Experts weigh in on what it takes to make in-house and licensed brands flourish in today’s marketplace
Avanti Linens offers both self-branded products and licensed brands. The Avanti Island View ensemble (above) includes: 100 percent cotton white terry bath, hand and fingertip towels embroidered with shell and starfish motifs; a 100 percent polyester shower curtain with printed sea-themed design; resin bath accessories, and a 100 percent cotton tufted bath rug. One of Avanti’s licensed lines is Laundry by Shelli Segal (top), which includes solid, striped, floral print and sculpted jacquard designs in soft, sophisticated tones.
Nourison recently debuted five Calvin Klein rug collections named after U.S. cities: Nashville, Brooklyn (a borough of New York), LA, Seattle and San Diego. The designs focus on primary
colors in stripes, bold solids and juxtapositions, drawing inspiration from Raf Simons, chief creative officer of Calvin Klein and the look of the new Calvin Klein Madison Avenue flagship store designed in collaboration with artist Sterling Ruby. Each rug is offered in two sizes.
Each of Revman’s licensed brands reflects a different aesthetic. Shown are Mirrored Square from the upscale Vera Wang line (top) in subtle shades of gray blended with white and the lively circular motif of the Samba DeRoda ensemble from the Trina Turk brand (above).
Abyss & Habidecor
The Abyss & Habidecor brand presents high quality, unique designs made in Portugal. Shown are two of the company’s offerings. The Legend 9-inch round guest towels are made with 100 percent Egyptian cotton. Offered in sets of six and in three color groupings, the ecru/gray/beige grouping pairs well with the Stone Collection bath rug also shown. Made with 100 percent combed cotton, Stone Collection rugs are available in two shapes/sizes and three neutral colorways.
Soft-Tex Manufacturing Co.
Offered through the SENSORPEDIC® brand is the SENSORPEDIC® iDEAL Comfort Pillow. The iDEAL Comfort Technology® is a fabric that incorporates state-of-the-art phase change materials that absorb or release heat to keep skin temperature in the optimal range for comfortable sleep. With the iCOOL Technology System® for maximum breathability, the pressure-relieving gel-infused memory foam offers support while optimizing sleeping temperature for lasting comfort.
J. Queen New York
Each of the company’s brands reflects a style that appeals to a different consumer customer. For example, the J. Queen line (below) features opulent designs in updated traditional styles, such as the Chancellor shown. The Oscar | Oliver brandpresents contemporary, tailored designs, as seen in the Flen duvet (center). The Piper & Wright brand’s motifs areromantic and feminine, as in the Braylee (bottom).
Linum Home Textiles
With a global reach, the Turkey-based company continues to grow its own brand in the U.S., rooted in the use of 100 percent Turkish cotton. The Damask Delight Pestemal Towel Collection (below left) is created with a double layer woven construction and a damask design. Fast drying, eco-friendly and durable, the towels can be used as beach blankets, sarongs, shawls, tablecloths, sofa throws, bed toppers and bath towels. Colors offered are black, fuchsia, gray and royal blue. The Serenity Bath Towel Collection (right) features terry cloth plush towels adorned with embroidered flowers and ferns in an inset band. Bath, hand and washcloth sizes are offered in tea rose (shown), cream, light gray, white, latte and teal blue. Linum products are made in a “green” factory that runs on 100 percent solar energy.
The Karastan brand offers both in-house and licensed lines. The brand’s own Kismet Collection includes the Serene area rug (above) machine made with a blend of wool and SmartStrand in a cool gray and aqua blue palette. Also offered in the Karastan line is the licensed Cosmopolitan Virginia Langley Nirvana indigo rug (right). Machine made in the U.S. with polyester, the Persian-inspired motif is rendered in an antiqued style. Virginia Langley is known for expertise in graphic and textile design, digital photography and conventional fine art.
Change seems to occur more quickly and more often in all areas of life today. Consumers are presented via the internet with more options in what they can choose to purchase. So how are the lifespans and updating of brands affected by the drive toward constant change and the craving for “something new”?
Ron Batroff, executive vice-president, J. Queen New York, states, “With digital media’s continuing growth, the consumer is only becoming more informed. This leads to shortened lifespans. Success is in a consistent, but an evolving brand.”
“Due to the readiness of information now versus in the past, consumers have access to products much faster than before,” says Julie Rosenblum, executive director of licensing, Nourison. “With this in mind, it is important to keep a brand current and fresh annually. Introductions need to make sense, add to the value of the collections and stay on trend. Within each of our brands, there are collections that are timeless and that is always important for the success of a product. It is always a careful balance.”
Julia Auriemma, director of merchandising, Revman International, believes that product lifespans have become shorter, she says, “due to designer trends and the market fluctuation.” For Auriemma, timelessness is key. “We are very lucky to have brands that are timeless,” she says. “Ten years ago, we had a wider distribution due to a larger number of stores that sustained brands/designs for a longer period. For a brand to succeed today, there is always the need for newness and what is the next best thing. Brands need to change, but still stay true to their core consumer.”
