Friday, October 30, 2009



In many of this week’s newspaper headlines it was announced that we are about to exit the recession as we wrap up the 3rd consecutive quarter of economic growth. This made me think of the famous Christmas song; Happy Xmas from the Vietnam era from Yoko Ono and John Lennon. I had the great honor of working with Yoko Ono in preparation for her exhibition Yes; Yoko Ono. Along with her Archivist and Curator we collaborated on a number of products for the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art museum store. The attitude of this statement is right on target regarding a new perspective and could be an inspiration for us to get back to doing business.

“WAR IS OVER! …if you want it”

So here’s my version for the moment we are in:
THE RECESSION IS OVER! …if you want it.

The past year has been undoubtedly quite difficult for most retailers and their suppliers. Nowhere was this more evident for me than at the San Francisco Int’l Gift Fair this past August. For years this was one of the most important international trade show after New York. However SFIGF was less than half the size it was a year ago, and to make up for it the addition of the Gourmet Housewares show only partially filled the adjacent halls. The traffic in both was slow. One booth, Nespresso attracted the most activity with free coffee samples.

To me all this holding back has been a No-Win situation for everyone. Much of retail is offering the customer the same old merchandise with severe promotional pricing. The market is nervous and limits their new product launches. So, with vendors dropping out of a major gift show in droves- what else can be expected but a very small attendance of Buyers. Sounds like a Catch 22.

So, if this indeed is the beginning of a turn around we should challenge suppliers to offer new products with some conviction and retailers will need to make commitments to give these new introductions a chance at success.

With just three months ‘til the winter gift shows we can only hope that the mood and the merchandise can only get better. Hopefully retailers will front load their 2010 travel budgets to get the most out the winter shows as possible.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Krislyn Designs; Retail Spotlight


Third Street in Los Angeles; between the Beverly Center and The Grove has long been a shopping destination with many independent specialty and vintage shops. The street is a bit more urban and less glamorous than the nearby high-fashion blocks of Melrose and Robertson. Many of the shops I visited last week looked like they were still waiting for their holiday merchandise to arrive. There has also been a sudden shift in the neighborhood with more eateries than shops and perhaps too many bakeries.

Who is eating all this pastry? Not the group that wants to maintain their shape inside their skinny jeans. Whether LA needs it or not New York’s Magnolia Bakery is opening soon where the butter cream frosting factor will certainly be off the charts. At least the personal trainers here can be assured to have some job security in 2010.

There is one place that is literally an oasis offering something unique and interesting. It is called Krislyn Designs. At first glance the entrance looks like a modern bright white art gallery. Here however the sculptures are composed of natural materials as well as fresh and dried botanicals. The space is divided into small galleries in the front each showcasing a theme or medium. Through a central narrow corridor you enter the studio where the design team creates these works.

Krislyn Meyer-Komarov opened her first floral boutique in Pasadena after working in the film industry. In addition to arranged flowers and bouquets, the elements of her botanical sculptures include; preserved moss, branches, feathers, crystals, porcelain,and stones. There is an element of fantasy here combined with a modern Japanese influence of minimalism. The mood communicates a true reverence for natural and found objects that when combined become something even more fantastic. L’Objet Trouvé, or the Found Object Art movement comes to mind.

Much of the work here is custom made. However, you can also walk in (or shop on-line) and chose from several pre-made items: a small porcelain dogwood blossom on a branch, $30 or one of my favorites; a wall piece made of hand-dipped linen roses mounted in a wooden bowl, $1325. Krislyn also offers a number of bonsai tree sculptures in any size, shown above is a 12 inch ‘Japanese Dream’ made with preserved moss inside a mirrored container, $260.

Krislyn’s clientele includes the film and music industries as well as retails shops such as Giorgio Armani and the hospitality industry including The W Hotels. Her work is highly sought after by event planners and brides to be.

Krislyn Designs
8216 W 3rd Street
Los Angeles, CA 90048
Telephone: 323-692-7862

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Made in the USA - Part II


NPR just covered a similar story to the post I made yesterday. Link to listen to the five minute story is below.

More than 5 million Americans work for companies that aren't American. New York Times senior business correspondent Micheline Maynard, author of The selling of the American Economy: How Foreign Companies Are Remaking the American Dream, says the foreign share of the American economy is almost double the share of the U.S. auto industry.

Monday, October 26, 2009

FURNITURE: Made in the USA

- F.O.B. Danville, Virginia

Swedish engineering made in the USA

The manufacturing division of IKEA called Swedwood has been operating a furniture factory in Danville, Virginia since 2008. Current employment is at about 200 positions with a plan to employ as many as 740 people as the facility expands.

