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Color Invades Market

Anybody who doubted whether the casual industry was a fashion industry was proved wrong at the show with Casual Living's first-ever Alfresco Fashion Show. Performance fabrics from Sunbrella, Twitchell, Maco, Solarium, /Bella-Dura, DuraCord Textiles, Outdura, Crypton, Phifer, Waverly and Valtekz were transformed into stunning outfits, designed by Faye McPherson of At the Ritz in Greensboro, N.C. More than 200 attended the event and the buzz continued when a second runway event was held during the Annual Market Party.

Color has certainly crept into the outdoor marketplace over the last few years, but this year's Casual Show was absolutely about color. It wasn't a surprise to see many of the permanent showrooms feature swatch boards to help retailers create color stories when ordering casual furniture and complementary fabrics.

"We've given them a number of new tools," said Marcia Blake of Outdoor Interiors, an interior designer and former retailer who was working in the O.W. Lee showroom. "A lot of people are stepping out of the box and bringing in color. We've really taken the guesswork out of it. It should increase their special orders."

David Schweig of Dallas-based Sunnyland Furniture said he loved the colors being introduced at market. "A lot of vendors are going out on limbs and making statements," he said.

Teresa Campbell of Lloyd/Flanders said the bright colors in its Ralph Lauren fabrics have gained attention and garnered orders since their introduction earlier this year. "We started out offering the fabrics to just a select group of retailers who brought in one or two collections to show it," she said. "Now we've opened it up to another 500."

Ann Sundet, product design coordinator for Homecrest, held Color Story Clinics during the market, offering buyers a heads-up on color trends in the marketplace.

"It's very challenging these days to be in the casual furniture business," Sundet said. "The competition is not just the other patio store, the competition is all over the place. You need a point of difference."

Sundet's point of difference refers to the services that separate the specialty retailer from mass merchants, catalogers and others all vying for a piece of the casual industry's pie. Mix-and-match collections, multi-purpose furniture, color and the use of exterior designers all play into a point of difference for specialty retailers, she said.

"What people are looking for is the feel of a lifestyle," Sundet said. "Create jazz for the product."

For those retailers fearful of adding color into their showroom, Sundet suggested trying one or two things starting out, like a little vignette with citrus colors or muted down reds and oranges. They may just get a response from customers.

"A lot of people are seeing it, hearing it, believing it, but don't know how to get off the dime," she said.

1. Solarium, Flip Flops in Key Lime

2. Sunbrella, Gibson, Sunbrella Velvet in cocoa and Garden Scroll

3. Bella-Dura, Dahlia in Pina Colada

4. Duracord, Paradise and Veranda

5. Crypton, Ringo

6. Phifer, Glass Block

7. Waverly, St. Croix in Onyx

8. Twitchell, Raindrop,Atlantic Drift and Carter, all accented by Dense Titanium yarns

9. More than 200 attended the first-ever Al-fresco Fashion Show

10. Faye McPherson and Bob Smithey of At the Ritz, Greensboro, N.C., created the stunning outfits.

Opposite page.

Left to right: Valtekz, Palmetto in Coquina

Outdura, Soleil stripe and Dash plaid, part of the Colorblocked Collection

Maco, Cordera

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