From Ralph Lauren to Louis Vuitton, Who Dressed Your Living Room? – The New York Times
This article is part of our Design special section on how looks, materials and even creators evolve.
Ralph Lauren Home. Fendi Casa. Louis Vuitton’s Art of Living. Fashion companies cannot seem to resist the lure of household objects.
Why? A single bedsheet can produce more revenue than an entire season’s ready-to-wear collection, said Warren Shoulberg, who edited two of the industry’s most influential magazines: Home Furnishings News and Home Textiles Today.
Home goods also have a longer shelf life than clothes. “Some 30-year-old designs are still selling,” Mr. Shoulberg said.
And there is gold beyond those bed linens. The fashion industry’s reach into housewares extends to tableware and furniture, train and plane interiors, and hotels and condominiums.
For fashion designers, a love for the home has grown from an occasional flirtation to a full-blown affair. Here are some of the highlights of the movement.
1953: Laura Ashley Sets the Stage
Ashley, a 28-year-old Welsh-born secretary who, with her husband, Bernard, was inspired by a women’s craft exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum, begins silk-screening place mats, tea towels and scarves (inspired by Audrey Hepburn in “Roman Holiday”) on the couple’s kitchen table in London. The public is charmed by the simple English country look, and the couple add new categories in both home and fashion every year, demonstrating the easy confluence between the two markets. By 1984, a year before Laura Ashley’s death, annual sales total $130 million. Bernard Ashley continues to build the brand, earning a knighthood and gaining Princess Diana as a fan. The company goes on after he dies in 2009, though shakily.
1971: Bill Blass Boosts Designer Sheets
When Blass ventures into bed linens through licensees (he will also put his name on towels, glassware and backgammon sets, but draw the line at coffin linings), he becomes one of only two designers to do more than $10 million of wholesale business in sheets (the other is Vera). His success prods manufacturers to climb into bed with other fashion stars, including Mary McFadden, Gloria Vanderbilt, Perry Ellis, Yves Saint Laurent and Halston. “The giant textile mills were always looking for a glamorous hook. They themselves didn’t have great brand recognition,” said Mr. Shoulberg.
1978: Elsa Peretti Crosses Over
Described by John Loring, a former design director of Tiffany & Company, as a young Italian woman of genius, Peretti, who began her career as a fashion model, creates sterling silver serving pieces for Tiffany that are still in production today. She goes on to design more than 100 household objects for the company in both silver and glass. That same year, Pierre Cardin complements his futuristic fashion looks with his first space-age furniture designs.
1983: Ralph Lauren Ups the Ante
Rejecting what he once described as “ugly flowered prints with a guy’s name on it” (Blass’s, presumably, among them), Lauren lofts himself beyond the designer bedding craze to …….
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