Warren Shoulberg -- Home Textiles Today, 7/23/2012 2:00:00 AM
Home Textiles Today's ongoing series Living - & Working - Legends, features interviews with executives who have spent their careers in the home textiles industry and continue to manage the companies they own or help run. Each interviewee is asked the same eight questions, reflecting both their experiences and their thoughts on the future...their own and the industry's.
The accent was always a little hard to pin down - turns out it's from her native Argentina - but the look of the products she creates is instantly recognizable. Lydia Rose, the founder, matriarch and namesake of Dallas-based Rose Tree, has been designing fashion bedding and coordinates since the late 1970s after making the switch from apparel.
And while the petite, always impeccably-dressed Rose defers any discussion of her age with a laugh that can only be described as infectious, it's clear that despite the growing involvement of her son Mark in the family business, she is still very much the Rose in Rose Tree.
HTT found Rose in her deceptively elegant offices in the warehouse district of Dallas, interviewing her in a conference room that is classy as she is.
HTT: How did you get started in the home textiles business?
Lydia Rose: My original profession is as an apparel designer. I came here from Argentina in the mid-1960s with two degrees: one in journalism and one in art and design. Back then, Dallas had a good apparel manufacturing business, so I got a job designing clothing. But after getting married, I got tired of the quality of the apparel I was doing and decided to go into business for myself and focus on quality goods.
That's when I looked at home rather than apparel and founded Rose Tree in 1979. I did some tablecloths for Neiman's and Saks and then moved into decorative pillows and then bedding.
HTT: If you hadn't gone into this field, what would you have done?
LR: I'd probably still be an apparel designer. I was doing well in it. I still miss the excitement of fashion, but home can be fashionable, too. But I love what I do now.
Recently we've expanded into woman's accessories like hand bags and totes, all under the Rose Tree name.
HTT: When did you know you were going to be successful in this business?
LR: I'm an optimist by nature, so it never occurred to me that I wasn't going to be successful. We had put all our resources into starting the company, and one day my husband said to me, "Do you realize we could be poor with all of this?" That never occurred to me.
I remember we got a big order from Bullock's (a long-since-gone upscale department store in California). It was such a huge quantity it would have put us out of business. We said "no" to them and chose not to take the order.
HTT: What single accomplishment are you most proud of in your career?
LR: What makes me most proud is when people come into the showroom and say, "Your stuff is the nicest quality." We still get that, and I take a lot of pride in that. The quality level has never been bastardized, and nobody doubts my word if I say I'll fix something.
I thrive on the fact that when it gets out of here, it's right.
HTT: If you had to do something over, what would it be and how would you do it differently?
LR: I think we were probably late on the bandwagon in moving production overseas. Did it hurt me? Probably. Does it still hurt? No. Could we have had a bigger following? Probably.
It's not arrogance, it's just me. I don't know how to compromise.
HTT: What's the single-biggest change you've seen in the industry?
LR: It's been a long time coming, but there's no pride in quality or design. How many people want to take the steps to get it right? There seems to be just total ignorance and no knowledge. Where are the old merchants?
In a big company you can hide all kinds of incompetencies.
HTT: If you could do one thing to improve the industry's overall business, what would it be?
LR: I would return to the age of quality. Everyone's gone to cheaper and cheaper because the assumption is the customer doesn't know any better. But some do.
It's the retailers that have to drive this. Department stores could do it; they just have to have the will to do so. Maybe not all at once - it doesn't have to be 50 styles - but a little at a time. Textiles still have a good base at retail, people like to touch it.
Will we see it? Probably not.
HTT: What's your exit strategy?
LR: I don't have an exit strategy. This is a family business with my son involved, but I still go overseas seeing factories.
The day you don't see me here is the day I die.