A Welcome Resource

Hospitality buyers look to AmericasMart
By Jessica Harlan

A growing number of buyers for hotels and restaurants are shopping AmericasMart, seeking trendsetting looks and pieces that will set their spaces apart from other commercial establishments.

“Today, both hospitality buyers and consumers follow fashion, culture, and lifestyle closely,” says Monica Porter, Certified GREENleader for Montes Doggett. “They are in sync and will ultimately have an eye for the same look and feel when choosing items, whether for a home or a [commercial] project.”

Montes Doggett

Among the trends she’s seen in hospitality design are simple, clean and oversized statement pieces and new interpretations of familiar, everyday shapes. Porter adds that buyers are gravitating to items that can stand on their own, rather than collections. Meanwhile, Leslie Thompson of Up Country Home, believes the hospitality trade leads in design, and consumer trends are more likely to follow that sector. Right now, she says, “there is a big trend in creating spaces for communal dining.”

Bigger and Better
Mac Cooper, president and CEO of Uttermost, sees an emphasis on texture and color with natural hues, rather than busy patterns. He says furniture pieces have a softer look with curvy lines rather than sharp angles. And hospitality buyers are often drawn to products that have connectivity features, such as USB ports in lamps.

Pasha Furniture, Inc.

Cooper says that rather than cookie-cutter spaces, hospitality designers aim to create unique experiences. “They are seeking eye-catching, one-of-a-kind designs that fit the narrative of the hotel design,” he says. “In the larger, bigger-budget properties, the art is almost exclusively local, with exotic public area pieces.” Sam Kural, CEO of Pasha Home, agrees. He says oversized statement pieces and custom orders are what draw hospitality buyers to his showroom. While retail buyers are choosing from the designs on the floor, his hospitality clients, “have a vision of what they want. You might go from one of your existing designs and modify it, or you start from scratch,” he says. They’re looking for bold products, tall pieces that can make a big impression, and modular shapes that can be arranged and used in a number of ways.

One of the most popular items in the Pasha Home showroom for commercial spaces, is an oversized round ottoman. Because of its size, too large in scale for a home but perfect for a hotel lobby, “It tells hospitality buyers that we can do what they’re looking for,” says Kural.

Custom Rules

Matouk

In bedding and textiles, it’s a slightly different story. Eugene Paceleo, director of hotel sales of John Matouk & Co., notes that hospitality buyers who frequent his Atlanta showroom are looking for trendsetting textiles that can be adapted to the wear and tear of commercial use.

“We do a lot of delicate, high thread count bedding,” says Paceleo. “These might be applicable to presidential suites, but for the most part it’s at a price point where it may not be the optimal purchase for hoteliers. But we can change the base fabric to a lower thread count percale or sateen, and fade-resistant cotton tape.” This achieves a similar look but with a more durable fabric that can withstand frequent washings in commercial machines.

Thompson of Up Country Home echoes the idea that hospitality-geared items must have more durability than something destined for a consumer home. “A chair must withstand thousands of impressions, or wallpaper must be able to be washed. If a product isn’t durable then it won’t be considered by an experienced hospitality designer,” she says.

Paceleo says that while white bedding has been the standard in hotel bedding—a trend that’s also translated to retail—a new, younger breed of hoteliers is pushing the envelope with touches of color and other elements of differentiation. “A duvet cover might be made of a heavier fabric,” he says. “There might be a bright throw or runner, or a satin stitch in a contrast color. They’re trying to achieve something a little different in the rooms, something that can be a hotel’s signature.”

As with Pasha Home, Matouk sees a lot of custom business, which the company can nimbly address with its factory in Fall River, Mass., which keeps rolls of fabrics on hand that can be cut and sewn to order with no minimums. “If you have a suite and you need a silver cotton coverlet in a specific size, we can do that for you, there’s no issue with minimums and reorders,” says Paceleo.

