Lucca's Poulter Unveils Kiska Textiles to Wholesalers in Canada and United States
GDA Staff -- Gifts & Dec, May 10, 2011
TORONTO - It took Beth Poulter many years to realize that all along, she had in her possession the perfect recipe for making her dreams of developing her own collection of home textiles for the wholesale market come true.
Poulter, who for the past 12 years has owned and operated a luxury linens store here - Lucca Home - has for years been amassing a personal cache of antique Japanese textiles, including one special silk that had long been forgotten. She also maintains a stash of her own sketches, along with with a love of Eastern and Impressionist fine arts, that all together sparked her to create her own patterns for a new collection of fabrics and finished home textiles.
Now, two years since coming into fruition, Poulter's Kiska Textiles line is marking two major milestones - it is establishing its first wholesale business, and within that effort Kiska is making its first move across the border into the U.S. market.
"It took me years and years and years of doodling and scribbling, and finally two years ago I started printing, and now it's finally taking off," Poulter said. "It has been really well-received. I only started trying to wholesale the line at the beginning of the year, and after appointments with stores in Montreal and in Kingston, they all took it. It's really something."
Kiska has been in development and available to customers on Lucca's store shelves since summer 2009. Then in summer 2010, the second collection was released, followed in October by another highlight.
"When the Dalai Lama came to Toronto last fall, his bed was made in my textiles," Poulter gushed.
This past January, Poulter partnered with three Canadian linens boutiques - two in Montreal and one in Kingston - and soon after aligned with longtime high-end home linens designer Nancy Koltes to feature Kiska at her Beverly Hills, Calif.-based studio and retail store.
"[Kiska] is delightful, refreshing, has a younger look, is bright, colorful and cheerful," Koltes told HTT. "It is a great addition to my assortment and very different from what I have. [Beth] and I have worked together many years, so it's nice to now go in each direction."
Koltes said she first saw Poulter's new prints during a visit to Lucca last fall. "I just loved them, so I took pictures and had samples sent to the store and we went from there."
Aside from a different style offering from her own more formal upscale looks, Koltes said Kiska represents for her store a new and untapped market and price level - essentially a mid-range ticket for a younger aspirational shopper.
"Beth's prints make a very bold statement and they come at the right price that is for a younger audience who loves color and is seeking an opportunity to have a nice bedding ensemble at a decent price point," Koltes explained.
Poulter's background is in Asian arts. Originally from Vancouver, she spent six years living and working in Japan at the onset of her career.
"That is where I developed my love of pattern and textiles," she said. "I wrote a lot of papers drawing parallels between French and Japanese art, and in some unconscious way it has affected the way I create and churn stuff."
While in Japan, Poulter also started collecting old Japanese woodblock prints - another source of inspiration for her.
"There is a lot of patterning and layering in those. And that is really where a lot of this has in some way morphed into my own patterns on textiles," she explained.
She returned to Canada 17 years ago, making a new home in Toronto. Within five years, she opened Lucca, which offers upscale bedding, bath and home textiles accessories linens in many designer brands - Nancy Koltes, Sferra Bros., SDH, Leitner, Home Treasures, N.C. Souther, John Robshaw, The Purists, Jonatex, and St. Geneve, as well as accessories from a number of other designers in North America and Europe.
Poulter's business was humming along, but her assortment was lacking a personal touch.
"About five years into it [the store], I got to thinking that I needed to design my own line. So I started digging through my old scraps and doodles and fabrics and started thinking of patterns," she explained. "There were some old Japanese silks that I forgot I had, and I was looking at how I could reinterpret them into home textiles. I really didn't want an obvious mix, and that is what I like about my collection now. I don't like the bed-in-a-bag approach. You can take four of my patterns and they don't necessarily go together, but the more you combine them up the more they work."
Poulter said block-printing quality "is really about taking a one-dimensional product like a painting" but then using the Japanese wood-blocking technique of layering in patterns and colors "on one another to turn them into three dimensional pieces of art. There is a lot of depth to their work, and it is all about the layering. In creating Kiska, I think I have instinctively picked up on that through osmosis just by looking at them and loving them."
Kiska currently comprises upholstery fabrics and finished top of bed goods, all of which, she explained said, are block-printed in two studios in India and then finished in Canada. She said the fabrics are shipped to her at Lucca and then the finished goods are sewn in Toronto.
The fabrics are made in three different weights - a light-weight cambric for duvets, cases and shams and other bedding linens as well as drapery; and then two heavier weights for the upholstery fabrics and even some of the accessory pieces like decorative pillows, including a heavier cotton twill and a cotton flax blend "that has a real artisanal feel to it, and can be used for bedding, throw pillows and table lines," Poulter noted.
Top of bedding comprises the initial offering of Kiska Textiles. Table linens and sheeting, among other soft home textiles categories, will soon follow.
Poulter includes her Kiska collection in her merchandise mix, giving it equal placing against the other nine designer brands she currently carries at Lucca.
"I try to keep it all even," she said.
She said she stocks more Kiskabranded goods in inventory versus some of her other branded products.
"I have to store it somewhere," she explained, laughing. "My storage facility also operates as a showroom."
On display at Lucca are four bedding vignettes - one of them dedicated to Kiska and the other three which rotate among the other brands - as well as a cabinet that is stocked only with Kiska-branded fabrics "because my linen closet at home is already too full of fabrics." Kiska also includes robes in its initial assortment.
Pricewise, Kiska Textiles falls "mid-range here in the store, filling a whole market I was missing."
Poulter explained that "not too many people are spending $1,000 on a duvet cover during this recession. So I've brought [Kiska Textiles] in at the right time. It was definitely the right move because I caught a new mid-range price level I didn't have before."
Kiska duvet covers are set to retail in the United States starting at $350 twin, $395 queen, and $440 king.
Upholstery Kiska fabrics by the yard fall at about $96 at retail.
Kiska is also available to the trade as yard-goods at Primavera Interior Furnishings in Toronto.
While Poulter is happy to have embarked on her first wholesale initiatives, she said her goals are only starting to be met.
"I have 500 patterns in my pattern bank already. I just have to make sure I don't do too much at once," she said. "I plan to introduce new patterns every season, and my real goal is to take Kiska fully into wholesale to be able to pass along the business to my kids."
Her two daughters - ages 8 and 11 - are already getting their feet wet. "They sew little skirts for their [teddy] bears and paint watercolors to give me new patterns to work with," she said, "or I ask them to paint them for me."
Poulter’s store displays a colorful stack of duvets that represents a sampling of her Kiska collection.
One of the brand’s more popular groupings includes the silver metallic “Butterflies” design in the back, the Excalibur gray in the back right, Suzani Vines in in the front left, and Suzani Flower in amethyst in the front.
The Black Blocks grouping addresses more monochromatic tastes with a design Poulter described as “Chanel meets Mata Hari.”
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