Surtex's Design Time
By David Gill
With the introduction of the Atelier section, Surtex this month is re-aiming its spotlight on textiles design, which was its raison d'etre when it was launched in 1986.
Atelier will be a section dedicated to design studios and designers who primarily sell their art and designs outright. The section will be characterized by an open but more intimate floor plan, with a more private and exclusive feel to it for exhibitors and attendees, according to Penny Sikalis, Surtex's manager and vice president of show owner GLM.
The increased intimacy of this section is an attempt to return Surtex to its roots. "Surtex started as a textiles design show," Sikalis explained. "Over the past 10 years, the show started to trend to other product categories that needed artwork, such as wall covering and floor covering. We just felt it was time to highlight this group of studios and separate them from the licensing people."
The early results show that this effort has been a success. GLM announced the new section last November. In February, the company followed up by stating that it was already expanding Atelier to meet "strong demand" for space in its environs. As of mid-April, Sikalis said, about 90 studios from around the world had signed on to exhibit inside Atelier.
That total will make Atelier, in its first year, a significant part of Surtex. "Atelier will show the importance of getting out and seeing the newness inside the textiles section," Sikalis said. "It will be a must for anyone who wants to stay competitive in this business."
Regarding the show as a whole, Sikalis said attendee preregistration was tracking ahead of last year's show, when attendance totaled about 7,000, by eight to 12 percent. The exhibitor count is expected to be about 10 percent greater than last year, she said.
Part of the intent behind Atelier is to focus on trends in textiles design. This is also the purpose behind the enlargement of both the Surtex Trend Theatre and the ReSource Hub at this year's show. The Trend Theatre, which debuted at last year's show, will offer presentations that will take attendees ahead to 2015 in terms of describing the design and color trends and attitudes that will prevail over that time frame. "The Trend Theatre will have valuable information about trends down the road," Sikalis said. The ReSource Hub will display resource materials, software and other business essentials for the creation of saleable artwork and designs.
The enlarged spaces in these areas are part of the overall four-way expansion of Surtex for this year. The show has shifted its location to the front and center of Hall 3A of the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City, its long-time location. It has also extended its layout with an added licensing aisle and an extra selling aisle for exhibitors serving categories ranging from apparel and decorative fabrics to linens, tabletop, wall coverings, floor coverings, giftware, stationery, greeting cards, gift wrap and other paper products, toys, ceramics, packaging and publishing.
Always a key feature of Surtex, the conference program will offer 10 presentations in three tracks over the three days of the show, May 19-21. On Day One, the conference topics will be centered on the basics of monetizing art and design, whether through licensing or selling designs outright.
Day Two will include a legal session about design protection along with three category spotlights--one on textiles and home fashions, one on paper and stationery, and one on gift and home decor--with insights into what each different category looks for in design. The sessions on the third day will focus on business, specifically discussing what's ahead in retail and in design.
According to Sikalis, the gains in the attendee and exhibitor counts indicate that "there's a lot of activity at both the manufacturer and the retail level."
Along with the upward mobility in exhibitor and attendance numbers, there are other indications that this year's Surtex has a positive feel to it. "There is a real vitality in the market from both exhibitors and attendees," Sikalis said. "There is definitely a renewed interest and need for forward-trending artwork and design. Manufacturers are definitely looking for new and fresh looks."
Much of this has to do with the direction of business in these product categories. "Business has been on an uptick so far this year, and this looks to continue through the rest of the year," Sikalis said. "Manufacturers are very excited about putting out new products for consumers, and they're constantly looking for newness."