By David Gill
Sensing that quilts are in the midst of a surge, bed-products vendors brought more of this product category to the table during the March New York Home Fashions Market.
The quilt is the ultimate nostalgia textile product. It evokes U.S. history from as far back as colonial times, when housewives made bed coverings by patching together pieces of odd fabric left over from the clothes they sewed together.
In the past couple of decades, machine-made quilts have borrowed from this heritage to carve out a niche in the top-of-the-bed market. These quilts have gone beyond the long-standing designs developed by those early crafters, such as the star and the wedding ring, and have embraced a variety of design orientations.
Quilts of all styles—from traditional to contemporary—could be found in the New York City textiles showrooms during the March market. Revman, whose quilt sales have been increasing over the past few seasons, created a showroom space dedicated to the category for March market “to better showcase the new designs and also call attention to the growing importance of the category,” said Diane Piemonte, vice president of creative services.
The quilts in this dedicated area were in Revman’s Laura Ashley, Steve Madden and Tommy Bahama licensed programs. Piemonte also noted that quilts are a key ingredient in the lineup at Nautica Home, whose license Revman acquired just before the market.
To Piemonte, the appeal of quilts has stretched beyond their traditional orientation. “They have a cleaner, more modern look compared to traditional comforters,” she said. “Their appeal is multigenerational, as there are now designs and colors available that appeal to all tastes and price points.”
Other vendors agreed that quilt appeal now encompasses consumers beyond those who are looking for a country-crafty feel in their bedrooms. Mark Grand, CEO of Peking Handicraft, said, “I think the fact that they are no long relegated to the traditional customer has opened this category to a much wider audience.”
If anything, according to Grand, traditional quilts are in the trough of their cycle now. “Transitional, modern and casual quilts have picked up the slack,” he said. “The fact that they are so good looking and different has attracted new attention to the category.”
To other vendors, the quilt’s versatility—which combines the design possibilities of patchwork with its light weight—remains a major draw with consumers. “With quilts being so versatile, the consumer feels that quilts are often the best choice for updating their home bedroom décor,” said Nelson Chow, vice president of sales for C&F Enterprises. “With the economic climate getting better, customers are looking for unique designs and fashion-forward colors in quilts.”
C&F’s quilt ensemble launches from March market included modern approaches to classic Americana styles such as stars and lodge, along with traditional styles from outside of these borders, such as Jacobean. The company “interprets traditional quilt designs with updated fabric designs, new color palettes and gorgeous bedding accessories that appeal to the modern consumer,” Chow said.
Quilts’ versatility made them a natural accessory in WestPoint Home’s Modern Living brand, which made its bow during the March market. “Quilts are an easy layering piece that doesn’t always necessitate redressing the entire bed,” said Taran Chernin, WestPoint’s executive vice president and chief merchandising officer.
This is one reason why quilts are being used by some consumers as an alternative to comforters, Chernin said. “Also, with the important trends we are seeing with handcrafted techniques, quilts play up those artisanal attributes and allow people to feel they have purchased a more individualized and unique product,” she said.
The versatility element, along with the expansion in designs and styles, will continue to increase the appeal of quilts, according to the vendors. “The style barriers have been broken and a new generation has embraced the product category,” Piemonte said. “Quilts are now mainstream and will respond to color and fashion trends just as comforters do.”
The broadening of quilts’ retail distribution will enhance the category’s longevity. Noting that more quilts are appearing in higher-end catalogs, Grand said, “It is dawning on more of the population that it is not uncool to have a quilt or interesting coverlet on their beds.”
While looks may change, there will always be a market for quilts, Chernin said: “It is a key category that just needs to be thought of as an alternative to comforter sets, and it has the luxury of also being able to be used as a layering piece to support a well-designed bed.”