Textiles have been my focus and my passion for a long time: my training and early career were in fashion, and now I focus on goods for the home. It’s pretty tough to surprise me with fabric.
But Sal Lenzo managed to do just that, with a wonderful blurring of handmade craft and fashion. Sal is president of Lifestyle Trimco, a 50-year-old company that makes display mannequins for the likes of Bloomingdale’s, Betsy Johnson and Brooks Brothers, among others. He recently challenged me to create two dusty stripes that would “evoke antiquity without being old," and that would "come from a more decorative, different, craft perspective, following a decade of slick and cold displays with very few details."
We were to take vintage-inspired forms and cover them in new textiles inspired by ancient ones. To make the new reflect the old; to evoke times gone by and a sense of nostalgia while remaining contemporary. It was such an intriguing idea. Sal referred to his instinct to do this project as a ‘premonition.’
The result was a few weeks of loom preparation and weaving in the highlands of central Guatemala by our indigenous master weavers. They worked with two stripe layouts and a palette, selected and designed by me, that is a combination of colors that evokes the past without feeling too museum-ish. The weavers and I made a 6-color mini stripe, and a coordinating awning stripe. Once they hit the US, an upholsterer worked to create not only the collection of mannequins, but also cushions for the Trimco showroom to further enhance the vintage feeling.
We hear from Sal that they were a huge success with the visual merchandisers that descended on New York City during the three-day December 2009 display market week. They visited 22 showrooms in a search for visual merchandising goods for stores all over the United States, as well as from Britain, Canada and Spain. US stores as diverse as Diesel, Macy's Bloomingdales, and Saks Fifth Avenue all expressed interest in the collection.
The success of the new mannequins says to us that the tide continues to turn in our direction – toward things that are handmade, and which have a value and an aesthetic that can not be duplicated. We say that we are ‘Global Style Crafted with Heart’. Now we see that style take on new forms.