Europe's fashion designers hope to mix and match luxuriantly in U.S. homes

December 26, 1993|By Jill Gerston | Jill Gerston,Contributing Writer

Taking a cue from Ralph Lauren, whose chic, pricey home designs have enamored fans across the Atlantic, some top European fashion designers, including Eman- uel Ungaro, Gianni Versace and Claude Montana, are trying to woo American clients with their own luxury home lines.

Design buffs bored with traditional print sheets and flower-sprigged china can now sample Italian and French collections that emphasize bold colors, offbeat patterns and motifs inspired by everything from Roman ruins to African cloth.

Naturally, the cachet of a European designer's name on a sheet or a teacup doesn't come cheap. A four-piece Versace place setting runs from $295 to $325; a single roll of Paloma Picasso wallpaper from $35 to $70.

"Obviously, a big part of the appeal is the name recognition, plus the quality and beauty of the designs," said Joan Engel, sales promotion director of the Bibb Co., the parent of Royalton, which licenses bed linens for Fendi and Claude Montana.

Recently, Mr. Versace launched a collection of rugs, cushions and duvets in the United States, after a "sensational" debut in Europe, according to spokesman Robert Wolf. "It's blowing out of the stores there, and we expect it to do the same here," he said.

The home decor, like the designer's fashions, is recognizable by its rich, intricate patterns and vivid colors embellished with gold. These are not subtle designs. But then Versace fans, who include a slew of European royals and American rock stars, tend to appreciate flamboyance.

Down-filled duvets come in lush baroque prints, silk cushions are patterned in leopard spots and the designer's riotously colored "Miami prints," while the dramatic 7-by-7-foot carpets are inspired by designs Mr. Versace has done for theatrical productions. The four china patterns, all of which are lavishly embellished with gold, include motifs of Medusa's head and Roman ruins.

The linens are carried by the Versace boutiques, while the china is available at Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdale's, I. Magnin and some specialty stores. A carpet is approximately $8,600; a twin duvet, $1,500, and a cushion, $250 and up.

Also new to the American market is a line of bed linens by Emanuel Ungaro for Crown Crafts. Mr. Ungaro's signature mixes of contradictory prints -- checks and florals, stripes and paisleys -- dominate the collection. Of his three bedding designs, "Botticelli" is the most striking: A black-and-white print is combined with boldly colored motifs of cards, cherubs and flowers. The collection is carried by Bloomingdale's, Macy's and Burdine's; queen-sized sheets are priced at $100; a set of standard-size pillow cases is $75.

Paloma Picasso, whose name is already affixed to jewelry, accessories, perfumes and china, has added wallpaper and fabrics to her expanding empire. The color palette of "Paloma Picasso La Maison Collection" is heavy on black, tobacco and the designer's signature scarlet, while patterns run to stripes, checks, plaids and paisleys. A delicate red-and-white chintz and a colorful hydrangea print are two of the few floral motifs among her elegant, contemporary patterns. Prices for fabrics range from $40 to over $200 a yard. The collection is available through designer showrooms and select retail outlets. (For more information, call [800] 431-2424.)

Although Claude Montana and Fendi bed linens have been available in the United States for over two years, they both just introduced new collections.

In addition to Fendi's signature tan-and-black stripe, the new patterns include a pastel Italian garden motif, complete with classic balustrade and a soft blue-and-gold Tuscan tile print.

Mr. Montana's line features a Mondrian-inspired color block print; a black-and-maize design influenced by African cloth and a jewel-tone patchwork print.

Both collections are available at Dayton Hudson and Marshall Field, among other stores. Twin sheets are approximately $15; a Fendi twin comforter set is $160, a Montana set is $170.

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