Sunny outlook for outdoor fabrics has gray forecast
Jamie Sorcher -- Casual Living, 1/7/2011 1:13:30 AM
Coming off an encouraging show at the 2010 International Casual Furniture & Accessories Market in Chicago and bolstered by an upbeat High Point Market last month, manufacturers and retailers are prepped for what looks like a better than anticipated 2011 season with colors in outdoor performance fabrics reflecting a sunnier, yet cautious
outlook with a heavy focus on neutrals - gray, in particular.
Color analysts said the desire for neutrals reflects the continued uncertainty in the economy. The transition many consumers face in the months and years ahead is marked by the stronger emphasis on gray.
"Gray will be new this year - and will be new for lots of people," forecasted Michelle Lamb, editorial director of The Trend Curve. "It is showing as strong on the interior, and with outdoor furnishings an extension of what is happening inside the home, there is no reason to believe that this won't continue."
"Consumers should see plenty of gray on retail floors this coming year," said Gina Wicker, design and creative director for Glen Raven, maker of Sunbrella fabrics. "Several furniture manufacturers added beautiful driftwood gray frames to their collections to address the warm-cool color trend. Most of these gray frames were warmed up with a touch of brown or gold which is a perfect way to tie them back to outdoor room flooring in the brown family."
"Neutrals continue to be very strong," said Hugo Benitez, national market manager for Phifer. "Buyers seem comfortable with patterns and colors that are familiar but fresh. There also seems to be more acceptance of the ‘grayed' tones as well as the ‘watery' colors."
Leslie Harrington, executive director of The Color Association, confirmed the forecast for 2011 and 2012 which shows a strong drive toward neutrals ranging from browns to grays. "When in transition, the consumer gravitates to this," she said.
Colors will also make an appearance - not just neutrals, Harrington said. "We see warm on one side and cool on the other. In our Island Zen palette for 2011-2013 we have blues and greens that represent spirituality, calmness and tranquility. There is sky blue all the way to turquoise as well as the new kid on the block - teal."
Richard Frinier took inspiration from these themes of calmness, tranquility and the "slow living trend" for his new collections for Brown Jordan, which had an official international unveiling last month in High Point after a soft launch in Paris and a preview in Chicago. "All of the colors are very soft and light - off-white, soft gray and a subtle blue-green," Frinier said. "So for me, these are the colors that will be important in 2011."
The Drift collection features teak frames in two finishes - natural and gray. The Still and Cloud Nine collections have metal frame finishes in Shade (soft gray), Pure (off-white) and Breeze (a soft bluegreen) while the Chino Twill Sunbrella fabrics developed for the collection are named Calm (off-white), Cool (soft gray) and Serene (soft blue-green). "I was careful to choose names for the collections, frame finishes and fabrics that were very calming," Frinier added.
"We are working with earth tone frames but people can accent with the pillows," said Rory Rehmert, chairman of the International Casual Furnishings Association and vice president of sales and marketing for Pride Family Brands, a Florida-based manufacturer of aluminum-based frames.
"Yes, people are talking about color, but we are focused on what will give our retailers a return - and that is with neutrals," Rehmert said. "There is a safe and conservative tone in the market right now so we are primarily focused on earthy colors - golds and neutrals that are on the lighter side like beige."
Gray paired with gold is a huge color story for Summer Classics, according to Walker Dorman, director of public relations. The company will offer more than 150 fabrics in its lineup for 2011 - the most fabrics Summer Classics has ever had.
Summer Classics wanted a deeper representation in its yellow range so the newest collection of fabrics, developed in partnership with Glen Raven and Bella-Dura, features what Dorman calls a gray/gold fabric story. There is a gray fabric with a gold stripe and a gray fabric with a gold dot. New shades of blue and green will be prominent for 2011 for Summer Classics as well, Dorman said, and highlight deeper, richer shades of blue like a marine blue.
For Mariaflora, a mill/weaver based in Biella, Italy, and represented in America as part of the Kolo Collection in Atlanta, the 2011 season represents a shift from darker colors all the way in the opposite direction toward white. "It's about pure colors like true cream and true white," said Ellen Letchinger, U.S. sales manager. "We're expecting a strong outlook for cleaner colors, but taupe and gray will also be very important. It's all about sophisticated neutrals."
