Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Year of the Rabbit

Market was more  blah than bling.
There was no vibe of energy or excitement.
In numerous showrooms or booths the representatives there did not even look up from their screens. Some were texting, some were gaming, some were skyping the kids, some were watching movies.

No packed showrooms even though I met several buyers who had planned to fly in Monday but couldn't until Wednesday when the ATL airport re-opened. I had worried the market would be packed with the compression of days but there were no crowds. The few  semi-crowded show rooms were Donna Karan Home, Pine Cone Hill, Blue Ocean Traders and one handing our Haagen Daz ice cream bars.
Even at Firefly, Imax, Interlude, Trina Turk, Tara Shaw, Napa Home & Garden, Vietri the reps were standing in the halls visiting, not in the showroom meeting , greeting or selling. Still some of my reps said, "It's been a good market. Well, not 07 'good' but better than 09 or 10". What I observed is most companies had made an effort to offer new introductions with minimum risk. A rational choice, but boring results. Most took their top 20% and tweaked, expanded or recolored these best sellers.  Most new introductions were gorgeous lighting with clean lines, glitzy material combinations like crystal and steel mesh and hugely scaled.  Not a lot of color anywhere except in area rugs, linens and soft accessories. Most of the whimsy was limited to tabletop and gifts with a splash here and there in the garden accessories. Even the art was lifeless.

Really interesting was the huge number of designs or products derived from, depicting  or mimicking  sea life. So much so that I found myself thinking this was the  response to the  Gulf oil spill traumas. Another manifestation of the deep sadness felt over the past year, many showrooms and many of the new furniture finishes are "driftwood", "weathered", "beachtones" ... all words evoking the Gulf. Most are derived from finishing techniques of liming, whitewashing or pickling.  Interesting finishes and techniques, but drabby. I have rarely seen markets with so little color. Lots of charcoal, taupe, smokey neutrals. So much so I found myself yearning for a splash of Honeysucke Pink! There was some but the biggest splash was an article in HFN not products in the showrooms. ( Note to Moi: The publications like HFN , Furniture World and Home Accents Today could use some improvement in their writing staff!)

I enjoyed a lunch break with a shop owner from Kennebunkport ME. Her business is not seasonal, she is open year round and she sports a clientele which " is not effected by changes in the economy." She has a point, if you are down from $380 million to  just $300 million you still can buy pretty much whatever you want.  But her business too has issues. She cannot find the new, different, exciting merchandise her clients desire. To quote her, " same old, same old". She had been at market  four days by the time we met. In that time she claims to have done systematic grid searches to little avail. Poor thing had buckets of money to spend and no place to spend it. Our discussion  led to the revelation she had not gone to the temporaries . I told her of some things I saw there which did not suit my needs but might fit her yen for a hot new introduction. I even had literature which abruptly ended the lunch as she pursued the possibility of " a find".
( Note to Chickory: A week before the Christmas in July Market go to Kennebunkport and  pre sell every ornament you can make between now and then)

Actually my most exciting "find" was a corporate executive drop out who makes fabulous furniture and  lighting from industrial salvage. Steel framed consoles with suspended , rusted cogs, or gears or wheels.
I so liked his stuff but it would be unusual if I had a client who would have his functional art in their homes. Truth is, it wouldn't be a good fit in my home either. But anyone with an Urban Modern vibe, a Loft feel or even like Mermaid, a high ceilinged in Barn apartment could rock this look. I could design an entire restaurant/bar around this mans work. If only.

Most notable was the HUGE Eastern influences on every kind of design. Elements of classic Islamic, Buddhist, and  Hindu religious architecture were everywhere. In furniture silhouettes, in fabric and rug designs, in artwork, in lighting, tiles, even tabletop and garden  products.  I thought, oh-oh these are designs from the East !  Until recently our goods were designed HERE but manufactured there and shipped to America.  Now, I guess as an economic "saving"  American companies are not designing , they are buying existing designs from the East. They modify the designs by limiting the enhancements of mirrors, beads, contrast stitching, cutwork, metals and the colors. The designs are Eastern, the color palettes have been made neutral  for incorporation into American decor. I  found this trend  disturbing. Had these elements been prevalent in the Jaipur Home showroom only I would understand completely. There are large Indian communities here who wish to buy the traditional furniture of their home culture. I did not expect to see this from long established, top of the line American companies. Which I found very disturbing.

