Fringe Element

Could the return of trim be an indicator of economic recovery?

Alex-papachristidis-home-1112-xl3Alex Papchristidis’s Manhattan living room courtesy Elle Decor

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I dislike the word ‘trend’.  It’s always seemed to me that the most creative design professionals have an intellectual process behind their work that transcends what’s currently fashionable.

With that in mind, it’s hard to deny the trend away from specifying trim during the downturn of the American economy in recent years.  Honestly, can you remember the last editorial in which trims were prominently featured?  It seems that everyone (except perhaps for Ann Getty) got the ‘less is more’ memo.

That all changed when Elle Decor published Alex Papachristidis and Scott Nelson’s Manhattan apartment last fall, resplendent with colorful gimp, moss fringe, and key tassels.

Flipping through the pages (which seemed to channel Robert Denning & Vincent Fourcade) I began wondering.  Could the return of trim be an indicator of economic recovery?

I decided to ask our Design Editor Carl Lana to weigh in on the subject.  This is his assessment;

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“In the days of opulence and overt displays of wealth in the 80’s and 90’s, the big statement was made with passementerie, or trim as we refer to it here in America.  The application of silk fringe and tie-backs was very fashionable, and sought out by my clients.  At Beale-Lana Interior Design, we went to great pains to have all of our trims color coordinated or dyed to match.  The silk threads were coordinated with fabrics, and in many cases a fringe would be doubled or tripled for that ‘over the top’ look that seemed to scream success (or was it excess?)  Crazy to imagine, but the use of these embellishments could double the costs of materials used to make any given window treatment or piece of upholstery.

Then the tides changed.  A more casual and discrete style emerged which favored restraint and lack of fuss and frill.  In all honesty, I am more inclined to favor a simpler, relaxed room today, but a bit of trim here and there never hurt anyone.  A pillow or cushion with some tassels or cording won’t tip the scales.  I wouldn’t hesitate to specify that hint of luxury again.  In fact, some of my clients still ask for it, but in smaller doses.  So I would say trim isn’t dead.  My opinion is that as the fashion for traditional returns (as it will) the popularity of trims will be on the rise once more.  In a new context with a fresh purpose, trims can be original and stylistically fitting in a well-appointed room today.”

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To get an even clearer picture, I stopped in to see Joe Stegmayer of Passementerie Inc., in New York’s D&D Building.  He’s been in the trim business most of his life, having worked for Scalamandre for nearly 3 decades before opening his firm at the turn of the millennium.

Joe explained that the movement away from traditional interiors, coupled with the recession, has caused nearly a 50% decrease in his sales since 2008.  He shared that keeping his Long Island City factory busy (where all of his trims are still made) has at times been challenging.  But he explained things might be looking up, as an interest in passementerie is returning not only with his long time customers like McMillan, Mario Buatta, and Cullman and Kravis, but with younger firms.
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So I’m wondering.  Do you think a return to more opulent interiors that incorporate braids, fringes, tassels and cords could be a signal the economy is rebounding?  Or is it more likely that the decorating zeitgeist has simply shifted away from trimming for the foreseeable future?

7 thoughts on “Fringe Element”

  1. I too believe a bit of trim, for that small portion of color and/or texture, is needed to balance the elements of a space. It could be a simple tape, but I think it really elevates the room to that ” professionally designed” feel. Unless someone is really into the ornate feel however, I doubt we will ever be going back to passementerie as a large element in a room. Too bad, I love saying the word!

    1. I’m with you Susan. I think there are an incredible number of discreet cords, tapes and gimps that could easily say ‘an interior designer has been here’ without being vulgar. Excess is now a dirty word.

  2. i fear the passementerie industry has failed in a major way to educate designers how to use trims in a modern setting. when the visual slips into something minimal the kinds of trim that work are very different. a big opportunity not yet explored by the industry i would imagine.

    1. I hadn’t thought of it that way Jim. It does seem as though the manufacturers could have done a better job adapting to both the economic climate and the stylistic shift of our industry.

  3. Personally,as an omitted trim junkie, passementerie will always be included in classic designs as the icing on the cake of any great window treatment or pillow embellishment. A designer forgetting or omitting this is like sending a model down the runway without her shoes or accessories!

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