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GANYMEDE POETS, Issue 5  ...featuring the poem "Anticipation of the Day"
by Ron Curlee
By Susan M. Andrews -- Furniture Today, October 8, 2006
High Point — Putting a stunning textile or leather in a great color on a well-proportioned frame doesn't guarantee a beautiful result. All the elements are there, but they don't necessarily combine to create a winning look. Why not? When they do create a winning look, what's the secret?
The secret is in the "eye" and experience of the merchandiser who makes fabric-to-frame choices based on the manufacturer's market segment and associated price constraints as well as the colors, shapes, constructions and patterns of the fabrics and frames.
Here Global Textiles Today presents another example of a happy marriage of fabric and frame, with insights from the merchandiser on what makes the marriage work. This is part of an ongoing series about fabric-to-frame design and merchandising.
Ron Curlee
Highland House, director of merchandising
Ron Curlee has been director of merchandising at the Highland house division of Century Furniture Inds. for two years — at least he's been doing that full time for two years. Prior to that, he was involved with the company for eight years on a freelance basis, working with Anne Hood, who was Highland House's merchandiser before she moved to Century. Curlee also had freelance associations with such manufacturers as Vanguard Furniture, Isenhour Furniture and Hickory White.
When he's not making merchandising decisions for Highland House, or traveling around Europe with President Tom Staats looking for inspiration, Curlee is an artist. In fact, his striking abstract acrylics with oil glazes on canvas are showcased in the Highland House showroom, and several were sold during the April High Point Market and will be featured again this month.
Curlee, who grew up in Lenoir, graduated from the University of Georgia in 1993 with a degree in fine arts. He studied sculpture for a while in Italy, as well.
Would he want to be a full- time artist? "I love both," he says.
"I love doing design, and I love doing art. It's all about expressing myself through different media. In one I use paint, and in the other I use fabric."
Design inspirations
Scandinavian Simplicity debuted at the spring 2006 market to round out European Excursions by Highland House, which also includes Cotswold Cottage, Rue de Provence and Le Cinque Terre. In addition to case goods with a rich, dark finish and interlocking motifs, Scandinavian Simplicity features traditional upholstery with a soft contemporary edge that will appeal to consumers who would never imagine buying contemporary furniture. Curlee says the design key is "all about being fashion-driven and staying on the edge."
Curlee says he wanted to create a delicate balance with this Scandinavian Simplicity sectional and was "inspired by classic houndstooth and a desire to take it to this kind of contemporary frame to create a transitional feeling."
He started with a cotton-rich four-star houndstooth called Kurt, from domestic supplier Marlatex, then added drama with pillows trimmed with cashmere fringe from Phoenix Trim.
"The tone-on-tone black velvet from DeBall on the pillows adds to the contemporary effect," Curlee says, "and with the continuing popularity of skin patterns, the zebra design jacquard from Peachtree seemed like a natural fit."
Curlee says his intention for the Scandinavian Simplicity collection was to maintain the overall traditional flavor that is expected from Highland House, but "contemporize it for the lifestyle consumer. It's a step up for what I call the 'fun generation' who might shop at Pottery Barn or Crate & Barrel The black-and-white is such a classic palette, and I used eggplant, pomegranate and lime as accents."
Other contemporized elements are the sofa's arms and legs. "There's a great twist on a track arm," Curlee points out, "with a slight scoop that is repeated in the sexy leg, which mimics the shapes in the occasional pieces from the collection."
What makes this marriage work?
  • Edgy mix of traditional menswear pattern with contemporary frame.
  • Exotic skin pattern in black-and-white palette adds glamour.
  • Lush tone-on-tone velvet creates additional depth.
  • Graceful scooped shapes of sofa arms and legs paired with straight lines and geometric body cloth.
Source Information Marlatex (704)829-7797DeBall (450) 378-7978Peachtree Fabrics (800) 722-2437Phoenix Trim (570) 320-0322
By Gary Evans -- Furniture Today, August 31, 2008
HIGH POINT — Upholstery covered with eco-friendly fabrics is finding its way onto more and more retail floors, and is expected to be a significant factor in seating lineups as the rush to protect the earth grows larger.
The list of green upholstery sources is growing with companies whose products include everything from organic wool batting to frames made of wood from sustainable forests. But fabrics — organic, renewable and recycled — are the first feature that draws the interest of the environmentally conscious.
“I think consumer awareness is really growing,” said Alice Stegall, director of merchandising for C. R. Laine, which produces a green line called down2earth. “We've had retailers ask if we provide it (green products) because they're being asked by their customers.
“A year ago, I thought it was all smoke and mirrors,” she added, “and that it was going to pass through the night. But I don't think that way any more. There's just too much out there speaking directly to consumers about green in general.”
She cited the growing popularity of organic groceries, which include products that range from fresh produce to organic alphabet pasta for kids. And every brand from Amana to Whirlpool is pushing green in a not-to-be-ignored drumbeat.
