A Feel for Texture
By David Gill
Texture has become a dominant factor in decorative pillows, as exemplified by the March New York Home Fashions Market.
This represents something of a sea change to the category. For many years, color was the key factor that drew consumers to the decorative-pillow sections at retailers. While color is still important, pillows that have a certain feel about them have begun to help drive business with many of the industry's vendors.
Loren Sweet, president of Brentwood Originals, identified texture as "the key fashion trend" in decorative pillows, "be it solid or a pattern. Bold color and new colors in general are getting a lot of exposure, which has always been important in pillows, but texture is increasingly taking the lead."
Neil Zuber, executive vice president of Westgate Home, tabbed some of the textural looks that received favorable reviews from retail buyers who attended the March market. "Jacquards with chenille yarns were strong for us, along with lots of embroideries, three-dimensional looks that fluff off the pillow, fabric that has been made into round ruffles and flowers sewn on the face of the pillow," Zuber said.
As to why consumers are looking more for texturized pillows, one hears a term that has become crucial to marketing consumer products in just about every category: perceived value.
Speaking to this point, Nelson Chow, vice president of sales at C&F Enterprises, said texture has become an important part of the value equation. "Texture creates added depth and dimension to the overall pillow design, which creates more visual appeal to a home's decor," Chow said. "Buttons, beads, embroidery and even the fabric used for the pillows create the textural definition."
Another reason is that consumers are ready for something different in their home accent pieces--variations from the solid-color items and prints that have been the mainstays of decorative-pillow design. "You look at all of these new designs and ask, 'Are they saleable?'" Zuber said. "The answer is, 'Yes,' and they're also affordable even with all of the detail. The fact that we and many of our competitors make these pillows offshore makes them affordable."
Although color remains a factor in decorative pillows, "using trendy colors is not always the way to go," Chow said. "The thinking now is classic colors versus trendy colors. Classic colors can be bold and vivid, or they can be a neutral palette. They can be tone on tone, easy to add into an existing home decor or easy to build a home decor around."
Some vendors believe that designs that mix "safe" colors with shades that pop or are quirky in some way make for saleable pillows. "The economy has been so deadly serious that people now want a more relaxed, friendly and inviting personal space," said Conni Reed, founder and designer of Consuela. "While overall customers are choosing safer color schemes in the bigger pieces, they want to add a pop of personality with tomato, tassels and texture. They will spend an extra $100 to add brilliant color or sassy shapes."
Texture and new uses of color weren't the only major trends that came out of the March market. Another is that decorative pillows for outdoor spaces, which emerged as a growing category last year, continues to gain traction in 2010. "Outdoor is performing very, very well," Sweet said, "and providing a great growth vehicle for many retailers that did not carry decorative pillows in the outdoor category in the past."
Reed believes that the continuing demand for outdoor pillows is a "vibe" thing. Describing retailer reactions to Consuela outdoor pillows at trade shows, "they get a kick out of the sassy spicy-bungalow vibe inherent in the (company's) outdoor oilcloth line." These pillows are designed with patterns that "make you reminisce about Grandma's kitchen or that island holiday, so it's always bringing up some type of positive memory."
Also emerging from the March market was the increasing options in terms of decorative-pillow shapes. "Oblongs, boxes, oversized, floor cushions in myriad shapes, etc., etc.," Sweet said. These extra shapes, he added, "combine to create an eclectic presentation of sizes that makes a department more interesting, and gives the consumer more reason to make an incremental purchase as they pair up different shapes, textures and colors to make a statement."