Last week, I attended a fantastic cocktail party at the home and office of San Francisco-based designer Ken Fulk (right), hosted by Ronda Carman of All the Best, to celebrate SFERRA's 120th anniversary. The luxury linen brand was founded in 1891 by Gennaro Sferra when he first opened his linens factory in Venice, Italy. In 1977, it was purchased by CEO Paul Hooker (left), then a young 20-something, and has grown to include an extensive collection of fine linens for the bedroom, bathroom, and tabletop and become one of the most respected names in the arena of luxury textiles.
When Gennaro launched the company, his focus was intricate handmade laces and embroideries. As you can imagine, a lot has changed since then, so I was eager to learn more about the progression of the brand and where it's headed next. Luckily, Hooker gladly obliged to do a little interview with me. Read our conversation below!
CasaSugar: You bought SFERRA in the '70s, and it's since become one of the finest linen brands. How has the market for luxury bedding changed since then?
Paul Hooker: When I bought the business in 1977, there was no such thing really as "luxury bedding." SFERRA offered no bedding at all in our collection. We made tablecloths and napkins, mostly handmade lace from Italy. The changes in both have been dramatic. Today, it’s all about luxury bedding, and fewer and fewer people over the years have been having traditional dinners with lace tablecloths, so the change has been dynamic indeed.
CS: What growing trends do you see in the world of luxury linens?
PH: The buying trend today among the affluent consumer is one word: VALUE. She is not overly impressed with labels, to the contrary, she wants to know why she is being asked to pay a premium price for what is being touted to her as "luxury." What makes it so special? What is it made of? Will it last? She will pay for quality, no doubt, and she still aspires to owning luxury products, but today, she needs to be shown the reason for "paying up" for luxury. The importer and the retailer who doesn’t have those answers may not be around long enough to find them.
CS: What are your most successful products?
PH: Our customer loves the color and design, but she generally selects the "basics." She knows that she is spending one third of her entire life in bed, and combining the wonderful experience of a great mattress and luxurious sheets makes it all so wonderful. She wants to be pampered in bed, feeling the very finest cotton in the world next to her, to give her the ultimate sleeping experience. So, when it comes right down to it . . . "Would you like Percale or Sateen, white or ivory?” It’s quite simple what she wants, so we strive to give her several choices of the finest "basics" in the world.
Click to read the rest of our interview!