Broad Choices

Uttermost

With vendors that can accommodate custom needs, or which have the kinds of bold statement pieces that hospitality buyers are seeking, AmericasMart is an increasingly important resource for commercial properties. Thompson says that in the past, she saw few hospitality designers at AmericasMart, but she is seeing more and more. She believes this is in part because an increased number of residential designers are focusing on hospitality projects.

“Hospitality buyers and designers are finding AmericasMart a necessary source for their needs,” says Porter. “In turn, they are pushing our capabilities as designers and manufacturers, to attract a buyer that might not otherwise have been our intended market.”

For more information:
John Matouk & Co., 508.997.3444, matouk.com; Montes Doggett, 866.834.9857, montesdoggett.com; Pasha Home, 336.889.2114, pashahome.com; Up Country Home, 404.749.4749, upcountryhome.com; Uttermost, 800.678.5486, uttermost.com.

Images courtesy of Uttermost, Pasha Home, John Matouk & Co., and Montes Doggett

Benjamin Moore Launches the “Century” Experience

By Patti Carpenter, AmericasMart Global Trend Ambassador

I’ve found myself entering industrial, cavernous lower west side loading docks in New York and riding in freight elevators with several other creative types for decades. Heading up to an event, sharing the anticipation of discovering something new and exciting, just ahead of the rest of the world. We chat with each other and comment on the choice of shoe colors, glasses, etc. is also par for the course. Being the “color lady,” I’m bound to share with you that my shoes were Pepto-pink and my glasses a marbleized red for this particular evening, but I digress. It was, after all, a very special Benjamin Moore event.

The huge elevator doors are forced apart, ushering us into the lofty space. We were greeted with a designer’s tool of a perfect-for-your-hand size color brochure announcing the arrival of Century, the new Benjamin Moore color experience, and an offering of one of two signature drinks. I selected the “Curator,” of course, and it was simply delicious. Armed with my drink, I proceeded into the massive space alive with a palpable energy and bustling with more than 175 designers and creative cognoscenti.

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Looming over me are large-scale panels showcasing the new Century paint collection. Fifteen color palettes with stunning imagery and ranges so yummy they made my mouth water — the “Curator” wasn’t the only delicious item in the room. A selection of seventy-five curated, small-batch interior paint colors in all were showcased in a hand-painted swatch and in my personal color brochure. Bonnie, the woman in charge of this incredible feat for Benjamin Moore, shared with me that there will be 42,000 of the brochures produced in all when her task is completed. Each color was more scrumptious than the one before.

Century is the “world’s first Soft Touch Matte paint with a never-before-seen depth of color and a soft touch finish,” shared Carl Minchew, vice president of color innovation and design for Benjamin Moore, who was sporting a very dapper and multicolored striped tie for the evening. We had a great chat, and I learned this process took Benjamin Moore five years to develop. “The result is a depth and richness of color unseen in the industry and a paint that has the ability to transform.”

Harriette Martins, senior brand manager at Benjamin Moore, told me “Century was created for the finest of designs that require flawless execution and impeccable quality, which transcends many different types of homes. By investing in Century, you are not only transforming a room, but you are transforming the entire color experience. The exclusive palette of 75 uniquely formulated colors offer an unrivaled depth and richness of color that are brought to life with the industry’s first Soft Touch Matte finish.

“The Soft Touch Matte finish offers a tactile experience and creates a new dimension on the wall that feels luxurious. In addition, the small batch technology and pre-mixed nature of Century ensures the truest color and experience in every can.”

All the shades are inspired by natural elements — gems, plants, herbs and spices. With this new tactile finish, it actually feels a bit like leather, color really becomes an experience. I was particularly drawn to the complexity of Blue Muscari, Cobalt and Thistle on the cool side of the palette and to the rich ripeness of Red Mahogany, Sumac and the mellow and moody Acai.

