industry Report explores what it takes to survive and grow in the home fashions market
LDB Interior Textiles knows a little bit about surviving—this year marks our 90th anniversary. To celebrate that landmark, this annual State of the Industry Report is dedicated to the topic of survival. It explores techniques companies are employing to update and grow, with sidebars that feature comments on the keys to survival from leading industry professionals.
Understand The Retail Landscape
Essential to survival is an understanding of the retail landscape as well as consumer mindsets. Monika Murray, founder and owner, m.style, observes that today, there are three retail tiers. “First, e-commerce used to be the Wild West of retail, but has now calmed down,” she says. “Second, off-price retail is where customers who used to go to department stores now shop. Those buyers want new product and often. The third tier is department stores that tend to keep designs in stock longer.”
Murray has regrouped her business in response to the always shifting landscape, expanding window treatment offerings, maintaining shower curtain and fabrics, and adding bath accessories and other home décor.
Richard Sperber, president, Sparrowhawk International, says, “The internet can become a kind of ‘test kitchen’ for home fashions.” Sperber studied the market to determine the most popular towel colors and created bath accessory products that complement those options for online retail, including a check design that coordinates with solid elements to mix-and-match.
Obeetee is responding to demand for quicker turnaround in rug production by launching this month a special quick-ship program called Obeetee Express that utilizes a bank of almost 200 stocked colors. The program kicks off with a special event in October that debuts an exclusive, customizable collection created using the Obeetee Express color bank. Designed by 15 interior designers and architects, ten percent of net sales from those rugs will go to Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS (DIFFA).
Versailles Home Fashions really listens to its customers in order to fulfill their needs. One focus has been on problem solving products that simplify window covering installation—swing arm drapery rods for French doors, universal drapery brackets/rings/holdbacks in colors to match its product line and that of its competitors, privacy-wrap rods for light blockage, and stainless-steel hardware for use outdoors.
Responding to demand for inventory management, the company has reduced 12-piece master cartons to four-piece master packs. Its hardware collections have scaled down from three to two size configurations. Finally, it’s innovated with products such as ring-top bamboo curtains and privacy panel room dividers.
Recognize The Importance Of Authenticity
Millennials, in particular, want to know that what the product is labeled is actually what it is. Technologies that trace fiber origins, and independent organizations that certify sustainability are being engaged by the manufacturing sector at warp speed.
Welspun India Limited, for example, is partnering with Oritain Global Limited to augment validation of its supply chain. Oritain’s traceability technology supplements Welspun’s patented fiber tracking solution, Wel-Trak, for its dedicated cotton suppliers. Oritain’s methodology authenticates the origin of cotton by measuring fiber properties and comparing those to “fingerprints” for certain cotton growing areas. Welspun can conduct tests at varied manufacturing stages and verify the cotton’s origin at each stage to insure an authentic final product.
Welspun also has received the Green Rating, scoring 100 percent on traceability of products made with cotton grown in Egypt at its Anjar facilities by Bureau Veritas Consumer Products Services.
Micro Cotton has achieved STeP by OEKO-TEX® certification for winding, sizing, weaving, processing and making up of products at its production facilities in India.
Lenzing’s new Refibra® and Ecovero® fibers are both sustainable and include a fiber identification system.
Premier Fine Linens focuses on developing quality, sustainable products. The company has developed several environment-friendly brands, including Linacel (linen and lyocell), Ecora (organic cotton), Ultra Fine Cotton (superior extra-long staple cotton) and Beyond Organic (natural fabric with no dyes used).
Strengthen Credibility Through Collaborations & Branding
Brands continue to be key in establishing credibility with retailers, and recognition and loyalty among consumers. During September’s N.Y. Home Fashions Market, Baltic Linen previewed the Lionel Richie Home bedding collection, Avanti Linens unveiled towels under the Laundry by Shelli Segal label and a range of bath products by Amylee Weeks, Revman International debuted designs under the Trina Turk license, and CHF Industries expanded its Michael Aram Collection to include bedding and bath offerings.
Obeetee is collaborating with three apparel fashion designers from India on the Proud To Be Indian Collection. Collections by Tarun Tahiliani have launched. The collections from Abraham & Thakore debut in Delhi in December 2017.
