Breakthroughs in Bed Linens

Home Textiles Today -  discussing the "Greatest Constructions" in bedding.

Home Textiles Today Staff -- Home Textiles Today, 12/19/2011 2:00:00 AM

Thread count: That's about the only element of sheet construction that truly has ever really mattered to the consumer. And like horsepower and bandwidth, the measurement process is much less important than the absolute truth that more is better.

But those in the trade - or at least some of those in the trade - recognize that there's more to sheet construction than picks. So we've pulled together a handful of technological advancements in making sheets that have been among the most important over the history of the industry. And as with design and the creative arts, construction is in the eye of the beholder.

Fitted Sheet Pacific Home Fashions 1950s -- Current Joked about "as the biggest technological advancement ever" in the industry, fitted sheets are no laughing matter to the consumer, who has come to accept nothing less for a bottom sheet. Hospital corners? Never heard of them. Pacific's place in the industry was absorbed by Wamsutta and eventually by Springs, but for the bed-making population of the world, the gratitude is eternal.

Jersey Sheets Divatex 1980s -- Current Sheets like shirts - T-shirts, that is - had been tried many times over the years, knitted rather than woven to give the hand and feel of a favorite top. But Divatex was in the right spot at the right time when "Oprah picked up a Shabby Chic set" and raved about them as only Oprah can do. Suddenly "T-shirt sheets" were hot and while they continue to ebb and flow with the times and are now offered throughout the industry, they remain the only non-woven construction that has ever secured real market share.

Percale 1960s-Current Many companies No supplier is identified with bringing percale to the market and indeed there is no consensus on when that happened. But the widespread acceptance of the percale construction - generally defined as any woven of 180-thread count or more - in the 1980s redefined the industry and changed the dynamics of most producers forever. "They just looked and felt so great compared to muslin."

60/40 250-Thread Count Cannon Early 1980s Again, you will get many arguments on who really upped the thread count wars, but some claim this Cannon product was "one of the biggest game changers." In a marketplace where the vast majority of sheets were under 200-count, Cannon's 250 "really started the march to higher thread counts."

1000 Thread Count Sferra 2000s One more case of multiple players in the space, but luxury supplier Sferra gets the nod for being the most successful at breaking the four-figure mark in counts. The Italian sateen was a multi-ply product, getting to the 1000 level not quite through the classic definition, but no matter. "While the number is just hype, it was a huge milestone in the industry." It set off a "runaway" thread-count war, but in doing so, eventually set the stage for a modest retreat into a marketplace where other elements of sheet constructions - fiber, finish and origin - started to come into their own.

Greatest Designer Programs

Maybe it was Gucci, maybe it was Mary Martin: No consensus exists on which was the first true designer program in bedding, but there has been no shortage of them since. And for every Ralph or Tommy, there have been many Joe Namaths, which one observer called the "worst program of all time." Many of the true greats are recognized in the Top Ten list itself, but not all, so it seemed only fair to recognize a handful of the most important designer programs of all time.

Bill Blass Springs 1980s-2000s One of the "longest running" programs ever - 25 years - Blass products went far beyond its namesake's "men's wear" origins to encompass all manner of designs and products. Blass' reputation of not exactly being the most hands-on home designer notwithstanding, the line was a perennial seller for as long as any name in the business.

Calvin Klein Home Innovations/Crown Craft/DWI 1990s-Current The home industry waited - and waited - for Calvin Klein to make the jump from jeans and underwear and when he did, it was with a "truly different" look previously unavailable in the marketplace. The "minimalist," often monochromatic designs provided a "contemporary alternative" to the rich florals that dominated the marketplace.

Laura Ashley Burlington/J.P. Stevens/WestPoint Stevens/Revman International 1980s - Current For many consumers "their first entry" into fashion bedding, the Ashley line - now arguably the longest running designer program in the industry - "struck a cord" with women "who went to work in buttoned-up suit styles but wanted their homes to be feminine."

Ralph Lauren J.P. Stevens/WestPoint Stevens/WestPoint Home/Ralph Lauren 1980s-Current He invented the word - and the concept - "lifestyle" and has run with it ever since. Now a "multi-tiered, multi-branded" giant, Ralph Lauren is quite arguably the single best-selling designer program ever. From "sweet prints" to modern contemporary to formal florals and paisleys, the line - and don't forget the substantial solid color programs - just keeps selling

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