The formulas are so intricately balanced, and such a precise science, that they can only be made in small batches under the supervision of Benjamin Moore’s master craftspeople. For now, Century will only be available in pre-mixed gallons and 4-ounce samples at select retailers within the Benjamin Moore network of independently owned stores in the New York market; it will be introduced in markets across North America in the coming months. As one of those craftsmen, Ken Marino, vice president of manufacturing has his signature on every gallon. He informs me that “each brush stroke is a testament to over a 100-year history of Benjamin Moore innovation and color perfection.” Century is truly a new dimension in paint and design.

Hotty Toddy Homecoming

Creating hospitable promotions inspires customer loyalty

From an early age, Douglas Self knew he had a creative and an analytical mind. Oxford, Miss., nourished both. He earned a degree in accounting from the University of Mississippi and got his start in retail working for Oxford Floral during his college years.

“Oxford Floral was one of the premier gift shops in Mississippi and I learned as much from owners, Bette and Jeff Butler, as I did my general education. Together, it was an incredible base for my career,” says Self, owner of jdouglas, with showrooms in AmericasMart and High Point.

Loving to put collections together and to be in front of customers, Self had long thought of opening a retail store. “Visiting Oxford for SEC game weekends, I realized I had to carry all my tailgating and dinner party supplies with me. There was a void in the market,” he says.

He opened Provision Oxford in October 2014, near the historic downtown square. The lifestyle boutique features his personal blend of home furnishings, tabletop, gifts, personal care items, jewelry, some ladies apparel, and original art. “It’s a gracious, hospitable place to see and buy beautiful things. But it’s more than great lines. We strive to offer an extraordinary experience, to treat customers as if they were visiting our home for a party,” he says.

Building Loyalty
The name says it all. “Provision means to provide things not readily accessible, and I wanted to give back to this university and community,” says Self. The shop helps residents and weekend-condo owners furnish their homes, buy gifts, or entertain with style, but Self also hosts Fridays This Fall events during home football weekends.

“We showcase Southern artisans or designers (preferably someone with a Mississippi or Ole Miss connection) and invite guests to attend a lecture, trunk show, or book signing,” he says. Last year, the store brought jewelry artists Elizabeth Wise Hannon, Gresham Hodges and Taylor Miller; floral expert and author, John Grady Burns; Mississippi born painter, Marilyn Mulherin; Ole Miss alumnus and Editor-in-Chief of Veranda magazine, Clinton R. Smith and author/designer James Farmer to town.

“We support a charity with each event by donating about 10 percent of the proceeds,” he says. In the past Provision Oxford has contributed to Peyton’s House (a youth ministry); Love Packs, Chucky Mullins Fund, Alexa’s Team (childhood cancer) and the St. Jude marathon.

Giving Back
The events help artists and charities, engage customers and increase sales. “People want to know who is coming, and we let them know by social media and e-mail,” he says. “This is a cultural town and people look forward to learning about and meeting talented artists. It gives them another activity to share with guests on football weekends.”
He also hosts special brunches or cocktail parties in the store for local sororities and fraternities during their parent weekends, allowing the group to choose their charity. A recent Derby Days event made more student customers aware of the shop, and they, of course, told their parents. “It’s the extra things you do to cultivate a business and build a brand that makes people want to work with you,” says Self. “You have to create the right environment.”

For additional information about the store, visit www.provisionoxford.com or like the store on Facebook.

To learn how to boost sales surrounding seasonal events and holidays, attend our upcoming Lunch Seminar: Spring Into Sales on Wednesday, March 8, during the Atlanta Spring Gift, Home Furnishings & Holiday Market®. Join flower magazine founder and editor-in-chief Margot Shaw and retail and merchandising experts Kristin Alber of Restylesource, Dina Woodruff of Peridot, and Pacita Wilson of Pineapple Park as they share visual merchandising tips, product picks and seasonal tabletop displays that are sure to inspire and make your sales bloom. Complimentary lunch is included and begins at 11:30 a.m. in the Building 1, Floor 15, Designer Workspace.

Images courtesy of Joe Worthem

Ins and Outs

Outdoor living fabrics find a home inside too

Savvy buyers and designers are more excited than ever about the possibilities technological innovation in fabrics brings to products and design. A new crop of fabrics are so advanced, the possibilities extend far beyond outdoor cushions.