But not entirely. In the fashion world, where many furniture and fabric designers take their cues, purple is having its turn in the spotlight, Lamb pointed out. "Of course, in the furniture world, it can trail a bit, but looking out as far as 2012, purples are going to move from red to blue," she said.
For warm colors, Harrington said the palette is representative of a farmer's market with tomato red, yellow squash and purple eggplant colors. "All of this is in combination with neutrals, of course. And it is referred to as an earthy palette because of the earthy side of Mother Nature. All of this represents optimism and a positive mind set.
"Our lifestyles are now merging around the idea of being healthy, of taking care of oneself," Harrington said.
Plum will make a new splash at retail this spring, Glen Raven's Wicker agreed. "It's being paired with heather beige for a toned-down look or with orange or green for a little more pop," she said. "It's a color that's been missing from the outdoor palette for the past few years, and I'm happy to see it coming back."
Retailers, as well, said they are pleased to have more adventurous color options, but added they will be sticking close to what has worked best over the last few seasons.
Mark Press, president of Hudson Valley Nursery, based in New Hampton, N.Y., said he will have a mix of fabrics this season. "We always have some loud colors to brighten things up because it makes it interesting on the show floor," he said.
"Browns always sell for us and we expect that to continue for this upcoming season, but people do like to have color choices. When you go to a chain, you can't pick and choose."
For 2011, Press will have plenty of blues - dark to light - including several pastel shades. He is also counting on bright yellow which does well and a stark white which is suitable for those who want a modern look. On the bright side, he will show lime greens on the floor. "They just pop," he said.
Lime green will also appear on the show floor of Sunshine Furniture in Vero Beach, Fla., President Gail Williams said. "That is what the big box retailers are showing around here so we thought we'd give it a try it, too," she said. "We also expect to do well again with coastal blues and yellows as well as pale pastels in the green family. We'll be doing dark frames with whites, browns and neutrals for fabrics."
What she won't be doing this season is a heavier look. "That whole Tommy Bahama- British West Indies-style - is gone, at least for us," Williams said. "We won't be focusing on the browns and reds. Trends go in 10-year cycles so we expect neutrals to be big for us in 2011, 2012 and right through to 2015."
Donna Dentner, lifestyle manager of Doylestown, Pa.-based retailer Bucks Country Gardens, said it is refreshing to see eggplants, grays and blues. "We see pairing light gray or even stone gray with eggplant," she said. "We expect browns and beiges to be big, but it's nice to see some color, too."
Michael Hayes, merchandise manager at Fort Myers, Fla.-based Robb & Stucky Patio, is ready to think pink. In fact, it was Sunbrella's hot pink hue that caught his eye at the Apollo Awards in September.
"When women come in, I tell them to think about what colors they like to wear because if they like wearing them, then why wouldn't they like living with them?" he asked. "I'm not saying that someone is going to do a hot pink fabric on a sofa for outdoors, but it could be a great accent color with neutrals."
"Pink is definitely our biggest color story," Wicker said. "It's been requested over and over, but it took time to formulate a pink that could live up to Sunbrella performance standards. We will be showing it this season in a polo-inspired collection anchored by navy and white as well as in a more contemporary gray-pink combination. Just like plum, pink is so prevalent in our spring and summer landscape that it just makes sense to tie back to it with the fabrics that we use to decorate our outdoor rooms."
But there is no question the roller-coaster economy has had a strong impact on consumers making them more risk averse, Harrington said. She predicts consumers will continue looking for timeless and traditional styles with their choices and fabrics for the home - that they're not quite ready for funky and fun. But for 2013, she revealed, things move in another direction.
"We will see less neutrals" for the 2013 season, she said. "There will be darker blues on the palette and greens that are Kelly greens and the green of mature grass. There will also be smoky raspberry, but we will still have grays, mauves, browns and beiges. The most significant change is that there will be more yellow with everything - from sunshine to goldenrod to honey." A sign of optimism, Harrington concluded.
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