Tales Of A Fourth Generation Textile Executive: A Touching Story From Quilt Market…please read to the end

I am back from the quilt market in Salt Lake City, Utah and it happily exceeded my expectations.  It also defied a lot of the pre-quilt market predictions which is a good thing too, but that is for another blog.  I guess that it was easy to exceed my expectations since they were pretty low. Did it exceed your expectations or not? The truth is that the the biggest challenge for me the entire week was getting acclimated to the time difference.  It was only two hours, but it was exacerbated by the ungodly hour that I left my house on Wednesday…4:30 am.
430I am very pleased to say that the quilt market has provided me with lots of new ammunition to keep my blog full of new stuff to blah blah blog about. It was truly great to see old friends, meet lots of new people and make lots of new business contacts. Shockingly, after much of my blog poking and prodding, emails and phone calls, I am very pleased to say that Karey Bresenhan, owner of Quilts Inc. tracked me down to talk. Unfortunately, I was in the middle of an appointment when she visited so we didn’t have time to chat, but we made contact nonetheless.  You have to start somewhere.  On top of that, I was really happy to have received a follow up email from Karey, last night, about trying to make contact again soon. So good for you Karey for reaching out. Progress is a good thing.

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I am hopeful that Karey and I can catch up in the coming weeks to have some meaningful conversations about adapting the quilt market format to the current environment of our industry. As you know, times they are a changin’. I guess we will see what happens. With that, I am asking all those people who have emailed me, called me or stopped me at market with reference to my blogs to say they agreed that the market needed some change to email scott@jaftex.com with some good and realistic ideas about making the quilt market amazing again for everyone (the owner, the vendors, the customers, etc.). I will be glad if we can bring all the issues to the forefront and discuss them in a meaningful way rather than just sweeping them under the rug.

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Speaking of my blog, I always wonder if anyone is actually reading it because no one ever comments except the spammers. It is funny because just about every week, my dad says to me, “Don’t you have anything better to do with your time than write blogs?” All the comments that I hear at market, especially at this market, affirm that people are actually reading my blogs, so I am not quitting yet. Tales Of A Fourth Generation Textiles lives on. Enough of that.

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So now let me tell you a really touching story from the quilt market that was stimulated by the new American Honor line by Tana Mueller of Western Denim & Dirt for The Blank Quilting Corp. Yeah, I  know this is the Studioe Fabrics blog, but it is my blog and you need to hear this. So while I was dazzling this customer (let’s call her S), that sells fabric in Illinois, we came upon the American Honor line. All of a sudden, I look up and this lovely young lady is starting to tear up and cry. I was totally baffled. Never had I seen a person cry about fabric.

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After consoling S for a little, she calmed down and proceeded to tell my brother and I that this line truly touched her heart more than we could imagine. It really hit home. S told us that she and all her siblings (9 in total) were present and former military personnel. This one particular design really hit home for her. I am not going in to details describing the design because I can’t do it justice, but basically it was the image of a special formation of the gear of a fallen soldier (See below on the left). Wow! How powerful! Kudos to Tana for really getting the message across loud and clear. And that is my touching story.

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With that, I would just like to say thank you to S and her family and to all those brave hearts that protect the amazing freedoms that we enjoy in America. Thank you for all you do from the bottom of my heart. That is just a little something for all my readers to think about this coming Memorial Day weekend and everyday. I know I will and I will make sure my kids are thinking about it too.

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Lastly, I am going to call customer S later today and advise her that my family, on behalf of the Jaftex Companies, would like to make a $1000 donation in honor of soldier S to any military related charity of her choice. God bless you S, your family and all those who have lost their lives protecting this great country! God bless AMERICA, land of the free and home of the brave!

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Amen To That,
Salute Our Soldiers Scott

PS…If soldier S allows me to reveal who she is, I will do that in the future. Moreover, I will also advise all my readers and social media followers the charity that soldier S selects in case you too want to honor soldier S and all the soldiers out there.

Piet would be so proud! A guest post by Pepper Cory

The following is a reprint of Pepper Cory’s post, originally published on http://peppercory.blogspot.com/ 

 

For the past couple of years I’ve been associated with StudioE Fabrics, the independent stores’ niche in the Jaftex Company. Other Jaftex holdings include Blank Quilting, Henry Glass, and A.E. Nathan among others.