Very large  wall sculptures were everywhere

Pretty Neutrals

reworked designs in new finishes

Horrifying Honeysuckle Venetian Glass Chandeliers

Embroidered batiste for Aunty in the temporaries

Neutral again!

Heads were hanging on every wall over in the gifts

  • This could have been the  market mascot


    Some quiet color


    Loved this salvage made furniture and lighting

    Every type of sealife was popular in every category

    Can you tell this copper Mermaid weathervane  was nearly lifesized?

    Cocky Papier Mache Roosters

    Abundance, but not much that is new or different

    colorful graphics in accent items

    Dramatic scale


    Oil jugs for Ali Babba and his 40 best friends

    "Green" design not greendesign

    Loaded with color  over in tabletops

    I understand candles are fun, cheap decor but really I've had enough.

    Sealife in every medium!

    Lots of color in the home linens

    Didn't the Tortoise win?



    fishy said...

    Sorry about the quality of the post. Blogger was a pain today.

    Sharon Rudd said...

    Sorry your found this market to be such a disappointment, especially after dealing with yicky weather. And I totally agree with you about those horrifying honeysuckle Venetian glass chandeliers! But I found your observations very interesting. It's good for Eggy to get her head out of the food world and learn more about what other people are doing :)

    Thanks, fishy, and all best,

    Kymical Reactions said...

    I like the pretty neutrals. I tend to stick to earthy neutrals. I could really use some help in the color department. I always like the things I see, I just never know how to make the transition back into a room without feeling like I have to buy the floor model to get the desired "look". It's brutal.

    I've made a request of you over at my place. :) Tips. Ideas. Suggestions. :)

    Aunty Belle said...

    wonderful commentary--but I feel yore disappointment, Fishy. Oh dear.

    Hope ya bought that gorgeous fishy on blue pillow??

    Funny to think current events is so quickly translated into furniture trends--Gulf motif. But, why not?

    A fun exercise might be to predict what the trends will be if now is the new normal? or if the Bulls return? Or if the world spins into a globalopoly?

    Plant some seeds in yore garden Fishy--colorful flowers.

    Jenny said...

    Welcome Home! And thanks for the walk through the show and your professional commentary. I love/love/love anything sealife, but I get worried that it can be overdone in a beach house, so I'm careful about what I pick.... however, those pillows were realy cute.

    Is design stuck in neutral this year? Literally? Is everyone playing it safe so they aren't dealing with inventory they can't move? An interesting casualty of the recession.

    so what happens when you go to buy and come back with nothing? Is there another show? Do you shop online?

    moi said...

    The fashion world is still stuck in neutral as well. Which I like . . . if it's a SHOE. Otherwise, color me a lover of color color everywhere.

    With the exception of those Venetian glass chandeliers. Usually, I like over-the-top Italian, but those are truly horrific. So. Did you at least get a couple good meals in?

    fishy said...

    You would have loved wandering the floors with all the gift and tabletop stuff. Colorful fun stuff for creating great tablescapes. I don't know though, how you cut your portions on a dimensional dish. Do you do themed catering events? If so I hope you go to the gift markets to choose the goodies.

    I like neutrals too but I don't like drab. These are dull neutrals not elegant neutrals.

    Most people have trouble making the transition from display to home. For good reason, there are so many variables on the differences even a direct translation often will not work.
    E-mail me your issues I can maybe offer some guidance.

    fishy said...

    Most companies try to respond to data collected at the Spring market to guide what they offer for the Winter markets. The Spring 2010 international furniture mart started April 27th. I think the Horizon blew later that same week. For most of the early design phase of product development all media was dominated by the Gulf situation. ( I looked up the dates once I got home)

    Sigh, the pillows are wool to which I am allergic.

    New trend prediction is an edgy, urban, industrial , slightly grunge with posh mix. Lots of funding is coming to redevelop old industrial/manufacturing sights. There will be lofts for the young, smart, techies who have no interest in needing a lawnmower but who want to hang their bikes as art.

    I always plant flowers and I agree, they are a fine antidote to gloom.

    Thank you.
    Smart. "Sealife" or any very specific theme can easily dominate or kitchy up a room in a flash. I usually advise clients to buy what they love but to rotate their accessories with the seasons. This way they don't put it all out at once.

    I think they HAVE created an inventory that will remain in their warehouses. What I overheard most often was " disappointing", "same old same old" , "boring" or
    "severely underwhelmed". I did not observe many orders being written.
    The absence of laughter was sad.

    I will go to the international market in April.

