From richly-textured silks and plush velvets to tassels formed around intricately carved wooden bases, if it was textile-based and looked luscious it could be found at this trade fair. Held annually at the 10-building Messe Frankfurt exposition center in Frankfurt, Germany, the four-day event marks the opening of the textile trade fair season. Organizers estimated more than 67,000 buyers, designers, exhibitors and trends scouts from 63 countries attended this year's fair. Here's what they saw and what your clients will be requesting in the coming year.
Tassels, tassels and more tassels. Watch for these decorative accessories to be even bolder than before with bases of carved wood, hand-painted porcelain, brightly-colored glass and even brass. Many designs featured multiple mini-tassels attached to the top of a larger tassel and accented with multi-colored cording.
Don't think tassels are just for drapery tiebacks. Look for fabrics and wall coverings featuring the tassel motif, window treatments with tassel-trimmed valances, tassel designs on towels and linens and even decorative drapery hardware with tassel-shaped metal finials.
With tassels come fringe -- silky, richly-colored fringe used along the edge and hem of draperies, around pillows and bedspreads, across valances and even around the boxing on chair and sofa cushions. In some vignettes, fringe was used on lamp shades with coordinating tassels draped around the neck of the light fixture. Fringe also was particularly effective when displayed on fabric-covered cornices and canopies.
Tassels and fringe combined to embellish otherwise plain tab-top draperies, which were the rage at Heimtextil. These popular window treatments at times featured stylish fabric pennants sewn between the tabs, the tops of which were accented with miniature tassels of large beads. Such elegant embellishment techniques were displayed throughout the show in every imaginable category and promise to be an often-requested accent for contract design work.
Even on the simplest, most elegant of designs, fringe and decorative trim proved vital to the overall design. For example, one of the most stylish pairs of tab-top draperies was fashioned from a plush, mushroom-colored velvet lined with a cream-on-cream striped silk. This luscious treatment featured hunter green tabs made from decorative cording. The tops, sides and hem of each panel were accented with hunter-and-mushroom-colored fringe. Rather than being tied back in the traditional manner or left flat, the leading edge of each panel's hem line was pulled up and secured to the wall with a tiny nail hidden by a pair of hunter-colored tassels.
This look was used extensively throughout the show. In such cases where tiebacks weren't used, panels often were pulled to the outside edge of the window casing with fabric strips extending from the hem or inside edge of the panel. These window treatments took on a look of haute couture, more closely resembling elegant ball gowns than draperies.
The use of multiple patterns on upholstered pieces was another trend at the show. The look, which showed up in the United States at the spring 1994 International Home Furnishings Market in High Point, NC, never amounted to much here. Market analysts claim it was partially because the various patterns were not effectively matched, giving the pieces they adorned a crazy-quilt look. The Europeans, in the meantime, have perfected the art, and proved it by showcasing their fabrics on sofas and chairs that were upholstered in three -- even four -- prints. Gone was the mis-matched, thrown together look American buyers rejected. These pieces were very clean and crisp with fabrics that seemed to dance together across the furnishings.
One chair, for example, featured a warm cinnamon-colored fabric on the deck, back and arms, and cushions covered with a companion pattern in a bold, rose print framed with turquoise stripes. An ecru-and-cinnamon striped fabric was used for the cushion boxing as well as on a large, rectangular throw pillow.
This look is easily translated into slipcovers, another hot market trend that promises to show an increase in demand as customers the world over seek an easy, affordable way to change their decors. Trend watches have been predicting an explosion in the slipcover market for some time now. Apparen-tly, they were right on the money as several textile companies showcased prints, plaids and companion patterns on wonderfully styled slipcovers. From the basic sofa cover embellished with a classic line of decorative cording to the more fanciful styles, as described above, slipcovers drew quite a bit of attention and should gain sales volume in both the American and international markets in the coming months.
As for pattern, leaves promise to be a strong theme in fabrics and decorative accessories for 1997. Expect to see them dusted across fabrics and wall coverings in bold, contemporary prints, block prints, botanical designs and all-over pattern prints. Many floral prints making their debut at the show actually were leaf motifs with a few flowers dotting the design. Designers and buyers alike said this was a clear indication that leaves could be just as important as roses and pansies in the coming years, possibly more so.
Speaking of roses and pansies, both made a strong showing at the market. Roses, in particular, were showcased in big, bold prints on fabrics and wall coverings. Like leaves, look for roses to show up in both contemporary and classic patterns. The classic patterns, however, will dominate as Americans return to traditional decor. Rosebuds likely will show up as companion or background patterns.
Leaves and roses had another thing in common at the show. Both were woven not only in the design of many fabrics, but into the texture as well. The textile market seems to be turned on to texture in dramatic ways. Gorgeous silks with small, pressed-in wrinkles drew lots of attention from international buyers, as did beautiful sheer fabrics with raised geometric and floral patterns. The patterns in these fabrics took on the feel of chenille -- soft and touchable -- and added a bit more opulence to the window treatments. This emphasis on touchable texture was predominant at the show, whether in the plush velvets, chenille fringe or metallic-weave fabrics with a crisp, almost pliable body that appeared with more ethnic-inspired fabric collections.
Lace, which is perhaps the hottest material for European window treatments, was everywhere. From the traditional floral designs to string lace panels resembling the beaded drapes of the early 1970s, foreign manufacturers have developed quite an interesting array of laces for the international market. While lace is not and does not appear to be the hot trend in the United States that it is overseas, look for the fabric to make an elegant statement in American home decor trends as the domestic market takes its turn toward more traditional design in style and color.
Bold, Spicy Colors
As for color, rich reds, blues and golden yellows are proving to be the hot hues in both the American and foreign markets, just as trend watchers have been predicting for more than a year. Apparently, fabric manufacturers listened to these trend forecasts and dealt the market a heavy hand of red and yellow, which were the most popular colors for fabrics and wall coverings by far. Red showed up in almost every imaginable hue, particularly in the warm, cinnamon-tinged range that is a carry-over from the current trend toward spice-based colors. And though the cooler blue-reds were present in many fabric collections, they were not as strong as the more golden-hued reds.
Many of the yellows showcased at the market seemed to take their flavor from spices, namely mustard. True golden-yellows also were prevalent, and even a few clear, pastel shades of yellow were displayed, often shown alongside blue.
The combination of the two, yellow and blue, showed up in many country-themed patterns with both the yellows and blues in these pairings taking a clean, crisp undertone. Look for this color direction to become a hot trend following the current resurgence of reds as trend watchers are forecasting a revival in blue-and-white patterns and plaids for home decor. The hottest blues were those in shades of navy and indigo. While these deep, darkwater shades were the most prominent in that color family, watered-down hues like sky blue and a powdery, almost washed-denim shade also made a strong showing.
So much for color, texture and style. Just when will the Heimtextil offerings make an impact on the American market? Exhibitors say almost immediately. Some of the fabrics and decorative accessories shown at the January event made their debut on the domestic market as early as April. Others will be introduced to the American consumer throughout the summer and into the fall. And though all the fabrics and accessories shown in Frankfurt will not make it across the Atlantic, look for these hottest trends to be on your customers lips by the end of the year.
C.J. Autry is managing editor of The SewWhat? Newsletter, published by Cheryl Strickland. An award-winning home environment reporter, she also is a staff writer for the Asheville (NC) Citizen-Times.