Licensing opportunities continue to surface from a variety of sources. Peking Handicraft Inc. (PHI) has introduced bedding collections by bloggers Molly Hatch and Carolyn Suzuki.
Innovate & Expand Products Offered
Many companies are growing their businesses by expanding the types of products they offer. This past month, Linum Home Textiles, for example, debuted an extensive line of embellished towels. J. Queen New York announced it is adding utility bedding to its product mix, to be available in Spring 2018 in a good-better-best program.
At CHF Industries, the Hang Ten line is expanding with the addition of new tabletop dinnerware and coordinating table linens, both geared toward outdoor entertaining.
Innovations in designs and technologies are in greater demand by retail buyers and consumers today, encouraging suppliers to fulfill needs in different ways. Veratex, for example, reports that the trend toward entertaining at home has led to the popularity of its colorful, fun window treatment designs created for that purpose.
In March 2017, CHF Industries debuted a new construction technique called Microsculpt and after a successful reception has since trademarked the process that involves creating a sculpted relief in fabric that renders a puffed look soft to the touch.
There will always be challenges, economic or otherwise, but side-by-side with those will be opportunities for change and growth accessible to those professionals who are determined to excel at the art of survival. LDB
M.style: New Phase
M.style has examined its core competencies and repositioned itself, maintaining shower curtains and fabrics, expanding window treatments, and introducing bath and home décor accessories. New fabrics include Persia in coral (below) and Isle Mirada in blush (right).
Revman International: Bringing Apparel Designs To Home
Revman International brings to market the Trina Turk collection, with patterns like Los Floras (shown) that borrow designs directly from Turk’s apparel fashion.
Versailles Home Fashions: Building On Success
Versailles Home Fashions items that have done well in Canada launched in the U.S. during the September N.Y. Home Fashions Market. Among those, Menswear-Inspired Pillows featuring faux leather details in patches and stripes with fine-grade feather fills.
Linum home textiles: New Towel Category
Linum Home Textiles introduces an extensive line of embellished towels—a new category for them. The 100 percent Turkish cotton Spring Time embellished towel shown is embroidered with a delicate bird and cherry blossom motif on the soft velour front. The back is absorbent terry pile. The trim is a coordinating printed satin and sheer striped ribbon. Spring Time is available in mink, sand, white and natural, and in bath, hand and fingertip sizes. The towels are made in Linum’s “green” 2-million-square-foot factory in Turkey that runs on solar energy.
J. Queen New York: Updated Traditionals
The Belaire is one of several new offerings from the J. Queen New York brand that caters to customers who prefer detailed traditional styling and classic motifs brought forward with contemporary color palettes.
WestPoint Home: Patterned Comforter Set
From WestPoint Home, the Vellux Plush Comforter Set, which includes a comforter and shams, features a plush texture in plaid on one side with solid light gray brushed microfiber on the reverse. Many younger Millennials want easy care bedding and prefer not to use duvet covers, so comforter options that feature prints or bold solid colors to provide decorating options are in demand.
Sparrowhawk Int’l: Developing Online Expertise
Observing that bath accessories are often the last items consumers buy for the bath, Sparrowhawk International has developed patterns and colors that offer consumers flexibility and are geared toward e-commerce sales. Shown is the Landon check in white and gray that can be used independently or mixed-and-matched with solid gray Taylor elements.
CHF Industries, Inc.: Luxury Focuses On Texture, Materials
From CHF Industries, Inc., the Donna Karan line includes the new Vapor ensemble, a silk/polyester burnout design shown paired with a solid color silk blanket. This reflects the trend in luxury bedding to emphasize craftsmanship, texture and fine materials, rather than added on, complex embellishments.
Avanti Linens: New Licenses
Avanti Linens debuted two new licenses during September’s N.Y. Home Fashions Market: Amylee Weeks (shown) coastal/beach-themed and Laundry by Shelli Segal solid and jacquard options.
