U.K. Exhibitors at Focus Show Tradition, Texture

January 8, 2000

LONDON– When upholstery and furnishing fabric producers from the U.K. descended on Chelsea Harbour 23-26 September for Focus '99, texture was a main theme. The latest products of U.K. exhibitors featured contemporary trends as well as echoes of classic themes. This year's show also featured more textural and luxurious structures than the chintz cloths of past shows.

At the stand of The Isle Mill (Inveralmond, Perth), sales manager Ross Dempster reported a positive response to the company's new textured collections — Capricho, Sencillo and Liso — all inspired by Mediterranean landscapes.

Dempster said that in recent years the Scottish company has changed the overall look of its products to create new business. ''We have moved away from traditional plaids and checks, and now offer a wide range, from soft sheers, chenilles and satins, to bouclés, light checks and subtle ribs that are both sumptuous and sophisticated,'' he said.

Woven in Scotland using pure new wool and other high quality natural fibers, the color themes feature shades such as brown, beige, taupe, graphite, black and lavender. ''Wool is very much in vogue at present,'' he said.

''We have been fairly pleased with business this year,'' Dempster continued. ''Turnover has been steady, the U.S. market is good, although our European business is, admittedly, quite small.''

Academy Fabrics (Cranleigh, Surrey) continued its fascination with national themes. For example, the new Toile de Jouy collection took for its inspiration the French country scene and incorporated vistas of London and the English countryside with a companion floral.

Philip Edwards, managing director of Academy Fabrics, commented on the influence of the trade media on designs. ''The industry press are leading us back to traditional values,'' he said. ''Our English Document collection, which recalls in exquisite detail the rich history and traditions of our floral past, shows where we were in furnishings at the turn of the last century.

''In fact, journalists kick-started this trend: With their research into the millennium they went back to the turn of the last century. Already we have had a very successful entrée into the U.S. with this range.''

At Monkwell, sales manager Stuart Bruce said Focus was an excellent and somewhat surprising show. The company, based in Bournemouth, Dorset, pulled out of Decorex a couple of years ago in favor of exhibiting at Focus. It reported a productive week at Chelsea with the launch of its Fragments collection. Inspired by ethnic and organic elements from around the globe and using contemporary color palettes, Fragments was presented in four pattern books — upholstery fabrics, curtain-weight fabrics, a collection of weaves specifically designed for furniture manufacturers and a niche collection of nine fabrics for the new millennium.

''Texture is very important at present,'' Bruce said. ''For example, Fragments Vision, the collection for furniture makers, uses marled yarns. We had a very good reaction to the whole range, particularly to Vision.''

He also said that exports to America were doing well, although trade was quiet on the domestic front during the summer. ''However, there are signs that things are beginning to pick up,'' he said. ''We have already seen some increase in business. Following a quiet summer we think there will be pent-up demand. We also anticipate a busy autumn on the export front.''

Texture was also big at Nono Designs, which aims to give customer ''a minimalist look for a millennium feel,'' said John Nono. Well known for its print range, the company, which is based in Altrincham, Cheshire, launched a new collection of domestic upholstery at Focus '99.

Nono was pleased with the visitor turnout and said that Focus 99 was ''quite a lively show with an emphasis on traditional designs. We were very busy on the first two days and saw many people from overseas, especially from Italy and Sweden, who also see London as a power base for contemporary design.''

Hoping that the era of minimalist plains would ''go away'' was Caroline Webster of Marvic Textiles, London, who nevertheless reported ''a very good show'' for the traditional-based firm. ''Business this year has generally been good in the U.S. and has picked up since the end of summer. However, Europe is very patchy: Spain is bright, Sweden not bad, France, great and the Netherlands and Italy starting again,'' she said.

At Focus, Marvic debuted a toile featuring fables from Jean de la Fontaine (Les Fables de la Fontaine), originally printed in Alsace in 1815.

Marvic's Malmaison collection featured three sophisticated upholstery weaves, combining subtly shaded hues with a raised thread ''embroidery'' effect. The Zaskar upholstery cloth is an interpretation of a mid-19th century striped Kashmir shawl. Lavenere which is a reintroduction of a French ''Indienne'' document is printed on 100-percent cotton, suitable for both curtains and upholstery. Also featured was Arcadia, a collection of luxurious ''washed'' chenilles to give a ''distressed'' look.

Malabar of London launched seven fabric collections alongside Alcara, its 1999 print collection, which features African and Persian images on hemp, silk, linen and cotton, complemented by a collection of hand-woven cotton stripes and plains.

New for Focus '99 from Lewis & Wood of Uley, Gloucestershire, were a paper-backed walling felt in 12 colorways; hemp and hemp/ramie canvas cloths; and a 100 percent linen, woven and dyed in Scotland with an aged finish.

In the Design Centre, Hill & Knowles launched Bexington, the first collection from its new design portfolio. It featured five printed designs on linen union and heavy, textured cotton feature leaves, flowers and shells which were complemented by two woven ticking strip designs.

Meanwhile, Colefax & Fowler's autumn 1999 collection, Melbury, is inspired mainly by historical documents from the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, while sister company Jane Churchill presented the Tamora collection of fabrics and wallpapers dominated by texture and pattern. F&FI

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