Home... DVF Style
By Warren Shoulberg
Diane von Furstenberg is homeward bound.
The legendary fashion designer has signed up with Springs Global to do a new line of home-furnishings products, including, bedding, bath and tabletop, that will debut in spring 2011. The trade will get its first look at the products this spring.
For von Furstenberg, it marks her first entry into a full-line, freestanding home collection, even though she did do a program in the 1970s with Sears. And for Springs, it is the first high-profile licensed program the company has had in many years, although it does continue its Court of Versailles program. It also takes Springs into tabletop, a product classification it has not participated in before.
Details on the program are sketchy at this point, but it will debut with a Collection line targeted at the department and better specialty store channel. Additional distribution into other channels could happen down the road.
In an exclusive interview at her Meatpacking District headquarters--not only does it house her studio, her offices and flagship store, but it's also her Manhattan home--von Furstenberg told HFN she had waited a long time to do a home line like this, holding on for the right moment and the right partner.
"Since my business is so textiles driven," she said, dressed in one of her signature print dresses accessorized with just the right complement of gold and precious stone jewelry, "this is a natural for me. But what had held me back is that the distribution of home products is so odd."
She said when she last worked in home, some three decades ago when her Sears program was doing close to $100 million, "I left a decaying industry. But now the textiles industry is completely different."
In fact, von Furstenberg--who burst onto the fashion scene in the early 1970s with her now-iconic wrap dress, and was one of the earlier designers to offer her clothing to a moderate customer--had already started moving back into the home area. She has been doing high-end rugs for the Rug Company for a number of years and is in the process of creating DVF rooms in the Claridge Hotel in London using her own fabrics that will be then be available to the trade.
But the move into bed, bath and table is something else entirely.
"When I was first told about Springs, I screamed," she smiled, remembering only the mill days of the 1970s. "But then I learned that they are owned by Brazilians and I met with them there and saw their facilities. That's when I became impressed."
She said any successful product begins at the point of manufacturing. "The quality of Springs is what convinced me to do it with them. The first thing is the factory, I like factories. I know they can do it."
There was also Joe Granger, Springs president of branded business, who is charge of the program. "I met Joe and he was very enthusiastic about me and signing me. He has a big wide canvass," she said of Granger, who joined Springs about a year ago after a long stint helping to run the Ralph Lauren Home business, "and I thought I could color that canvass for him."
There is also a Ralph Lauren connection in the person who helped put the deal together. Ken Rood, whose KGR Home, a marketing and brand development company, represented von Furstenberg. Rood was the one-time president of Ralph Lauren Home.
What the new line will look like is something von Furstenberg is keeping tight on for now. "Even a very naive eye can recognize DVF prints. It's color, print, happiness. And the combination of those prints that look like they don't work together ... but they will." She said DVF has 12,000 prints in its archives, suggesting there will be plenty of patterns to select from for the new home products.
While the line is being projected for better department and specialty stores, she said it's quite possible there will be DVF Home stores too. "I would be surprised if we don't have some DVF home stores," she said. A pop-up store before the formal debut in spring 2011 is also a possibility.
There may also be additional lines for other types of retailers too. Said Granger, "There are multichannel opportunities." But there will be restrictions, von Furstenberg said. "We are serious about home, but I want to protect my brand too. My distribution is clean, there's no gray and we will keep it that way."
She does like the idea of being able to offer products to many different types and levels of customers. "I feel we have a story line that is supercommercial. The profile of my customer is that the older I get, the younger my customer is. And I'm not very interested in catering to very rich people," she said with just a hint of a smile, "they don't look very good."