Just because there are fashion victims that doesn’t make fashion itself a crime. • Indeed, there are those who consider fashion to be high art and the very best of those people make up the Fashion 50, HFN’s exclusive—not to mention highly subjective —listing of the people who most lead and influence fashion and design trends in the home furnishings business. • As there is no quantifiable way to rank these people, consider this more one magazine’s opinion on the subject. And so as to not confuse the matter any further, the names here are grouped according to their disciplines rather than numerically ranked. • It’s the fashionable thing to do.
By Andrea Lillo
Designers are always a busy bunch, continuing to extend their brand into new areas, and this year was no exception.
Martha Stewart’s Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia saw a lot of activity within the past year. The company purchased chef Emeril Lagasse’s television shows, cookbooks, Web site, licensed kitchen products and food products in February.
In addition, Susan Lyne stepped down as president and chief executive officer of MSLO after four years and was replaced by Robin Marino, president of merchandising, and Wenda Harris Millard, president of media, who were named to the positions of co-chief executive officers.
Executives have also said that come 2010, when its contract with Kmart ends, the company would be looking for another mass chain to sell her brand.
Polo Ralph Lauren celebrated 25 years in the home furnishings category and named Frank Guzzetta as president, Ralph Lauren Home Collection. The company also launched its American Living brand at J.C. Penney. The exclusive home and apparel line is from Global Brand Concepts, a division of Polo Ralph Lauren, and though the Lauren name is nowhere on the product, J.C. Penney felt the designer’s look would be enough to drive customers to the brand.
Designers also launched into new product categories during the year. Vera Wang’s luxury bedding collection debuted on her new Web site in April, and, 15 years after his home textiles launch, Calvin Klein released his first furniture line, to hit stores early next year. Klein also added an e-commerce feature on his Web site, calvinklein.com, which included home products.
Tabletop was another popular area. Stewart’s collection at Macy’s expanded into formal tabletop, created by Wedgwood and inspired by some of Stewart’s favorite pieces of china. Decoupage designer John Derian saw his line of tabletop and stationery launched at Target in September. Donna Karan and Rosenthal are set to collaborate on a new tabletop and giftware line to launch in late 2009 in the designer’s Donna Karan Collection and pureDKNY brands.
And earlier this year, Isaac Mizrahi, the award-winning designer of apparel and home furnishings, left Target to take on the role of creative director for Liz Claiborne Inc.
By Barbara Thau
They are the arbiters of style, set the home design tone for their retail channel, and in some cases, birth the trends. These stores, merchandising teams and buyers are the seminal power players in home fashion for the retail sector.
And they cut across distribution channels.
At the mass level, Linda Hefner is redefining the fashion message of the world’s biggest retailer. After Wal-Mart’s ill-fated upscale push, Hefner has crafted a home-fashions strategy that better reflects Wal-Mart’s core low-income shopper.
That strategy includes a roster of new home lines such as Better Homes & Gardens, based on the Meredith shelter book. And at the tonier end, a home line from designer Norma Kamali is also set to bow at Wal-Mart.
But it’s the home team at Target, the nation’s only discount couturier, that continues to redefine traditional notions of mass retailing with a never-ending roster of exclusive designer collections. These include the recent launch of a new line of tabletop from John Derian, known for his decoupage plates.
Target has defied the laws of gravity in the retail sector: Typically fashion trends trickle down to mass, but Target is a trend leader in its own right.
Mike Ullman, chief executive officer of J.C. Penney, is shaking up the staid middle market.
Tapping his tony fashion ties—he served on the board of Polo Ralph Lauren and was a managing director of luxury giant LMVH—he wooed none other than Lauren himself to create American Living, an exclusive, upscale home and apparel line that bowed this year and is the biggest launch in J.C. Penney history.
Meanwhile, Marta Calle, product director for CB2, and Alex Bates, senior vice president of West Elm, are shaping the home fashion tastes of a new generation.
CB2 and West Elm, spin-offs of Crate & Barrel and Williams-Sonoma, respectively, are spreading their modernist, affordable take on living to a whole new wave of young nesters.
Then there are the merchants whose influence cannot be measured by store count or sales.
Anthropologie’s high-end, urban gypsy, global aesthetic has been reinterpreted up and down the retail food chain, thanks to the fashion vision of Glen Senk, CEO of the retailer’s parent company Urban Outfitters.
Senk’s vision is poised to expand with Terrain, a new garden chain.
And any merchant who truly stays abreast of home trends keeps an eye on what’s going on at the Museum of Modern Art’s Design Store and Murray Moss’ SoHo shop.
That’s because new products show up there first.
Bonnie MacKay, director of merchandising, creative and marketing for MoMA stores, is on the cutting edge of trends out of Asia, while Moss is the aficionado on what’s new and hot in Europe.
By Allison Zisko
The home furnishings industry often takes its design cues and its inspiration from the world of popular culture. Outside influences run the gamut from the eco-friendly conservationist movement to consumer electronics.
The home furnishings industry cannot produce “green” products fast enough, trying to keep pace with consumers’ growing concern over depleted natural resources. The avalanche of organic and eco-friendly textiles, furniture and housewares products will undoubtedly continue in 2009, along with products inspired by the natural world (i.e. green or blue colorways reminiscent of earth and sky).
At the same time, the rush for the newest handheld computer devices and smart phones have prompted home furnishings companies to mimic the design features—smooth-touch surfaces and intuitive interfaces—that have helped make these consumer electronics so popular.
Television continues to exert its influence on the home furnishings world with design shows and cooking shows having the biggest impact. Food Network celebrities like Paula Deen and Rachael Ray enjoy strong name recognition in product categories that go far beyond the kitchen, including rugs, furniture and textiles.
The industry also receives third-party validation from trend resources like Pantone and Cotton Inc., which provide constant updates on the newest, hottest colors and textures that they hope will attract consumers.
The Supply Side
By David Gill
The suppliers in HFN’s Fashion 50 consist of the most influential designers and executives within some of the home-furnishings industry’s top manufacturers.
Among the notable events during the past year, Paolo Cravedi, a veteran of the housewares industry, took the post of managing director of Alessi’s U.S. unit. In addition, the company opened a subsidiary in Tokyo and a U.S. boutique in Phoenix.
Umbra, which opened its first store in Toronto in 2007, is looking ahead to next year, when Les Mandelbaum and Paul Rowan will celebrate their 30th anniversary in this partnership. This year, the company reconfigured its entire line of plastic cans to be made of biodegradable plastic and introduced products made with sustainable wood.
Phil Haney is completing his second year at the helm of Lexington and has increased the company’s focus on the Lexington brand, which has increased the scope of styles the company now offers. At the same time, it continues to push forward with its high-profile lifestyle brands such as Donald Trump and Tommy Bahama.
At CHF, Joan Karron spearheaded the company’s most recent design offering. Shortly before the September New York Home Fashions Market, the company reached new agreements with Nicholas Graham of Joe Boxer fame and Alex, the toy manufacturer. The Graham program involves the creation of new designer brands for CHF collections, the first being Blah, Blah, Blah, which debuted during market. The Alex license encompasses a collection of bed and bath textiles for children.