Even industry insiders can have a tough time distinguishing “outdoor” fabric from interior upholstery. Now it’s time to teach consumers what that can mean for them. For buyers, the education starts at AmericasMart, where a number of top vendors sell product in which the outdoor fabric is a big attraction.

lloydflanders

Lloyd Flanders Industries

Characteristics That Matter Lou Rosebrock, senior vice president Sales and Marketing at Lloyd Flanders, suggests buyers should lean heavily toward the most established brands, which includes Sunbrella, Al Fresco and Outdura. “These brands have been produced to offer outdoor customers all the important characteristics, such as durability, light fastness and resistance to mold and mildew,” he says.

Not every fabric marketed as outdoor-safe actually has those characteristics. Susan Ray of Summer Classics says UV protection is particularly crucial. All of its outdoor upholstery is UV-treated Sunbrella fabric. “Sunlight can be so damaging,” says Ray. “But with UV-resistant fabrics, you can put a navy sofa under a window and it doesn’t fade.”

castelle2

Castelle

Steve Lowsky, president and CEO of Pride Family Brands, Inc., says there are other performance features buyers should ask about. “Outdoor furniture buyers need to look for durability, stain resistance, abrasion resistance and colorfast qualities,” says Lowsky, whose company produces Castelle outdoor furniture. “Buyers and designers also should take into consideration the depth of original designs and original textures and weaves available to meet the needs of their clientele.”

Learn the Lingo
Gather as much technical information as possible, because much of it can be used to sell customers on a piece or collection of outdoor furniture and accessories. Lowsky suggests asking vendors about the construction of the fabrics, including what type of fiber used. It could be  acrylic, polyester, olefin or polypropylene. He also recommends asking about colorfast hours or abrasion rubs, two characteristics that speak to durability.

summer-classics

Summer Classics

“Knowledge of the differing types of performance fabrics will allow the buyer to design the total furnishing piece or set to meet the requirements of the client’s outdoor space or use plan,” says Lowsky.

Even the terminology, says Rosebrock, can be a useful selling tool. “Many manufacturers that have created fabrics for outdoor use are now marketing their products as ‘performance’ fabrics,” he says. “Any consumer who selects this type of fabric for a high-use area can expect a durable, easily cleaned product.” In fact, homeowners with small children and those with pets are a growing market for furniture with outdoor or “performance” fabrics.

“Outdoor or performance fabrics are perfect for inside,” says Rosebrock. “The durability and cleanability can greatly extend the life of indoor upholstery. And outdoor fabric manufacturers now offer patterns, textures and color palettes in many sophisticated choices.”

lloydflanders2

Lloyd Flanders Industries

“The tremendous growth in designs, colors, hand or woven styles allow for exterior fabrics to coordinate with interior décor as easily as interior focused textiles,” Lowsky adds.

Bottom line: outdoor fabrics are so soft and fashion-forward now that guests won’t have a clue it could withstand sun and rain. As long as you’ve properly educated your customers on the performance and durability, that can be your little secret.


For more information: Castelle – castelleluxury.com; Lloyd Flanders – lloydflanders.com; and Summer Classicssummerclassics.com

Images courtesy of Pride Family Brands, Lloyd Flanders and Summer Classics.

Hot Stuff

Oven-to-table inspires culinary sales
By Jessica Harlan

It’s just as beautiful on the dinner table as it is adept at baking casseroles, roasting vegetables, braising chicken, or baking a dessert. Oven-to-table pieces are growing in popularity as home cooks seek versatile, multifunctional pieces for convenience and aesthetics.

Le Creuset

Le Creuset

With oven-to-table pieces, “you can take a cooking vessel straight from the oven to the table for serving,” says Sara Whitaker, brand manager – stoneware for Le Creuset. To serve a meal, she adds, there’s no need to transfer the food from the cooking vessel into a serving bowl or platter – just set down a trivet, and it’s ready to serve.