The line of shot cottons we designed called Peppered Cottons has sold well for the company. Explaining just a bit here: ‘shot’ means that the warp (lengthwise threads on the loom) are one color while the weft (the thread carried from side-to-side by the shuttle) is another. The blending of two colors can produce fabrics that are either subtle or occasionally startling.

If the colors in a woven shot cotton are related, such as royal blue plus turquoise, when woven together they create an intense medium blue. The new shade coordinates with both true blue prints and all the aquas and turquoise-related colors.

Sometimes the blending of colors creates shades that are quite delicious and rare. Seen here: Grellow (yellow woven with grey) that shows as a light strange off-shade of green.

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Or Morning Glory, a purple plus blue blend.

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But sometimes a quiltmaker hungers for a pure color, an intense and strong shade, and it’s difficult to achieve that effect in a true shot (bi-color) weave. Red, in particular, is a color people love. When they want a real red in a quilt, they don’t mean Cherry Red or Burgundy Red. They mean RED. Sometimes only a pure color will do. Enter yarn-dyed true colors. Yarn-dyed means that the fabric is not first woven and then dyed red (the usual steps in solid color production). Rather the very threads, before being even warped on the loom, are dyed red. The red dye deeply permeates the very fibers of the fabrics and, when woven with the same red in the warp and weft, the process produces an intense color.

While formerly Flame was our only true color in the Peppered Cottons lineup, at this Spring Quilt Market, we’re introducing twelve new colors and four of them are true shades.

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Meet Deep Space,

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a black that’s blacker-than-black and its opposite–

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White Sugar. Sorry that the white looks like a hole in the blog–it’s just super-white! And adding to the basic color wheel here’s True Royal

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and Buttercup,

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a truly happy strong yellow.

 

Composition with red, Blue, and Yellow (1930)
Composition in red, blue, and yellow (1930) by Piet Mondrian.

Then I realized those true colors are the palette of many of Piet Mondrian’s masterpieces.
So if you’ve been wanting to do a Mondrian tribute quilt, we’ve got your colors!

 

Come and see the NEW Peppered Cotton colors on the StudioeFabrics Website

Tales Of A Fourth Generation Textile Executive: My Quilt Market Crystal Ball Is Getting Clearer

I am headed to Salt Lake City, Utah bright and early this Wednesday for the International Quilt Market.  In preparation for the market, I am running through a variety of scenarios in my head in anticipation of what I expect to see and hear.

Skyline of downtown Salt Lake City with the Towering Wasatch Mountain range in the background.
Skyline of downtown Salt Lake City with the Towering Wasatch Mountain range in the background.

I hate to keep beating the dead horse, but I think for sure we are going to hear more about the sorry state of the Quilt Market and the fabric industry too.

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With respect to Quilt Market, I believe that low vendor attendance will be noticeable and this will be the talk of the show.  Attendance will be down for many of the same reasons we have been hearing about over the last couple of years (hard to be away from the shop, too expensive,  too far, can buy from a sales rep, etc.)   I expect US shops written orders will be down as that has been the trend of late.  More and more people say things like “we will buy from our rep when they visit us.”  This is legitimate reasoning, but is still frustrating nonetheless for most.  For me, I am confident that our reps will do a great job selling to their customers and they will probably do better than we would at the booth due to the time pressures, distractions and other market related constraints.

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With respect to the fabric/quilting industry, there are many subjects at the forefront right now.  Of course there is the chain stores vs. quilt shops vs. online sellers.  That is a constant discussion which I am sure will continue.  The state of the chain store industry is quite dire right now with only Wal-mart, Joann’s Fabrics and Hobby Lobby standing since the demise of Hancock Fabrics.  Moreover, if you have opened any business newspaper lately, you have seen how the big box retailers are really suffering which many attribute to online competition from the likes of Amazon.com.  These chain stores are all under extreme pricing pressure and are trying more and more to take out the middleman i.e. some fabric vendors that attend quilt market.  Then there is the discussion of how the quilt shops can compete with the likes of Fabric.com, Craftsy & Missouri Star to name a few.  In short, retail is in strife and everyone is scrambling to figure out how to survive.