Obeetee: Fashion Designers Come Home
Obeetee is collaborating with three top apparel designers in India on the Proud To Be Indian Collection. It allows the company to showcase its century of experience in rug making, as well as India’s creative fashion talent. The first designer to participate is Tarun Tahiliani, whose aesthetic embodies understated opulence. The three hand-woven collections in his series are Lucknavi Chikankari, Rajasthani Minia Paintings and Original Abstract Art. The Lucknavi Chikankari rugs shown are Moonlight Garden (below) and a detail from Paisley Panorama (above). Both are 60 percent silk and 40 percent wool.
Keys To Survival… In Their Own Words
To mark LDB Interior Textiles’ 90th anniversary, we asked “What are keys to surviving in home fashions?”
• Shanthi Srinivasan, managing director, Premier Fine Linens
“In today’s extremely challenging environment, any home textiles company needs to be aware of changing demands from consumers and react to them accordingly. Quality and commitment are very important factors for survival. We are certified for fair trade international, with IMS certification (ISO 9001:2015 for quality management, ISO 14001:2015 for environment management, OHSAS 18001:2007 for occupational health and safety), and SA 8000:2014 for social accountability.”
• Monika Murray, founder and owner, m.style
“To survive you need passion, tenacity and a great support system. Focus on strengths and delegate the rest. M.style has embraced that mantra and will be stronger, more efficient and more profitable by doing this.”
• Nina Nadash, home & interiors marketing manager, North Americas, Lenzing
“Factors in Lenzing’s growth include:
“1. New fiber technology and innovation, including traceabilty. Our new Refibra™ and Ecovero™ fibers are not only products that offer improved sustainability for the users, but include a unique fiber identification system as well. Refibra™ fibers are a form of TENCEL® created from recycled cotton waste that addresses waste problems in the textile value chain and has better environmental performance than most virgin cellulose fibers. Ecovero™ is the new eco-friendly viscose with the lowest environmental impact in the industry that is produced with 50 percent lower emissions and 50 percent less water impact as recognized by the HIGG index.
“2. Lenzing is the sustainability leader in its industry. We make improvements in sustainability that move the bar forward on an ongoing basis. As a leader, we are change agents and collaborate with our suppliers and value chain partners to catalyze change for the better.
“3. Supporting the supply chain B2B through B2C. Lenzing is a global company that uniquely supports the entire supply chain from spinning to manufacturing and product development through to sales and merchandising assistance for sales at retail and online strategies. The results of our efforts are apparent with TENCEL® branding in the home textile market segments and increased product diversity. Consumers have more options at more price points with functionality tailored to their needs.”
• Nelson Chow, vice-president of sales, C & F Enterprises, Inc.
“The keys to survival include being able to adapt and change. E-commerce is big and you must embrace it, but there is still a great need for brick-and-mortar. You need both to continue to grow new brands and new channels of distribution.”
• Arthur Tauber, owner, Avanti Linens
“Offer good quality merchandise at a good price and offer good service to your customers.”
• Julie Brady, founder and president, J. Queen New York
“The key is innovation. Because your company is the sum total of the ‘parts’—the people, ideas and products—you need to lead and orchestrate all those aspects well. You need the right people to pull success through, but you should also have fun doing it.”
• Dipali Goenka, chief executive officer and joint managing director, Welspun India Limited
“Welspun is talking to consumers more than ever before —across all demographics and life stages. Our consumers value spending quality time with their families in the comfort of their homes. Understanding them inspires us to create and build brands, innovations, products and programs to meet their needs better.
“Our strong retail relationships and commitment to maximizing our e-commerce business means that we can deliver best-in-class products, no matter how or where the consumer chooses to shop. Innovation remains at the heart of what we do, enabling us to continue to lead the market in world-class products that insure sustainability and traceability with the usage of cutting edge technology.”
• Richard Sperber, president, Sparrowhawk International, Inc.
“Survival is about being adaptive, not set in your ways. I don’t act on every idea, but I can pick and choose. Malleability is the key to success.“
• Carol Antone, vice-president of creative services, Peking Handicraft Inc. (PHI)
“You have to change and stay relevant, offer quality goods and good prices, and treat people right. Change what you offer every market and be out in front of everyone else with what’s new.”
• Randy Wright, senior vice-president, Taymor Industries, Inc.
