Twice a year, interior designers, buyers and bloggers flock to the High Point Market, often described as Fashion Week for home furnishings. It is the largest furnishings industry trade show in the world, with 2,000 exhibitors displaying their wares in 180 buildings and over 11.5 million square feet of show space. Each spring and fall, the Market hosts 75,000 people from more than a hundred countries, who travel to preview new products, discover new vendors, network, learn and spot trends for the season ahead. The small town transforms into a mini city, a whirl of colors, patterns and textures and buzzing with fashionable people.
NC State Wilson College of Textiles students Shyann Warren (Fashion and Textile Design ‘19) and Jessica Worley (Fashion and Textile Management ‘19) worked the Market this year as part of their internships — preparing for the event, giving showroom tours and helping designers make their orders.
“I typically gave showroom tours, helped customers check in as they entered our building and (aided in) any preparation for events on site throughout the week,” said Worley, who is interning with Universal Furniture. “There was always a constant flow of people coming in, so there was always something to do! Tours were definitely my favorite part; they really help you familiarize yourself with the product and interact with clients to find what they need.”
Worley discovered Universal while touring their showspace during the Fall 2017 Market with the student chapter of professional women’s organization WithIt.
“I knew I wanted to be involved with this awesome company in some capacity, so I connected with several employees on LinkedIn and decided to ‘shoot my shot,’” she said. “I asked about internship opportunities or even just part time work…I’ve been with them for two markets now and I love it!”
The Universal showspace was a mix of bright, natural light-filled spaces and cozy tableaux with moody lighting. Worley noticed a lot of textures, rattan and pattern mixing throughout.
“Unique textures make a piece of furniture or accent stand out and give a room character,” she said. “Rattan has recently become popular in the home furnishings world, but especially due to the release of our new line, ‘Coastal Living’ — this material was super prevalent throughout the Universal showroom.”
Warren interns with A. Hoke Limited, an interior design showroom open to the trade with locations in Charlotte and Raleigh.
“Basically, they act as a middleman to smaller, privately owned residential and commercial design companies who (don’t) have direct accounts with furniture companies,” she said. “Many furniture companies only handle larger accounts that buy a required minimum, so as a showroom we buy multiple furniture styles from the company and put them on our floor. Then, designers who are only looking to buy one sofa will buy off our floor.”
For each Market, she works at one of the vendors the company represents; this time, she gave designer tours at North Carolina-based furniture company Lee Industries.
“Each designer experience was unique,” she said. “I helped designers figure out what cushion and fill packages they preferred; selected fiber, fabric and trim practices; and paired furniture pieces for rooms. One designer even brought out her design blueprints and had me help pick out furniture and fabrics for the entire lake house she was designing for her client.”
The Lee Industries space was comprised of three floors, each with their own character.
“The opening floor was called the ‘Secret Garden,’ Warren said. “The entrance was filled with an array of large plants and bird cages which led to room layouts. This floor featured their new Lee Performers fabrics, which presented a new worn velveteen, animal skins, florals and solids, that all met their performance standards. The second floor encompassed a more bohemian vibe with mixed textures and prints, a pillow bar and custom made rug ottomans. Then the third floor held their sleepers, headboards and options for fill and cushioning packages. Overall, their showroom contained a lot of neutrals and earthy tones with some color. I saw a lot of blush pinks and shades of green.”
Warren noted there was a lot of attention toward performance fabrics.
“InsideOut fabrics by Valdese Weavers are very on trend,” she said. “I actually did a design internship at Valdese Weavers this summer and got a closer look into their process.”
Warren and Worley are both in the NC State student chapter of WithIt, a not-for-profit organization founded in 1997 for women in the home and furnishings industries.The organization’s focus is on building a community of support, networking and mentoring, as well as providing education and leadership opportunities. Members meet for an annual conference, hold seminars at markets, conduct regional chapter events and host leadership education seminars.
Warren joined last year and was one of the scholarship recipients for 2018; she is now the chapter president.
“Through this (scholarship opportunity), I gained tuition money and a free trip to their annual conference,”she said. “Last year’s conference was in Charleston, South Carolina at the Francis Marion Hotel. The weekend contained a lot of guest lectures from women in high up positions, breakout network sessions, and a Roaring Twenties-themed anniversary party. It was really beneficial because I made a lot of connections to women all over the country who work in the home industry.”
WithIt has a student mentoring day each Market. If you’re interested in joining the organization or want more information about the student chapter of WithIt here on campus, contact president Shyann Warren at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Worley hopes her Market experience will help her stand out among candidates after graduation.
“My heart is really in home furnishings,” she said. “The end goal is to be a merchandiser or marketing director for a furniture company such as Universal or Furnitureland South, but I will probably begin as a sales representative. I greatly enjoy that, as this is basically what our job is during Market!”
Headed to the Market this spring? Plan ahead! Research travel and accommodation options, vendors you wish to visit and events you want to attend. Registration for the Spring 2019 Market (April 6-10) opens in early January.
Cover photo: Showspace of Wesley Hall, Inc.
By Cameron Walker