Sharyn Blond Linens Finds Niche in Handmade Madeira Linens
Cecile Corral -- Gifts & Dec, June 12, 2012
FAIRWAY, KAN. - There is an unlikely yet steadfast link between this small, Middle American suburb of Kansas City and the Portuguese archipelago of Madeira.
And it's thanks to veteran home textiles designer and purveyor Sharyn Blond.
Here in her cozy, 800-square-foot eponymous store - Sharyn Blond Linens - she has long created, presented and sold high-end, hand-embroidered Belgian linens made at a partner embroidery house in the island's capital, Funchal.
Blond has worked with the same Portuguese facility for the past 15 years, and she travels there about three times per year to work closely with its artisans, including embroideresses and expert needlewomen, on developing her own branded line as well as custom orders for her clients back home.
Originally, the business was started by the late home textiles embroidery legend Constance Leiter, who established the store and started working overseas with a different Portuguese embroidery house.
Known internationally for her designs for embroidered linens, Leiter's work remains alive today and part of Blond's portfolio.
In fact, Blond kept Leiter's name on the storefront for the first five years, but changed it to her own name a decade ago to reflect the new business ownership and direction.
"Today, we continue to carry a lot of the same lines Constance had, but since then we've added new lines and new categories of linens," said Courtney Gray, manager.
A designer in her own right, whose career in retail spans about three decades, Blond is constantly developing her own designs, patterns and collection of embroidered linens and has over time made them the focal point of her offering. She uses 600 thread colors and 40 linen shades to create her vast collections of bedding, bath, table and kitchen linens.
"Every stitch of her linens is hand embroidered - no machine is involved," Gray noted. "She loves the business and all of its components."
Among her clients, which include interior decorators, Blond has become known for the way she updates traditional patterns and looks with contemporary color schemes.
"Coral and aqua are really Sharyn's colors," Gray said. "She loves those colors. They are her favorites. And she knows how to use them and other more modern palettes on timeless patterns that can be adapted to reflect a particular customer's tastes."
Her services include registries for bridal and baby as well as wish lists for customers, monogramming, and in-home consultations for bedding and bath décor and table settings.
Gray has noticed "a change" in the store's registry requests, which has shifted in Blond's favor.
"When people came to register with us, they registered for Constance's linens. And they still do, but now they are registering more and more for Sharyn Blond linens," Gray explained.
Also growing in the business are orders for monogrammed goods. "People are crazy about monograms these days, so we offer them either hand-embroidered or appliqué."
Blond's lines are sold at her storefront here as well as at a few, select stores across the country, including Lita Austin Foster in Palm Beach, Fla. and Sue Fisher King in San Francisco.
The company also sells a limited assortment on www.Taigan.com. Here, shoppers can peruse "select patterns" of in-stocks, including cocktail napkins, guest towels, and finger tip towels, as well as custom order bedding and table linens.
Trunk shows provide another venue for the retailer. Staged at the private homes of customers across the country, Blond's trunk show events run from one to three days and draw 50 to 100 area shoppers.
Gray explained that for trunk shows, the company brings "in-stock merchandise for takeaway as well as all of our samples of table and bed linens to be able to show people our range of patterns, and then we show them the variety we offer in colors and patterns to choose from for a custom collection."
Interior decorators make up a growing segment of her clientele. Blond recently collaborated with Palm Beach, Fla.-based Celerie Kemble to create the "Celebration" line of cocktail napkins and guest towels inspired by the decorator's personal collection of vintage party hats.
Textiles account for roughly 80% of the mix at Sharyn Blond Linens, with small-scale decorative home furnishings filling in the assortment.
At right, guest towels featuring Blond’s designs.
Interior decorators are a key client base. Celerie Kemble worked with Blond to create an exclusive line of cocktail napkins and guest towels insipred by Kemble’s collection of vintage party hats.
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