“Being innovative and focusing on new product development is key in our segment of the industry [bath accessories]. Apparel is seasonal and offers new products every six months. For us, it’s almost every 90 days.
“We have to stay on, ahead of or set the trend. And this is true whether there is a recession or not. When the economy changes, everyone still shops, but in different places.
• Rudra Chatterjee, chairman, Obeetee
“Today’s consumers are very conscious about the process of how an item comes into their homes. They want to know who made the rug and the environmental/social impacts of their purchase. It is essential to have traceability in today’s market. At Obeetee, each rug is numbered and entered into a database. We always know the weaver’s name and we take every step possible to reduce environmental harm created by the manufacturing process. Most recently, Obeetee has installed an online monitoring system to continuously monitor the effluent after treatment. We also save valuable resources by using rice husks for energy rather than oil or wood.
“Another key to success in today’s market is to have robust manufacturing that can quickly react to demand variations. Although home furnishing is not quite ‘fast fashion’, we need to be ready to shift in any direction to meet the desires of consumers while preserving the integrity of the ancient craft of weaving.”
• Robert Gibbons, president, Versailles Home Fashions Inc.
“We have survived 30 years in the home fashion industry and weathered the ups and downs of the economy by understanding that our energies must be focused on different tiers of customers at different periods of consumer confidence. Choosing where to focus is a moving target, since nothing is as constant as change itself. When we saw a recession in 2008, we found ways to cater to bargain outlets and provided budget-friendly products. During times when we saw a bump in consumer spending, we developed higher-end categories. Trying to serve all types of retail tiers at once can blur one’s focus, increase costs and overhead, while not providing the correct service levels for each tier of retailers.”
• Alan Laytner, owner, Melange Home
“For a company my size (small to mid-sized), the keys to survival are diversification and bringing in unique products. I’m choosing not to compete on commodity container programs. The world has shifted. The internet has made it so that smaller manufacturing and design importers can thrive by offering a wide range of better, diversified products.”
• Avi Cohen, president, Veratex
“The keys are to bring new things into the marketplace and to be innovative. Innovate all the time—travel for inspiration and to see what’s happening in home textiles around the world. Bring lots of energy and new blood into the industry.”
Linacel Blends Linen & Lyocell
Premier Fine Linens presents several brands that focus on bringing quality and sustainability to consumers. Among them is Linacel, an eco-friendly and OEKO-TEX certified blend of linen and lyocell in a fabric that projects the appearance of linen, yet embodies the soft hand of lyocell. Linen can absorb a fair amount of moisture without feeling unpleasantly damp to the skin, unlike cotton. Linen is a durable, strong fabric and is stronger wet than dry. The fibers do not stretch and are resistant to damage from abrasion. Lyocell fibers are soft, absorbent, strong when wet or dry and resistant to wrinkles. This blend of lyocell and linen includes properties well-suited for bedding in terms of both performance and comfort.
• Avanti Linens, 800-360-0836, avantilinens.com
• Baltic Linen, 800-863-2600, balticlinen.com
• C & F Enterprises, Inc., 888-889-9868, cnfei.com
• CHF Industries, Inc., 212-951-7800, chfindustries.com
• J. Queen New York, 212-414-1555, jqueen-ny.com
• Lenzing, 212-944-7898, lenzing.com
• Linum Home Textiles. 855-933-0300, linumhometextiles.com
• m.style, 845-675-7029, mstyledesigns.com
• Melange Home, 212-689-2002, melangehome.com
• Micro Cotton, +91 (4254) 223450, microcotton.com
• Obeetee, 212-633-9744, obeetee.com
• Peking Handicraft Inc. (PHI), 800-872-6888, pkhc.com
• Premier Fine Linens, +91-422-2221223, premierfinelinens.com
• Revman International, Inc., 212-894-3100, revman.com
• Sparrowhawk International, 818-203-9125
• Taymor Industries, Inc., 800-388-9887, taymorcatalog.com
• Veratex, Inc., 800-653-1005, veratex.com
• Welspun USA, 212-620-2000, welspun.com
• WestPoint Home, Inc., 800-533-8229, westpointhome.com
• Versailles Home Fashions, Inc., 514-351-8402, versailles-inc.com