Garden of Plenty
By Allison Zisko
Trade shows are typically about what's new, but at last month's New York Tabletop Show many vendors were equally focused on what's currently working at retail.
With retail floors reportedly full, some vendors said they were looking for ways to enhance what is already on the selling floor.
"We don't expect them to throw out what they have," said Melissa Schwartz Hinton, vice president of sales for The Jay Companies, regarding its retail partners. "We're trying to figure out how to help retailers work with what they have, fill niches, enhance a white wall."
A lot of retail "testing" is happening, according to Ross Patterson, business director - tabletop for Robinson Home Products. "Floors are full, there's not much room for new, retailers are cautious," he said. Many brick and mortar retailers are testing new product on their online arms or in only a few store locations before making a bigger commitment, he said.
Many brands made an even greater effort than usual to shore up existing collections. Lifetime Brands introduced 12 formal and 12 casual patterns at the show but it was also focused on adding accessories and extensions to strong patterns, according to a spokesperson.
A Ralph Lauren spokesperson said it was engaged in a similar strategy--fleshing out barware and giftware assortments. Many vendors also introduced new packaging to catch the consumer's eye and help the product sell itself.
There were no major shifts in design direction. Butterflies emerged as a theme, continuing a trend towards natural inspiration. Florals-- stylized, enlarged or rendered in gauzy watercolors--remain a strong motif, as do birds. Lenox, Royal Crown Derby and Fitz and Floyd were among the dinnerware makers who featured an artful butterfly on their new patterns; the same manufacturers, in addition to Lifetime Brands, Villeroy & Boch and a host of others, also featured a multitude of floral designs. On the other side of the design spectrum, classic architectural elements such as columns, rounded arches and radiating lines also came into play. Mikasa has a new stemware pattern that is called Columns, for example, while Lalique's new Serenissime collection is inspired by the gothic architecture of Venice.
Shades of plum and purple were predominant colorways; inky blues had a presence and gray showed up in several showrooms. Color in dinnerware, glassware and crystal was a central element to many of the introductions, from Waterford's Mixology barware collection to the Mateus collection, an intensely hued ceramic line from a Swedish designer that will be distributed here in the United States by BIA.
Texture is increasingly important, particularly in flatware, where manufacturers offered lots of hammered patterns and those that resembled slate or bark or other rough-hewn elements. In dinnerware, techniques like wax resist, embossing and reactive glazing convey a tactile look. In all categories, mixing materials--wood and glass, slate and ceramic, metal and porcelain--adds visual texture and interest. Handmade pottery has also emerged as a look from traditional fine china makers: Lenox is partnering with American designer Jono Pandolfi to create an exclusive line of stoneware, while Noritake experimented with a craft stoneware collection and Denby introduced Heritage, an archival collection of designs from the 1960s intended for the kitchen, not the dining room, that features stenciled designs.
Made in America was a strong selling point among the manufacturers who could make that claim. And it wouldn't be a show without a host of designers who personally showed off their wares, including Isaac Mizrahi for Gibson, Domenico Vacca for Rogaska, Bruce Oldfield for Royal Crown Derby and chef Marcela Valladolid for Prima Design.