“We describe our oven to table ware as the fait tout, which means, in French, ‘does everything,’” says Tara Steffen, marketing manager of Emile Henry USA. And indeed it does. “We offer unsurpassed cooking qualities and our designs are so attractive that they can be placed on the most casual or most formal dining table.”

Materials Matter
Oven-to-table collections are made of materials that are specifically developed to withstand high cooking temperatures. In the case of Emile Henry, burgundy clay, known for its superb heat diffusion and retention, has been used to make its products for more than 150 years. Emile Henry’s high resistance ceramic is oven-safe for up to 518˚F. Le Creuset’s nonporous stoneware is designed to be durable, easy to clean, and resistant to stains and odor absorption.

Pillivuyt

Pillivuyt

Another popular oven-to-table manufacturer exhibiting at AmericasMart is Pillivuyt, which is made of durable, chip-resistant porcelain. “Pillivuyt porcelain is fired at 2,400˚F, so putting it in a 550-degree oven is no problem,” says Alice Title, president of Pillivuyt USA. “You can even use it on the grill or under the broiler.” The company even has a new line, called Ulysses, that can be used on direct flame such as a stovetop or on an induction burner. Meanwhile, Revol porcelain is also fired at a high temperature—1320˚F for 8 hours. “That process allows the pieces to be resistant to thermal shock, and oven safe up to 572˚F,” says Tenaya Da Silva, vice president of sales and marketing for Revol.

Convenience Counts

TVS-America

TVS-America

Sometimes metal cookware is pretty enough to qualify as oven-to-table. Case in point is the nonstick aluminum cookware from TVS-America, which is designed to be used as serving vessels. The cookware is oven safe up to 350˚ or 450˚F, depending on the piece, and includes collections designed by Karim Rashid, Angelo di Porto and Alberto Meda. “These pieces are designed to save time,” says Diane O’Donnel, national sales manager – North America for TVS-America. “Serving dinner from the oven eliminates having to wash extra serving dishes.” Many of the company’s designs are dishwasher safe and have a nonstick finish so they’re easy to clean by hand as well. In fact, most oven-to-table pieces are just as easy to maintain, a boon for busy cooks. Most are dishwasher safe, and are coated with a durable glaze that won’t scratch when scrubbed.

Aesthetics Work

Revol

Revol

The sky’s the limit with regard to what home chefs can cook in their oven-to-table pieces. Beef stew, braised vegetables, a cheesy casserole… in many cases dishes can be prepared ahead, refrigerated or even frozen, and then cooked when needed. And, of course, basic pieces or specialty pieces can also be used for sweets and other baked goods: brownies, cobblers, breads and more. For retailers who have a kitchen, nothing beats a live demonstration on the qualities of the pieces. Says Da Silva of Revol, “We have a chicken roaster that is perfect for demos.” A whole chicken, some vegetables, and garlic baked in the roaster, for instance, makes an easy demonstration that will showcase how easy the pieces are to use.

Manufacturers are responding to the customer interest in oven-to-table by increasing their assortment. Colors to suit all tastes and decorating schemes, multifunctional pieces, and specialized shapes, are among the many offerings that have grown this category. Le Creuset, for instance, has a new rectangular dish with a lid which doubles as a platter, and can also be used on its own as a baking dish. And Pillivuyt already has nearly 2,000 items in production, but is gaining traction in some of its unusual pieces such as its brioche mold and other specialty baking shapes.

Selling Oven-to-Table
These tips and talking points can help retailers promote their oven-to-table offerings.

Emile Henry

Emile Henry

• Play up fun details about the company. For instance, Emile Henry potters wear a bracelet with which they stamp their initials onto the pieces they create.

• Create a rainbow. Many companies, such as Le Creuset, offer their products in a wide array of colors. By showcasing the entire spectrum, you add color and visual interest to your display, and give customers the option to pick one that perfectly suits their décor.

• Show off the versatility. Include pieces in tablescape vignettes with other cookware and with gourmet foods to show how these pieces are workhorses but also complement beautiful dinnerware patterns and table linens.

