Unfolding the Ten Greatest Sheets of All Time
Warren Shoulberg -- Home Textiles Today, 12/19/2011 2:00:00 AM
Let's face it: Nobody really knows who invented the sheet. We don't know when, we don't where and we certainly don't know what the first user thought about the whole thing.
What we do know is that since then there have been literally thousands of different designs, patterns, colors, constructions and permeations of sheets turned out by the companies that supply them, both here in the United States and around the world.
Certainly nobody has ever seen them all, much less had a chance to evaluate their relative merits. Such an exercise would be nothing less than sheer sheet madness.
That said and undeterred, Home Textiles Today editors thought it would be a noble effort to name the Ten Greatest Sheets of All Times, an incredibly subjective and somewhat irrational ranking to say the least. To arrive at this vaunted list, HTT enlisted the aid of a number of veterans in the home textiles industry, both on the supply and retail sides of the trade. Many had hands in creating these products or sold them in the stores they worked at. All of their names are being withheld to protect their professional standings as well as from abuse from colleague s.
The criteria for establishing this ranking are obtuse at best. A sheet needed to be important in one or more areas: Superior design, first to market in a significant way, strong sales, longevity and long-term impact on the marketplace. Aesthetics meets commerce, if you will.
We supplemented the core Top 10 ranking with several additional shorter lists that took into consideration elements beyond a single sheet pattern and reflected an entire collection, brand or program. There is also a separate ranking for construction, which seemed to be justified.
All dates are best guesstimates based on a rapidly fading collective memory.
Readers will notice a preponderance of patterns from the 1980s and 1990s. Nostalgia? Perhaps. But more likely, a reflection of a time when retailers were not so keyed in on exclusives and a strong pattern could be sold at multiple competing nameplates across the industry.
How will these rankings sit with others in the trade? Depends where you in fact sit wit hin the industry. Old-timers may scoff (only old-timers actually scoff anymore) at some selections and newbies will stare blankly at some of these long-since-passed names, wondering where the latest one-month wonder is.
And none of them will be wrong. Our list is presented with all good intentions as an amuse bouche in anticipation of the new year arriving any day now. Consider it a tasty morsel to soothe your palette at a time when dealing with current industry events can be much more distasteful.
Keeping with that theme, we present, in alphabetical order, the Ten Greatest Sheets of All Time, with all due respect for the folks at Zagat.
The Top 10 Sheets
Allison (Ralph Lauren)
Late 1980s-Early 1990s
The "first great print" pattern that "put Ralph Lauren on the map," perhaps the most "quintessentially Polo" print ever in that line, it was a "best seller" at every department that sold it. There have been dozens and dozens of Lauren prints since "but there'll never be another Allison."
Probably "the best selling single sheet pattern of all time," Amalfiwas "first a shower curtain" designed by Pat Farrell and then the people at Springs decided it might make "a nice bed." And while the original multi-colored contemporary abstract was the star, there were "multiple colorations" and price point spin-offs, making Amalfiperhaps the most "knocked-off" pattern of all time, too.
Not really a print, it was a "double embroidery scallop on white," a "classic" design that was a "perennial" strong seller over many, many years. That it came from a major mill and not some small specialty supplier made it "all the more remarkable."
An "easy-to-digest, diagonal stem pattern on a white ground" Dior Rose was probably mentioned by more people than any other single pattern, a testament to its place in sheet history. Sales were "huge" over the lifetime of this "gangbuster" pattern, which showed that less is very often more.
Elizabeth Anne (Tommy Hilfiger)
In the first Hilfiger collection of 1997, this pattern ranks as the "best seller ever" in the brand. A "classic" with a long run, it set the tone for the Hilfiger collection and "it ran in every department store in the country."
In Full Bloom (Liz Claiborne)
"They said yellow would never sell" in bedding...until this bright floral came along with the debut of the Liz program. Probably the single best-selling Claiborne pattern ever, it unleashed a "torrent" of knock-offs both from within and without the company, but "none ever sold as well as the original."
Another colorful abstract, it set off "the whole evergreen and maroon thing" that overtook the industry and much of home design for several years. As was the Springs MO at the time, there were "many takes" on the Jeweled Marble design theme in many products at many price points.
Sophia (Laura Ashley)
J.P. Stevens/WestPoint Stevens/Revman International
There are many candidates from the Ashley stable, but Sophia "did the most volume of any of them" and "is still running." "That doesn't happen anymore." A "classic floral," Sophia is one of many in a "long list" of female-named and inspired design motifs.
Thoroughbred (Ralph Lauren)
Late 1980s-Early 1990s
From the debut Ralph Lauren collection "it was the first paisley," establishing a classic motif that has been used ever since. It was also "probably the first design printed overseas in fiber-reactive dyes," which became another Lauren signature element.
Zuni (Collier Campbell)
West Point Pepperell
Another house with "many contenders," Zuni was cited most often for its use of color, the trademark of sisters Susan Collier and Sarah Campbell. Zuni "turned the market" upside down and "added a fashion presence to bedding that had been missing for some time."