“These days brands are more difficult and move fast,” says Jeff Chilton, ceo, Soft-Tex Manufacturing Co. Inc. “Our SENSORPEDIC® brand was launched back in 2010 and has grown every year, we are proud to say. One of the reasons is that we are constantly freshening and changing the product and packaging.”
For Jeff Kaufman, president/coo of Avanti Linens, it’s all about style. “Other than the major lifestyle brands that have been department store-focused and the captive brands that are owned by a particular retailer, the brands that we see are style-driven. Great styles sell and not-so-great styles don’t,” he explains. “It’s always been that way. The dot-com business has helped to prolong the lives of styles/brands if the manufacturer is willing to ship direct-to-consumer.”
Nourison’s Rosenblum adds that although branding its rugs and decorative accessories helps consumers identify a product during brick-and-mortar and online searches, she notes, “Color, design and value are important regardless of the brand.”
Successful Brand Characteristics
In spite of the need for brands constantly to keep up with the styles of the times, there are other qualities that are common among most successful brands—whether they are developed in-house or licensed.
“They are consistent and remain true to their base philosophy,” says Leslie Connell, vice-president of U.S. sales and operations, Abyss & Habidecor. “Their products are in a constant state of improvement. They support their retail partners and stand behind their products.”
Satisfying consumer desires is also important. “The brands that Revman feature have a strong lifestyle statement that is pleasing to a consumer’s way of life. Consumer recognition is key for any brand,” says Auriemma.
Rosenblum concurs that consumer recognition is essential. “The buyer and end user have to ‘get it’ or the product doesn’t resonate at retail. If you factor Nourison into the equation, the licensed brand is using our strength to bring innovative quality products to the market that are fashion forward.”
For J. Queen’s Batroff, “Successful brands have a clear, understandable message for the consumer. They have a cohesive aesthetic, are aspirational and have a foundation of quality.”
Branding Challenges That Remain
The challenges that remain in the branding arena have to do with maintaining relevance to the consumer, according to Batroff. For Soft-Tex’s Chilton, “Retailers focus on their private brands more often, so getting the necessary spotlight from the retailer to help make your brand successful is challenging.”
Kaufman adds, “The biggest challenge in offering and establishing a brand is getting a commitment that’s more than a test and that involves multiple styles. Without a buy that encompasses multiple styles, the retailer is just buying a style and the success or failure of the brand is tied to that style.”
Revman overcomes the challenge of differentiating its brands from each other as well as from non-branded products by embracing techniques such as specialty weaves, prints and packaging that is intricately detailed.
“As a luxury brand, we feel overexposure is a killer,” says Connell. “We develop meaningful and close relationships with our existing retail partners and carefully vet new/potential accounts. Managing the internet is a challenge; having ridge thresholds is helpful and necessary—we do that by limiting the number of sites with which we are affiliated.”
When it comes to choosing licensing partners, Avanti’s challenge is to choose a line that adds retailing opportunities. Kaufman notes, “We always look first at the validity of the design/lifestyle in combination with target retailers. A great brand opportunity for us is one that fills a void in our assortment and also gives us a reason to talk to a retailer where we might not have a presence.”
Nourison is also selective about its licensing partnerships. “It is important that we have a common understanding of what is expected from the partnership. Open lines of communication and mutual respect for each partner’s strength is key to its success,” says Rosenblum. “Our parent brand is the strength of our company. Any new partner needs to fill in white space within our needs and add value.”
As far as how long it takes these days to know if a brand is a winner or not, Kaufman concludes, “We know if a brand is going to be successful in 6 to 12 months, depending on market cycles.”
Lenzing’s TENCEL® Brand Fibers Test Well For Use In Pillows
Lenzing TENCEL® branded lyocell fibers, tested for use as fill in pillows, have scored high in moisture management, volume and ease of care. TENCEL® fibers have been scientifically tested with “Sherlock,” a sweating, thermal mannequin from the Hohenstein Institute used to test the wear comfort of textile products.
“Sherlock was deployed for this product category for the first time ever to test pillows of TENCEL® fibers,” explains Miriam Scheffelmeier, project manager at the Hohenstein Institute. “Sherlock works in precisely defined conditions in a climatic chamber.”
The tests show that when used as a blending partner with polyester, TENCEL® fibers help to improve moisture absorption, with the higher the share of TENCEL® fibers, the better the moisture regulation.
Further research at Lenzing on volume and washing tests has shown that TENCEL® fibers produce very good results when combined with polyester. Pillows with this fiber combination recover quickly after exposure both to weight and moisture.
With pillows of TENCEL® fibers, different fill levels are possible, from soft to solid and from flat to voluminous. Pillows can be designed to suit customers’ wishes in terms of the size, material and shape.
• Abyss & Habidecor, Inc., 800-588-8565, abysshabidecor.com
• Avanti Linens, 800-360-0836, avantilinens.com
• J. Queen New York, 212-414-1555, jqueen-ny.com
• Karastan, 800-845-8877, karastan.com
• Lenzing, 212-944-7898, lenzing.com
• Linum Home Textiles. 855-933-0300, linumhometextiles.com
• Nourison, 800-223-1110, nourison.com
• Revman International, Inc., 212-894-3100, revman.com
• Soft-Tex Manufacturing Co., 800-366-2324, soft-tex.com