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Speaking of survival, many fabric convertors, especially those who sell to the chains, are struggling to survive.  Due to the shrinking customer base, the fact that more chains are buying direct from the mills and taking out the middleman, many fabric convertors are teetering.  The fabric sales pie has shrunk in an unbelievable way which really hit home when Wal-mart started buying direct from the mills last year.  Add the lower selling prices due to competition, lower prices due to the chain buyers knowing the pricing and essentially making fabric a commodity, and things are as challenging as I have ever seen them.  On the one hand, it would probably be healthy to lose some suppliers in the shakeout.  On the other hand, it is a sad and scary state.  For the Jaftex Companies however, this has always been the time to pick up the scraps and find a struggling company to buy and revive or integrate in to our organization.

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As I have mentioned before, the most important reason for our companies to attend market is to be able to see our international distributors.  Our international distributors help us to get our lines off the ground.  I anticipate that the big discussions from the international customers will be the pain from the strength of the US dollar.  Unfortunately, I have no control over this, but I am sure this will be used as a reason to rationalize buying less or putting off purchases for a later date.  This makes absolute sense, but it just adds another negative to the list of worries.  A new subject that I expect will come up is how the US distributors and quilt shops are shipping all over the world.  In essence, the world is becoming one homogeneous market.  This too will be another problem for the international folks demonstrating how violent the competition has become.  After reading through everything I just wrote above, it just seems like a vicious cycle of how competition is making everyone adjust to the environment and things are getting very fierce and unpredictable.  As you can probably deduce, this quilt market is going to be stressful.  Wish me luck!

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If I survive the week, I will be sure to report back to you next week to let you know how well my crystal ball predicted the events for the week.

Until Next Time,

Skeptical Scott

Tales Of A Fourth Generation Textile Executive: Sad News About The Second Generation & The Heirloom Bris Outfit

 

First and foremost, I wanted to say that I hope all the mothers out there had a wonderful mother’s day.  Of course, I wanted to give a special shout out to my mother, my wife, my sister, my sister-in-law, my mother-in-law, my aunts and most importantly Granny Isabel who is 96 years young. God bless you all and thanks for all you do.

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Speaking of Granny Isabel, she was married to my Grandpa Everett (2nd generation Jaftex Corp.).  And, I am sorry to say that my grandfather’s second brother, Gilbert, died this past weekend.  With that, I am sad to say that the second generation of Fortunoff’s has come to an end.  Gilbert was the only Fortunoff brother who did not ever partake in the family fabric business.  The second generation had a nice run at life.

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So a couple weeks ago I was looking through my closet and I came across a truly incredible family heirloom. I have in my possession this fancy little outfit that my grandfather Everett wore for his bris.  See the photo below.

This is Grandpa "Sonny" Everett as his mother called him. This photo must be close to 100 years old.
This is Grandpa “Sonny” Everett as his mother called him. This photo must be close to 100 years old. Check out the beautiful bris outfit that he is wearing.
Here is another picture of Grandpa in the special outfit being held by the JAF in Jaftex. Jacob A. Fortunoff (generation 1)
Here is another picture of Grandpa in the special outfit being held by the JAF in Jaftex. Jacob A. Fortunoff (generation 1)

That in itself is awesome, but the truly beautiful thing is that my two sons and my brother’s two sons also wore this outfit for their bris’ too, but unfortunately I didn’t give my wife or sister-in-law enough notice to find me photos of any of the boys wearing the outfit for this post.  There is really something special to be said about this.  Check out some more photos.

I keep the outfit all wrapped up in my closet for safe keeping.
I keep the outfit all wrapped up in my closet for safe keeping.
Check out the details of the bow.
Check out the details of the bow.
Look at the details of the embroidery on the neckline. Precise and immaculate.
Look at the details of the embroidery on the neckline. Precise and immaculate.

Considering that my blogs are geared towards fabric people, I wanted to feature the beauty of this amazing bris outfit as it pertains to the craftsmanship.  But rather than discuss the beauty and fine details I am going to show you some pictures of the detailed work that went in to creating this awesome outfit.  I looked around to see if there was a tag inside, but unfortunately there were no signs of who made this outfit.  Please enjoy the photos and let me know what you think.