• Take advantage of manufacturer’s point-of-sale materials. Pillivuyt offers brochures and shelf talkers. “These help explain the quality and justify the price,” says Title. The company’s “Pillivuyt University” also rewards salespeople who educate themselves about the product. “Nothing sells Pillivuyt better than a store worker who knows, understands, and loves the product,” she says.


For more information: Emile Henry – 302.326.4800, emilehenryusa.com; Le Creuset – 877.418.5547, lecreuset.com; Pillivuyt – 952.474.4016, pillivuytus.com; Revol – 678.456.8671, revol1768.com; and TVS-America – 716.863.5200, tvs-spa.it/en.

Images courtesy of Emile Henry, Le Crueset, Pillivuyt, Revol and TVS-America

Purchasing with a Purpose

AmericasMart buyers can take good work to heart
By Mandy Roth

Today’s consumers expect more from the companies they buy from and the products they use in their homes. They desire attributes beyond function and beauty; they want to make the world a better place by purchasing products with a purpose. Many AmericasMart exhibitors include philanthropy as a major tenet of their businesses, offering end consumers an opportunity to contribute to a greater good.

Half United; Full Commitment
Half United founders Carmin Black and her brother Christian didn’t set out to better the world through their professional lives. Yet that is exactly the path they now navigate. Each purchase of one of their company’s apparel items or accessories provides food to hungry children. To date, their customers have made possible more than 200,000 meals for children in the United States and around the world.

“Everything we’ve been through in life led us to this point,” says Carmin, a former television reporter, who later worked as a public speaker for TOMS—the company that set new standards in corporate philanthropy by donating a pair of shoes to needy kids for each pair purchased.

All elements of her past coalesced during an enthusiastic speaking appearance. She recalled memories growing up as a pastor’s daughter in a family where every male member was in the clergy, as well as her mother’s endeavors in the fashion industry. She remembered the mission trips in which she and her brother participated. She was reminded of her service as her sorority’s philanthropic chairperson. The energy created by the combination of charity, business and brand passion fused for her in front of that audience. It was one of those moments that changed everything that happened next.

She placed a call to Christian, who was in L.A. trying to launch an apparel business, suggesting that they join forces to create a company with a charitable focus. They borrowed $200 from their mother and the venture has grown in the years since. They now sell a variety of goods, including jewelry and T-shirts. Some of their most popular items feature recycled bullet casings, turning a symbol of harm into a sign of hope, representing their fight against hunger.

TOMS, Carmin believes, cracked the code that unites business and philanthropy by communicating the impact each consumer has on the world by buying one of their products. For Half United, that unique formula means that each time a product is purchased, seven children receive meals. “Hunger is something every human can relate to,” says Carmin.

The founders closely vet the charities they work with around the world. On a trip to Haiti, for instance, they examined the operations of Papillion Enterprise, an organization that employs local artisans to make some of the jewelry Half United sells, providing a source of income so impoverished parents can feed their children.

Carmin insisted on accompanying one of the workers home, a journey down dirt roads and over a ravine filled with trash and goats. They eventually entered a shantytown, navigating four-foot wide alleys through the shacks. When they arrived at the worker’s home, the mother shifted a plywood door to the side, proudly showing off her kitchen, featuring charcoal on a dirt floor. “Where do you sleep?” queried the entrepreneur. The woman revealed a second room where her children slept on packing materials—the same ones used by the charitable organization to ship jewelry to Half United. “My heart hurt for them,” says Carmin, who purchased proper mattresses for the family before leaving the country.

While Carmin and her brother are literally in the trenches at times, she points out that the retailers who sell Half United’s products—and the consumers who buy them—are the ones making the difference. “You have no idea how much your purchase matters in the lives of people around the world. Ultimately, you are the ones feeding people; we just facilitate that transaction.”

