By Katy B. Olson
Proving that thoughtful execution and affordability can merge, Jeffrey Alan Marks is the first big-name line in the Inspired by Kravet bedding series launched last fall at Bed Bath & Beyond, with a limited-edition collection that includes duvet covers, shams, throws and decorative pillows. Marks’s collection, found solely at the big-box retailer this spring and summer, features four patterns—Chromis, Treeline, Waterway and Whirlpool, each inspired by his hikes through meadows and explorations of lakes and rivers in Aspen. Marks and industry experts share insights into what makes a partnership like this come to life.
“The team at Bed Bath & Beyond discovered my fabric collection while visiting the Kravet Design Studio in New York,” explains Marks. “They loved it. So we began to work on a full bedding line inspired by the colors and patterns in my fabric collection. It was always my dream to have a bedding collection in the retail market, [and] Bed Bath & Beyond was the perfect fit.” Marks says that designers who aspire to launch collections with big retailers should take the initiative: “I have always believed that if you want something, pick up the phone and ask.”
Jessica Joyce, Bed Bath & Beyond’s spokeswoman, says the company is “always looking for innovative ways to partner with designers. Whether working with established, classic designers like Barbara Barry or up-and-coming decorators like Kyle Schuneman, our main priority is to offer unique, high-quality designs that speak to both existing and new customers.”
How does the designer-retailer partnership evolve? Joyce explains, “Each relationship is unique to the brand. Our merchants work in partnership with designers to create a collection that both is in line with the designer’s vision and also meets the needs of our customers.” She pointed to Bed Bath & Beyond’s other branded collections, ED Ellen DeGeneres, Beekman 1802, kate spade new york, DKNY, Kenneth Cole and Monique Lhuillier.
Large-scale retailers come with a sweeping reach. “With over 1,400 stores nationally, Bed Bath & Beyond is truly the biggest player in the world right now for bedding,” says Marks. “Although my collection is only available for a limited time, I’m hopeful the relationship will blossom and they will take my brand into more areas in their stores. Their business strategies are very much aligned with me and my brand. I feel very comfortable getting in bed with them!”
Designers also benefit from the marketing influence of retailers. “We pride ourselves on reaching customers via traditional and social media with an active and engaging program. When collaborating with a new designer,” explains Joyce, “it is important to understand what inspired the line, so we can share this story to educate and inspire our customers.” (One form of outreach: dedicated videos like the one below.)
Bed Bath & Beyond produced this video for Jeffrey Alan Marks for Inspired by Kravet as part of its marketing efforts.
Working with a retailer with such an extensive base also means that there’s potential for a new consumer to be introduced to the designer—and in this case, to the storied brand. Explains Beth Kimless Greene, executive vice president of marketing and strategic branding at Kravet, “By partnering with Bed Bath & Beyond, we are able to share the heritage of our company’s 100-year history with today’s design-savvy customer.”
A new Inspired collection will launch this summer, though Kravet hasn’t yet released the name of the next designer-collaborator.
Bryan Calkins, managing founder at the Design Commerce Agency, which links interior designers and manufacturers on licensing deals (DCA is not involved in Marks’s work with Bed Bath & Beyond), cites a particularly memorable collaboration between a mass-market retailer and a high-end brand: “My favorite example is what Martha Stewart did for Kmart in the mid-1980s,” he says. “Everyone thought she was crazy and it would destroy her brand, but it turns out her product was quite nice. It was inexpensive but in good taste, with a beautiful color palette that replaced or was in lieu of Kmart’s color palette for the rest of the store. It helped her brand, because it was well executed. Collaborations with the very high-end can work at the retail, mass-market level.”
Partnerships afford designers greater exposure, too: Interior designer Barbara Barry was approached by Bed Bath & Beyond and, since 2009, has designed collections and products including sheets, towels, bath and windows products, quilts and coverlets. “I love working with them,” shares Barry, who also has collections with Baker, Visual Comfort, HBF Textiles and other big names. “We design all of our own product, every minute detail. It is not a design collaboration, but a designer/retailer partnership. I love bringing thoughtful design to market at an affordable price.”