Each product submitted for judging by a manufacturer had been introduced within the previous calendar year (1999) or introduced at the International Window Coverings Expo in Baltimore, MD, in April where the winners were officially announced and displayed.
This year a new overall award was added to the 11 product categories: Rising Star, to recognize new products with potential to make an impact on the market. An interesting note that might signal a trend in the industry, or perhaps just reflect WCMA membership, no awards were presented this year in the Vertical Blinds and Curtains & Draperies categories.
This year the Product of the Year Award was presented to Hunter Douglas Window Fashions for its UltraGlide[TM] proprietary lifting system, shown here on its Duette® shades. The retractable, single-cord system lifts the shade in a series of easy pulls, then gently lowers it to a soft landing with a tug of the cord to the side. When full up, full down or at any point in between, the cord remains the same length out of the reach of children and pets and the pathway of housekeeping equipment.
The Technical Innovation of the Year Award went to Harmonic Design, Inc. for its Sensor Shade for Skylights. The battery-operated, remote controlled motorized system operates pleated or cellular shades in a skylight application. Harmonic's Sensor Shade also received this year's award as Best New Technical Innovation in the Specialty Applications category.
The first new Rising Star Award was presented to Gulf Coast Window Coverings for its Triumph[TM] Arch, a 100 percent wood arch available in sunburst, horizontal and solid styles. The Triumph Arch also won for Best New Style Concept in the Specialty Applications category.
As noted above, style and technical innovations were prominent among entries. In the horizontal blinds category, CSWC Products received the Best New Technical Innovation Award for its Revolution, a modular blind mounting and support system that is easier and faster to manufacture while being sturdier and less prone to damage.
In the same category, Springs' Graber Optic® blinds were singled out as Most Innovative Overall Design. The double-sided slats can be tilted one way to offer a transparent view with several color options, tilted the other way for total privacy or raised for a clear view.
Perhaps the newest product offered for judging this year was the Serenette[TM] Softfold[TM] Shading from Hunter Douglas. Featuring 4 1/2-inch fabric louvers in a teardrop shape, Serenette operates like a vertical blind, but offers the look of a tailored drapery. The Serenette was awarded Best New Technical Innovation and Best New Style Concept in the Alternative Shading Products category.
Hardware innovations received several honors. The Universal Hardware System[TM] from Comfortex Window Fashions was selected as Best New Technical Innovation in the Cellular Shades category. The Universal system was designed to work with a wide variety of cellular, pleated and Roman shade fabrics and save time, money and stocking space for fabricators.
On the style side, Springs' Graber Metal/Wood Collection tied with its Carved Wood program as Best New Style Concept in the Drapery Hardware category. The metal and wood collection combines durability and beauty in a contemporary design. In the same category, the Raymond Waites[TM] Vintage Collection from Kirsch was chosen for Most Innovative Overall Design. Each hand-finished piece in the collection allows designers to create truly unique designs.
The Best New Style Concept in the Pleated and Roller Shades category was awarded to MechoShade Systems' Soleil[TM] Sunscreens. These visually transparent screens are integrated onto roller shade hardware systems and offered in 45 styles and color combinations.
Wood products are among the hottest selling window treatments around these days and the Wood and Faux Wood Blinds and Shadings category reflected style and technical innovations as well. The new Privacy Plus[TM] Shutter Blinds from Comfortex were awarded Best New Style Concept. The unique shape of the interlocking slats combines the functionality of a blind and the appeal of shutters. When closed, the blinds present a smooth flat face and offer total privacy and light control as each rout hole is covered.
The category's Best New Technical Innovation was presented to American Hardwood Co. for its Diamond-flo Finish. The high-tech finish is similar to traditional lacquer, but offers enhanced performance with better than 300 percent greater resistance to scratches. It also is non-polluting, offering environmental benefits in the processing and in the consumer's window.
WCMA 2000 Product Innovation Award Winners
Product of the Year
Hunter Douglas UltraGlide[TM]
Technical Innovation of the Year
Harmonic Design, Inc., Sensor Shade for Skylights
Gulf Coast Window Covering, Triumph[TM] Arches
Best New Technical Innovation: CSWC Products Revolution
Most Innovative Overall Design: Springs Window Fashions, Graber® Optix® Blinds
Wood Blinds and Shadings (Wood/Faux Wood)
Best New Technical Innovation: American Hardwood Co., Diamond-flo Finish
Best New Style Concept: Comfortex Window Fashions, Privacy Plus[TM] Shutter Blinds
Best Design Enhancement: Comfortex Window Fashions, Woodwinds Wood Tone Wood Alloy Blinds
Most Innovative Overall Design: Elite Window Fashions, Richwood® Shutters
Best New Technical Innovation: Comfortex Window Fashions, Universal Hardware System[TM]
Best New Style Concept: Hunter Douglas, Washington Square[TM] from the Manhattan Collection of Duette’ honeycomb shades
Pleated and Rollar Shades
Best New Style Concept: MechoShade Systems, Inc., Soleil[TM] Sunscreens
Most Innovative Overall Design: Hunter Douglas, Remembrance[TM] Window Shades
Alternative Shading Products
Best New Technical Innovation: Hunter Douglas, Serenette[TM] Softfold[TM] Shadings
Best New Style Concept: Hunter Douglas, Serenette[TM] Softfold[TM] Shadings
Best Design Enhancement: Hunter Douglas, fabric covered headrail for Vignette’ window shadings
Best New Technical Innovation: Springs Window Fashions, Graber® 1 3/8-inch adjustable wood bracket
Best New Style Concept Springs Window Fashions, Graber® Carved Wood Program
Springs Window Fashions, Graber® Metal/Wood Collection
Most Innovative Overall Design: Kirsch, Raymond Waites[TM] Vintage Collection
Best New Technical Innovation: Harmonic Design, Inc., Sensor Shade for Skylights
Hunter Douglas, Inc., Enhancements on PowerRise’ for Duette’ honeycomb shades and Brilliance[TM] pleated shades
Best New Style Concept: Gulf Coast Window Covering, Triumph[TM] Arches
Most Innovative Overall Design: Hunter Douglas, Duette’ with UltraGlide[TM]
Best New Safety Innovation: Hunter Douglas, LiteRise[TM] Touch System[TM]
Best New Sampling Program: Hunter Douglas, Facades[TM] Merchandising Package
Most Innovative Point of Sales Tool: Springs Window Fashions, Graber® Window Coverings Selection Guide
Best Advertising Promotional Program: Hunter Douglas, trade consumer advertisements
Best Dealer Education Program: Hunter Douglas
Nearly all of the 82 entries featured either technical advancements or style enhancements. Many entries incorporated both.