Jennifer McConnell, director of design for Pearson Co., said the upper-end upholstery source offers an abundance of green materials, including organic and natural fabrics.
“Our customers don't like the hand of recycled milk cartons,” she said, referring to the use of recycled materials to make fibers. “They'd much rather have nice cottons, linens and silks, so that's the approach we take.”
Pearson is seeing growing sales in green on its contract side, but not quite as much action in residential.
“I think it's a really nice option to offer it to clients so they can have it both ways,” she said. “We're going to see more and more of it, and we want to be ahead of the curve.”
Likewise for La-Z-Boy. “We're not doing a ton of it but we do have it available for those consumers who want or need that kind of fabric,” said Paula Hoyas, vice president of upholstery merchandising.
La-Z-Boy introduced 23 green fabrics at the April High Point Market and will add another 25 in October “because we feel very strongly about it,” Hoyas said.
“We feel our line needs to have a nice representation of eco-friendly fabrics. My gut is that it will continue to grow over the years and that we want to be in a good position to offer the customer a nice selection.”
Hoyas said it's no problem to get green fabrics from the mills. “They have a nice variety out there. This market was better than last market for selecting and I think it's only going to get better.”
Green fabrics used by La-Z-Boy have undergone testing by the Oeko-Tex Assn., an international organization that certifies fabrics displaying its seal have no substances that are harmful either to the people who buy them or employees who make them.
Precedent, a division of Sherrill, tracks sales weekly in its e-collection and “every week it becomes a greater and greater percentage of our overall sales,” said CEO Woody Williams. “That's what tells me (the green movement) is gaining traction.”
Williams said that education will pay a significant part in green growth, at both retail and manufacturing.
At retail, salespeople need to present green products as an option, and also must be able to tell consumers what makes them different, he said.
“I think the green consumer is mindful that there is a lot of 'greenwashing' going on. Unless you can back up your claim, I'm not sure (consumers) are totally convinced that what they're buying is really green.”
While a number of companies, particularly in the middle to upper end, have been offering green options for the last two or three years, others are holding off.
Highland House, for instance, isn't doing anything in green at the moment because of a high SKU count in the line as a whole, said Ron Curlee, director of visual merchandising. “I feel that if we went to something in that category, we would have to devote enough to it to make a story.”
Curlee added, “I think there is interest (in green) and it is growing. It's going to be a valid category. But at the moment we haven't tapped into it.”
Rowe sees the movement to eco-friendly products as “very important” and now has 147 natural fiber fabrics in its Eco Rowe line. In addition, the company will be introducing 100%-certified organic cottons in the Robin Bruce collection at the market here in October.
“We have always had natural fabrics in our line because we recognized the importance of offering this product,” said Stefanie Lucas, president and CEO. “Consumer interest has increased, so we have increased our offerings.”
Lucas indicated that it's easy for retailers to promote the green nature of Rowe's line “by just stating the facts.”
“This type of product does not need a lot of bells and whistles to make it stand out from the crowd,” she said. “Simply stating '100%-certified organic cotton' raises the profile immediately because of the consumer's awareness and sensitivity to finding these products.”
Retailers also are embracing the appeal that these products have with consumers, said Lucas. “We are encouraging our retailers to incorporate more eco-friendly environments in their stores. In April, we offered an Eco-Friendly Environmental Packet to our retailers — full of information and resources.”
But going green also can have a downside.
“I can buy organic cottons all day long and they're beautiful and have a wonderful hand,” said Pearson's McConnell. “But a lot of fabrics, if you're a good tailor, you can't run them unless you spray-back them. A stitch will pull out with the pressure you put on it to pull it nice and tight to make beautiful.
“Another problem is that a lot of our customers want their fabric Teflon-coated. But as soon as you do that, it's no longer green.”
Price also is a factor. As fabrics become purer, costs go up, as processes such as environmentally friendly bleaching and dyeing involve more expense. Precedent's Williams said that the price of organic cotton can run about twice that of regular cotton. Likewise for other components.
Are consumers ready to foot a bigger bill for green?
To an extent, the answer is “yes.” The research group Frank About Women surveyed 1,084 consumers and found that 32% said they are willing to pay more for green products.
“Some consumers are very willing to spend the money; some consumers make the determination once they get into the store; and some consumers have to stick with a known budget,” said La-Z-Boy's Hoyas.
What's green?
HIGH POINT — Marketers have various definitions of what's green, some more stringent than others, depending on fiber content and methods of processing. But one definition that most can agree on comes from retailer J.C. Penney, which launched its “Simply Green” line that covers everything from apparel to home accessories. Penney's definition of green merchandise falls into three categories:
  • Organic products must be made from at least 70% raw materials such as organic cotton or linen, which have been grown without chemical fertilizer or pesticides.
  • Renewable products are made from at least 25% renewable materials such as bamboo, sorona, ingeo, soy, capiz shells or wood that comes from certified, well-managed forests.
  • Recycled products contain a mix of at least 25% previously used materials such as cotton, glass and polyester made from soda bottles.
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