    One of the most shocking things about this market was there were no beautiful, ginormous flower arrangements! In the showrooms there were NONE! The other shock was there were no caterers. I did not see one catered showroom, not even the biggies and I WAS there on a weekend. It's possible they had caterer's booked for the opening which was delayed by weather and couldn't get them rescheduled. What was in the showrooms were bowls of m&m's, chexmix, nuts, coffee or coke.
    The wine and appetizers were not there, no live music, no business card raffles or give aways and only a few places had any kind of handout.

    Some places did invite you to visit their websites but did not even have those printed. You had to write down the data on the back of one of your own cards or take a phone picture.

    Here, our annual regional HBA expo
    was moved to a smallish recreation center because it was unlikely enough booths would be sold to cover the costs of hosting the expo at the civic center.

    I don't think they will sell many of those monstrous chandeliers. And! I might add I have never seen a tackier display. Well... there were a lot of extremely tacky legging and boot combinations.

    Aunty Belle said...

    Uh,,,blush blush, I does love the bee-dazzlin' batiste!!

    Pam said...

    So is it not good design to have a neutral pallette for basics and then add the color in on top, so it could be changed out more often? It makes sense in a way. I was wondering what the "Color of the year" is for 2011 -- you did a post about that last year. What is it this year? Pale White? I did like the white on white room/accessories, but wouldn't it just drive you out of your mind to live with that all day every day?

    fishy said...

    Pantone color #18-2120tcx Honeysuckle Pink is the 2011
    " Color of the Year".

    There is not a thing wrong with using neutrals with added color as the foundation of your decor. Nothing.

    What was different about this market was the lack of splash. All choices were safe but more than this it all had a sort or sad staleness. When there is hope, faith, belief in the next bend in the road the eager, risk taking young creative types strut their stuff. They laugh, are brim full of confidence and are eager to show, share, sell the world their exciting new vision.

    The entire market vibe was as neutral as the palettes. In some ways there was more despair on display than anything else.

    chickory said...

    this was fun!

    Im with you the industrial salvage furniture was king. I liked the ali baba jars and vases too. I dont like big graphic printed fabric. its too much. and i hated that pink rabbit.

    i think Boxer has a good line of driftwood and its real not limed or sandblasted. its interesting you think the sea life is about the gulf as i thought most product was conceived way out...like maybe years.

    i sort of hate the trend thing...suddenly a lot of whatever. its so boring. its probably why i love to shop at goodwill. you see decades of trends in one spot. and did you see all those shoulder pads on the golden globes dresses? gag me.

    (no i didnt watch the show just looked at the clothes report the day after)

    kennebunkport huh? wanna be my agent?

    chickory said...

    i just read all the comment. i am SICK of leggings a boots. i never wear that because im short and it does me no favors. but it is on every single woman.

    fishy said...

    are you still playing in the snow?

    I absolutely agree that pink rabbit was a horror.
    I too dislike the limitations and mostly the attitude of a "trend". I do not own leggings nor will I ever. I do like boots but I saw some true horrors.

    Big items which require new machined production lines are designed- planned years in advance. What is tweaked at the end of the timeline is the finishes, hardware, contrast materials, etc. This is not true of smaller accent items, items made from molds, textiles or rugs.
    Many of the elements to lighting, both installed and tabletop can be
    recombined from existing components and finishes. Shades, etc can all change pretty rapidly.

    The thing that has changed the most is not how and where they are made but when. In large production facilities they no longer produce a "run", inventory and ship as ordered. Now the process is to not manufacture goods until the run is 60% pre-sold. Once that 60% mark is reached they want to produce and ship in 48 hours. Because manufacturing changed to the less humans, more technology, more flexibility format, the responsiveness capabilities changed too.

    Seriously? If I made an artisan product, I would head to the high dollar boutiques that are the darlings of the "Summer Crowd".
    Want to make a spring road trip? I've never seen New England.

    Most petite people do not relate well to textile designs with objects bigger than their heads.
    You would have been stunned by some of the designs and the price tags. I have never seen so many $400 pillows in one place.

    chickory said...

    I read recently that the one retail sector that was doing very well was super high end: vuitton; hermes and that kind of stuff. Conversely, bargain shops like Target were down. Its the Mexifacation of the USA...the widening gap of rich to poor.

    Ive never seen New England! Sounds like fun! - but...thats my season too. i cant leave my veggies!
    Maybe I should take some stuff to more rich people joints close by: Highlands for instance.