Sari Bari: Rescue From the Red Light
When secondhand saris gain new life as accessories and home goods, the women in India who make these products secure access to freedom from lives in the sex trade. The extraordinary goods available through Sari Bari offer employment opportunities for women who want to escape the red light district of Kolkata, India, as well as young women in outlying villages, who are vulnerable to being trafficked.

Each blanket, handbag, accessory or baby item is sewn using the traditional Kantha stitch, unique to the creator’s personal style. No two pieces are identical. Living in India, Sari Bari founder Sarah Lance established the company a decade ago when she personally witnessed the plight of these women and determined she would do something to make a difference in their lives. Goods are sold in the U.S. through a non-profit organization.

Today’s consumers are interested in one-of-a-kind products and want to know the stories behind the things they purchase, explains Merilee Rowe, the company’s sales and operations manager. Sari Bari deepens that connection because the 120 women the company employs stitch their names inside the items they create. During their first year of training, they are known generically as “Mukti.” After the first year, each graduates to using her own name. Their “freedom birthday” is celebrated annually, and employees are given opportunities to rise into management, providing further opportunities for a better life.

“Sari Bari products are special because retailers and consumers know the products are directly tied to impacting a women on the other side of the world,” says Merilee. “That artisan is creating something beautiful, and you are empowering her to do that by purchasing her product.”

Imagine Home: Third World Artisans; First World Designs
When interior designer Staci Lantz toured South Africa with the founder of TOMS Shoes in 2007, she was inspired by his company’s commitment to social responsibility. She returned with a new plan for her life, an idea to add a greater sense of purpose to her profession and an approach to American consumerism that would contribute to the betterment of others.

She’s spent her time since touring the world, meeting artisans in communities where she could source creations conceived by her, along with her design partners. The result is Imagine Home, a collaborative effort between third-world artisans and first-world designers.

The company takes first world product designs and commissions impoverished people in artisan communities around the world to handcraft the items. “By using our industry experience in design, we create a product that is desirable to consumers; by commissioning people in need, we create an income-generating opportunity for them,” according to Imagine Home’s website. The 2016 collection includes lighting, rugs, tabletop, upholstery and bedding from Haiti, Peru, Africa and India. Many items feature 100 percent organic and recycled materials. Also in the line-up: hand-knitted baby alpaca bedding and handsome horn and bone products.

“Staci has spent time in each of the communities we work with, as well as with each artisan, developing the product with them,” says Katie Gable, Imagine Home’s showroom manager at AmericasMart. “Instead of purchasing a product that is mass produced, each item we offer is individually created by someone’s hand. The buyer may never meet the artisan, but there is a connection back to them and you are contributing to the economy in their communities across the world.”

Stephen Joseph: A Connection with Kids
When Rick Taylor, president of Stephen Joseph, returns home each evening, he has a wonderful reminder of the good things his company is doing in the world. His daughter was adopted from a Russian orphanage that his business supports through its philanthropic efforts.

Giving back is something this company takes seriously. Established 30 years ago as a sorority products specialist, it grew and diversified over time into a variety of businesses. Stephen Joseph is the parent company, as well as the name of its successful kids lifestyle brand. In 2013, executives decided to bolster the business’ charitable endeavors, and sought to support organizations that focused on kids. One recent initiative raised $250,000 from the sale of certain products, with donations contributed to No Kid Hungry, Children’s Scholarship Fund and Little Kids Rock.

Stephen Joseph

Stephen Joseph

Karma, the company’s lifestyle brand, which features popular handbags, accessories, home and travel products, gives five percent of its gross sales to numerous charities, including the Russian orphanage. Other endeavors include providing filtered water in Nepal; paying teacher’s salaries a school in a poverty stricken area of Cambodia; and supporting Food Backpacks for Kids, which provides weekend food to kids in need. In addition to special projects, the company makes ongoing donations to organizations such as the American Diabetes Association.

“Given the choice between two similar products, if one has a ‘give back’ component, it affects the end-consumer’s buying habits,” says Rick. “It’s a selling point for buyers to communicate information about where a portion of consumers’ money is going.” While the executive is enthusiastic about all the charities his company supports, the ones that tug at his heartstrings are focused on children. “We love kids,” he says. “They don’t have the ability to help themselves, so we are passionate about helping them.”