Danville is just 50 miles north of High Point, NC. This is newsworthy now as another market wraps-up and it’s ironic that what was once the center of US furniture manufacturing has now shifted to a marketing and showroom complex with most of the products manufactured in Asia. At its peak this region produced as much as 50% of all bedroom furniture for the domestic market. There is still some furniture being produced here; Marsh Furniture Company and HDM Furniture employ about 1,000 workers combined but by far the largest employers now are banks and health insurance companies.

IKEA operates 300+ stores world wide with 37 in the United States and has annual sales of EUR € 23.0 billion or roughly USD $34.0 billion. Their business model offers us moderately priced, quality furniture some of which is now made in America. This should be both an inspiration and a wake-up call for US owned businesses to follow suit in reducing the unemployment problem across the country.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

In Memory of Anita Roddick

Los Angeles, CA

Yesteday would have been Dame Anita Roddick’s 67th birthday. Anita passed away two years ago this September.

Long before the Green Movement was popular or even understood, Anita Roddick was an pioneer and activist in every way. As an entrepeneur working with her husband Gordon she started what began as a small business selling naturally based skin and hair care products. As the founder of The Body Shop in 1976 she chose not to test her product on animals and encouraged reusing and recycling in peoples’ every day lives.

From what began as one small shop in the UK would evolve into and empire of close to 2,000 locations world wide. These shops would be her ‘billboards’ for addressing human rights, social injustices, and enviromental issues of the moment.

A quick search will revel that every major news outlet wrote fitting tributes at the time of Anita’s death but today I’ll share a simple personal story;

The Anita I knew was always busy, always on the go. Her travel schedule was crazy and her speeches and presentations were in high demand. She was very generous in her philanthropic gifts and left her entire estate to charities. She lived each day to its fullest but would slow down when it came to story telling or spending hours on end talking with friends. She had the most remarkable gift of listening- really activily listening. People meeting her for the first time might find themselves disclosing innermost secrets and feelings they never shared with anyone else.

Anita took me and a friend to our first anti-war protest. It was exciting being part of a large and roudy group that marched down State Street in Santa Barabara each weekend to express what Democracy really looks like !

On a lighter note Anita was quick to laugh and always welcomed a good joke. She had a great appreciation of fine art, folk art, and outsider art. The last category is illustrated in her support of The American Visionary Art Museum.

So, if you don’t know Anita’s remarkable story I encourage you to read her books, especially Body and Soul; Profits with Principles. Her activist work continues on today and frequent posts can be read at To get involved in the campaigns imporant to the Roddick’s foundation explore the ‘I Am An Activist’ website
(links below).

Anita’s message is around all of us today as it has become the norm to reevaluate our daily choices and how they effect other people and the planet.

In memory of Anita’s birthday- Do something ! Get outraged and get involved with something that matters to you.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Retail Pop-up Shops

-USA, Nationwide

In Praise of the Pop-up Shop

Back in 2004 Comme des Garçons opened the first of their ‘Guerrilla’ stores in Berlin. The Guerrilla stores' aim is to be open for only one year and to spend a minimal amount on the build out costs. As related to the original use of the war-term these shops would possess “aggressive mobility”.

The result was a great success and many locations followed around the globe. I visited Comme des Garçons in Kyoto and just by entering this unusual space it felt like I was witnessing a paradigm shift of the new retail landscape. The interior was a bit like a fun-house maze for small scaled people. The floor was constructed of simple plywood that bounced and made a lot of noise as you walked about and browsed merchandise not found anywhere else. It was one of the most exciting shopping experiences and I did leave with one of the signature shirts; an artifact of fashion history so to speak.

This concept has been very popular as we approach 4th quarter and many store fronts that have been vacant and are now being filled on short-term leases in great numbers. Instead of a five or ten year commitment, now retailers are able to set up shop for as little as a month or less. With such a reduced risk comes an ability to experiment and bring some fun back into shopping.

According to the LA Times ( Oct.17 ) Toys R Us has jumped onto the concept and will have dozens of ‘Holiday Express’ Pop-up shops open this year. The luxury denim retailer 7 For All Mankind launched a new test concept called “Wash House” on Boston’s Newbury Street earlier this year with plans to explore a more permanent location later.

In the sleepy Brentwood neighborhood of Los Angeles there are a number of small Pop-ups that fill a once vacant bookstore. These help restore an active down-town feeling to the main street. We all can learn something from shopping these temporary locations. Maybe retail design as a whole can be liberated from generic same-ness and help restore what was once a great American past-time.

The full Times article can be found here ( paste into browser ),0,6635106.story

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Furniture / High Point Market


The only seminars I have ever attended when shopping the High Point market featured Leatrice Eiseman, Exec. Dir. of the Pantone Color Institute. It's always interesting and she always takes questions. The last time I saw her speak I asked about the future of stainless steel in the kitchen as a standard. She was noncommittal and suggested other metals maybe be introduced. ( Copper, Bronze?). Well I guess Sub-Zero wasn't listening and then the global recession arrived.

