MERCHANDISING: Fashion dressing up home

Apparel trends continue to drive home decor

While the apparel industry has long influenced other merchandising sectors, the fashion influence is hitting the home harder and faster than ever. According to Giftware News magazine, it used to take three years for high-fashion colors and patterns to make it from the catwalk to the living room; the lag time is now closer to six months.

One factor fueling the fashion-dressing-the-home trend is the number of prominent fashion designers getting into domestics and decor. Ralph Lauren led the way in the ’80s; now Calvin Klein has brought his clean lines and neutral colors into the home, and designer Tommy Hilfiger has put his signature stamp on home decor as well. Indeed, says Kathy Revello, director of merchandising for gifts cataloger Panache, “I’m seeing more brands, labels – designer everything” when attending shows and gift markets to find product.

That’s not to say that most consumers are going to run out and redecorate their entire house to reflect fashion trends. But many people might want to gradually update their homes with trendy accent pieces, such as picture frames, candles, and throw pillows. Right now, hot decor trends include casual elegance, incorporating denim, historical patterns, and safari fabrics, Revello says, as well as citrus-fruit motifs and colors. Florals are also big, she notes, including daisies, peonies, and “any kind of rose.”

In addition to fashionable colors, prints, and fabrics, the apparel embellishments are likely to make it into the home as well. Fringe, feathers, sequins, embroidery, novelty buttons, studding, and rivets are popular clothing details that will crop up in the home, says Cindy Peppin, director of merchandising for San Francisco-based gifts cataloger Celebrations Fantastic.

The importance of color

Merchandising experts say that 60% of a consumer’s purchase decision is based on color. So knowing which colors are popular in fashion can go a long way in selling home goods. The New York-based Color Association of the U.S. has selected 55 shades of colors as the palette for 2000-2001. These shades are divided into three color groups: terra cotta oranges and buttery yellows; greenish and reddish blues inspired from the sky and water; and metallics. Prevalent among the metallics will be copper, bronze, pewter, and titanium silver mixed with soft lilac, mauve, and magenta. But catalogers must be careful about using pale metallics, because they don’t work well in mail order. In fact, says Panache’s Revello, many of these colors can be “deadly” in catalogs because they get too washed out on the printed page.

Many trends get their start in some of the major European markets. For instance, France remains a wonderful source for flea-market finds, Revello says. The U.K. is a great source for vintage white wicker and chintzware, while “Delft blue pottery is back” from The Netherlands. Bohemian-chic motifs from Morocco and Turkey also abound, she says.

Looking further ahead

As far as more general decor themes on the horizon, Gifts and Decorative Accessories magazine reported on a few of those identified by London-based trend and color forecasters George Icke Associates (GIA):

– Funky. Fun and kitschy, this trend will include new interpretations of retro influences. Look for abstract geometric shapes and patterns, large-scale floral prints, and bold, bright colors, such as peony pink, sunshine yellow, and apricot. “We’re going to see polka dots recolored and resized,” predicts Celebrations Fantastic’s Peppin.

– Asia. Asian imagery will continue to be popular, in the form of calligraphy and symbols, as well as carved and embossed finishes, embroidery, and beaded embellishments. The classic Asian color palette includes rich reds and purples infused with antique silver, jet black, and turquoise. In addition to China and Japan, other Asian influences include the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand, “which have inspired the woven rattan motif now seen everywhere,” Revello says.

– Metro-organic. This trend incorporates organic and ecological influences to make a simple yet sophisticated statement. Translucency will be prevalent in the form of glass (both frosted and etched), perforated surfaces, and sheer materials. Round images and ecological motifs, including foliage, seeds, and feathers, will also be important. Metro-organic colors include diluted shades such as bamboo, mist green, and ice blue – colors that bring calm and comfort. And after the past few years of the highly touted microfibers and other synthetics, “we’re going to see a return to natural fabrics,” says Peppin.

Angel motifs have been popular for several years, and like candles, they’re not expected to disappear anytime soon. But wizards are likely to become a dominant theme and motif in the gifts sector.

The phenomenally popular Harry Potter series of books – about a British boy attending a training school for wizards – is driving this trend. According to the International Licensing Industry Merchandiser’s Association, more than 45 licenses for Potter products – including housewares, apparel and stationery – have been granted. And with a movie in development for next summer, expect the momentum for toys, games, and other wizard-related products to continue.

The upcoming Lord of the Rings films – the first in the trilogy is slated for release in the 2001 holiday season – will only increase wizard awareness. The Lord of the Rings novels, which feature wizards, elves, and other mythical creatures, have sold more than 50 million copies worldwide. Toy Biz, a division of Marvel Enterprises, will produce action figures, watches, and other licensed merchandise next year.

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