For more information: Imagine Home; Half United – halfunited.com; Sari Bari – saribari.com; and Stephen Joseph – stephenjosephgifts.com

Images courtesy of Stephen Joseph, Sari Bari and Half United

Pearl Glam

A fresh perspective on a classic accessory
By Poormina Apte

Accessory Drawer

Accessory Drawer

You can credit Chanel or Jason Wu. Or Downton Abbey. Whatever the reason, pearls are enjoying a renewed interest and dominating lookbooks and fashion runways. But these aren’t your grandmother’s staid single strands. Mixed with a variety of other jewels and worked onto unexpected canvases such as leather and metals, pearls are being reimagined for the contemporary woman.

While this is good news for fashionistas everywhere, the expansive variety of pearls means retailers need to know what to look for and how to tell real from faux, with both having favor. We dive into the basics.

The Basics
Naturally occurring pearls are increasingly rare. Most of those on the market are cultured pearls, derived when farmers artificially introduce irritants into oysters and mollusks. Cultured pearls are further subdivided by the types of waters in which they sourced: saltwater or the more common freshwater. Pearls also are classified by the regions in which they are cultured. Examples include Akoya pearls from Japan; South Sea grown in large saltwater tropical oysters; and Tahitian pearls.

Then there are glass beads that are polished and coated to look like pearls. This thin coating eventually wears off so retailers are advised to source their pearls from reputable vendors. The Cultured Pearl Association of America recommends sliding the strand across your mouth as a test, fake pearls glide while the real ones are gritty from the nacre or the irritant around which the pearl forms.

The Criteria

Kinzig Design Home

Kinzig Design Home

Traditionally, best pearls are perfectly round, have a high lustre and are free of imperfections. Of various factors used to evaluate pearls, lustre is the most important according to Susie Kinzig of Kinzig Design who has ventured into creating jewelry.

Other criteria include surface, shape, size and color. While freshwater pearls often come in irregular forms, they are creatively worked into creative designs and offer a fresh spin, says Kinzig, who works pearls into industrial romantic kinds of designs for an updated contemporary touch.

The Updates
Celebrity stylist and jewelry expert Michael O’Connor, cites an interest in past eras (Mad Men, anybody?) as driving pearl demand, which in turn translates into vintage inspirations on the runways an in top fashion houses. But today’s look is more “in-your-face” he says.

Girl With A Pearl

Girl With A Pearl

Girl With A Pearl’s Bohemian line work pearls into leather and suede for looks that can be dressed up or down. Pearl blogger India Rows says chainmail styles with pearls are another look retailers should look for when searching for new products.

For example, Deniz Zizzi of Accessory Drawer sees designers such as Beth Greenberg mixing pearls with sterling silver chains.

“We think the pearl is the perfect touch to our handmade jewelry, taking something vintage and turning it into something new and fresh,” says Laurel George of The Vintage Pearl.

These fresh perspectives make pearls more attractive to women who used to dismiss them strictly as old-fashioned jewelry. And while pearls can be expensive, pieces with single pearls or freshwater options worked into leather lariats or sterling silver can be surprisingly affordable as well as fashionable.

“Women wear pearls with T-shirts, flowy blouses and cocktail dresses from brunch and work to an evening event,” Zizzi says, “Nowadays pearls are an everyday basic that fit effortlessly in the jewelry closet.”


For more information: Accessory Drawer – accessorydrawer.com, 888.209.8432; Girl With a Pearl – girlwithapearl.com, 615.767.1972; India Rows – 706.850.5296; Kinzig Design – kinzigdesign.com, 650.952.6006; Michael O’Connor – styleandsubstance.com; The Vintage Pearl – 918.935.3254; thevintagepearl.com

Images courtesy of Accessory Drawer, Girl With A Pearl, Kinzig Desig and The Vintage Pearl