If you didn't get into the seminar or travel into the Triad area this October I offer you a link to the Pantone color trends of 2010. Eiseman organized the different palettes into the following groups;

Tinged Neutrals

The last grouping, neutrals, is what I predict will translate into many upholstery colors stocked by your local department store. Including four, yes four different shades of gray it is very safe. Feature photo.

I wish the trends were more daring but these hues do reinforce that both manufacturer and retailer are moving more cautiously than ever.

The complete 19 page "Fashion Report" issued from High Point can be found by pasting this address into your browser:

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

HOME / Table Top

-PARIS, France

Some times it can do a merchant good to step back and look to other industries especially when it comes to product development. The fashion industry is often about two years ahead of home furnishings when it comes to color palettes. However, today I am noticing interesting some pattern trends not colors.

So, when I see what is walking down the runways this past week I think; table-top.

Optical, geometric and animal prints took center stage. PRADA takes a cue from men's neckties and turns what was once preppy into something much more sophisticated. GIVENCHY offers this black and white all over pattern that could very well be applied to porcelain as beautifully as it drapes this model's body.

Thursday, October 15, 2009


-Valentine, Nebraska

Lunar New Year and Valentine’s Day

St. Valentine offers us an interesting twist this winter- the arrival of Chinese New Year celebrating the year of the Tiger beginning on February 14th, 2010.

Since red is the predominant color used in Lunar New Year celebrations, the cross-over product opportunities are infinite. One vendor stands out in the most recent markets. Cody Foster + Company coincidentally based in Valentine offered up a very thoughtful and well designed assortment of chinoiserie ornaments in the late summer Gift shows. Of particular interest were the pagodas and lanterns.

As Easters and Halloweens past have illustrated, ‘ornaments’ are no longer a once a year purchase occasion.

So save your markdown dollars for other categories since this collection will have a full-priced life after December 26th. Help unleash the tiger in all your customers this coming Valentine’s Day.


- New York, NY & Giverny, France

Clematis and Water Lilies

With winter approaching along come the holiday and garden catalogs for us to start planning for spring planting.

One inspiration comes not from a plant catalog but from the upcoming Sotheby’s New York auction in November. Claude Monet’s ‘Clématites’ (or Clematis) is about to be offered up from a private Belgian collector. The painting is estimated to sell in the mid $2 million range. It is particularly interesting that it pre-dates his famous water lilies series and has a similar patterned quality leading toward abstraction.

The current plant list from Giverny gardens does not list a white clematis vine now, but you can find a similar specimen; Clematis Artic Queen at your local nursery or from many mail-order houses including White Flower Farm- where one expects it to be available for spring delivery.

If you are thinking about visiting the famed garden in the Seine Valley do know that the start of the water lilies season is July. Until then we have the 2nd floor galleries at MoMA where now through April of 2010 Monet’s late paintings, including the water lilies triptych, are all together for the first time in the museum.


-Palo Alto, CA

Children’s furniture & play sculpture

This summer a new item was launched with a nod to the classic Charles & Ray Eames sculptural toy sold through the Vitra group. Now from Plan Toys is an elephant that can actually ‘walk’. This is not your ordinary push scooter toy - children will learn how to make the Walking Elephant move forward by rocking side to side. The item is constructed of natural plywood with sturdy handles for safety and navigation.

Children can role play that they are riding an elephant and exploring the jungle. The vendor states that this type of play will enhance their balance, motor skills, and coordination.

Designed for ages three and up.

When the kids outgrow their Barbar stories they may be ready to learn about the importance of saving elephants at risk through the groups like Save the Elephants. The group has been instrumental in helping to revitalize African elephant populations, while at the same time, increasing awareness in the many issues which threaten to erode elephant populations and the habitats in which they live.

They have programs in four countries that include a tracking system using GPS and Google technology.

Friday, October 9, 2009


Occupying the center of the courtyard of The Four Seasons George V Hotel is an enormous floral sculpture – scores of purple Vandas carefully hung at eye level are lined up in rows. The impact of color and scale is remarkable. Jeff Leatham floral design and information:


Exhibiting for the first time at the International Gift Fair was METIAL. A new textile company featuring designs by former GAP colleagues
Mita Patnaik & Jeff Oakes. The hand-woven silk and silk blends are made by an all women’s cooperative in Bangalore. Plan about 14-16 weeks for production time. These elegant stripes, checks, and spice colored solids add a new level of luxury to home textiles.

For more information:


A new furniture collection designed by Andrée Putman was just introduced at the Maison et Objet
show from FERMOB. From the grand dame of design who is credited with inventing the first “boutique hotel” for Ian Schrager, comes a collaboration featuring an aluminum furniture grouping that was inspired by one of Putman’s other famous projects- The Concorde for Air France.