Have a great week.

Sentimental Scott

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Tales of a Fourth Generation Textile Executive: More Bits & More Pieces

 

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Today, I am going to do another bits ‘n pieces blog where I briefly discuss some assorted subjects.  Here goes.

bits and pieces

I am not sure if you noticed, but the Studioe website is now a little different in the way it looks, functions and behaves.  Recall that Websites For Quilters got out of the quilt industry website business and this unfortunately left us high and dry without a professional company to manage our sites.  Anyway, we found a new company to replace them and are currently working out all the kinks that arose since the conversion.    Therefore, if you are having any problems or have any questions about the site, please email me at scott@jaftex.com and I will be sure to help you out however I can.   We are working hard to get the site running at full capacity, but as you can imagine new problems and fresh ideas are popping up all the time. So as we push to improve the functionalities of the site and make the site perfect, we thank you in advance for your patience as we get the site up to full speed to improve the customer experience. Existing site users may need to reset password when logging in.

Speaking of the website, you might have noticed that the blogs, including my Tales Of A Fourth Generation Textile Executive blog have moved to WordPress.   I still haven’t written a blog on WordPress yet as I am dreading having to learn yet another new system especially as I was really starting to become very agile with the old system.  I did hear it is easy though and will jump in soon.  This blog was not put on WordPress by me as I am writing this on my Sunday 6 am flight to Chicago on my way to attend the Troy Distributor Fabriganza Show.   I am also planning to hit my alma mater at Ann Arbor’s University of Michigan and am really excited for that.   Finally, I am heading to our new partner, Air-Lite Manufacturing’s facility in Flint, Michigan to check out their operation.  Speaking of Studioe’s batting partner, we plan on having the Air-Lite products available for sale on the website really soon.  Stay tuned.

As if the changes to the Studioe website weren’t enough, we are in the process of changing web companies for all our other companies too (The Blank Quilting Corp., Henry Glass & A.E.Nathan).  I guess that is the downside of having several different brands under the same umbrella.  And if that isn’t enough, we are in the process of implementing a new computer system.

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Studioe is the first company to change over to the new system so kind of like the Guinea pig.   Another fun process.  In any case, you will be happy to know that we are starting to ship our invoices out with all shipments.  So keep an eye out for them and make sure you or your staff does not throw them out.  Many other additional improvements to come very soon.  The long and the short of it is that we are always trying to improve our business, but this year happens to include a lot of large undertakings.

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As I mentioned a couple times recently, I had plans to speak at a guild meeting in Wilmington, N.C.   I did this last week and we had a blast.  There were about 100 people in attendance and they were absolutely intrigued learning some of the inner workings of the quilting industry.

The crowd listened intently as I jumped around covering as many subjects as possible based on the great questions I received.  I have really turned the corner on my fear of public speaking (glossophobia).

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I guess the solution was just to tackle the fear head on.  With that being said, I am putting myself out there to speak at more guild meetings.  All you need to do is reach out directly to me or one of the Studioe sales reps and we can work on figuring out a date. My availability is limited, so this will likely be on a first come first served basis, but other factors i.e. location and number of attendees will need to be considered.  The nice thing is that I do work for free.

Bring it on!

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While speaking about guild meetings, I wanted to mention some of the benefits for the guild members, shop owners and me, the fabric supplier.  For the guild members, this is a great opportunity to learn:  the inner workings and history of my family business, all about the quilting industry and all about the different Studioe and other company products. It is also an opportunity to put a face to the brands and actually give them some life.  Case in point, my local sales rep called one of the shop owners who attended the guild meeting, but the owner couldn’t talk on the phone because several of the guild members were at the shop coming to buy up all the Peppered Cottons.   This was all based on my discussion of this product the night before.  So there lies the upside for the quilt shops.  I was really happy to hear this as I am always rooting for my customers.  For me, it helps me get over my fear of public speaking…lol.   No really, it is just a great way to gain exposure and be different than everyone else in the industry.   I also get to meet tons of great people and see all their amazing works of art.

There you have it folks…it’s a wrap.  Have a great week and please don’t forget to email me to set up a quilt market appointment.  Until next time, This Is Studioe Scott