PaperCity Magazine

January 2019- Dallas

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Page 49 of 83

48 There wasn't much to choose from," says Mary Ella, who believed the bedroom should be a soothing retreat, not an afterthought. Peacock Alley teamed with Wamsutta to weave its all-cotton sheeting — the first time a small, boudoir-focused company had collaborated with a major American mill. It introduced charming white eyelet shams and bed skirts; and blanket covers and decorative pillows in gingham, sophisticated botanicals, and blue-and-white porcelain prints. Peacock Alley's intricate lace-trimmed sheeting was woven on authentic Nottingham looms, which had once produced coveted American Battenberg lace. The looms had lain dormant in a shuttered New England factory until Mary Ella helped resurrect them, and the factory's original highly skilled technicians, trained in England, were reemployed. The company also led the way with shop-in-shop boutiques, a rarity then, but common practice in retail now. By 1982, Peacock Alley was in 500 specialty and department stores across the country including Neiman Marcus, I. Magnin, and Saks Fifth Avenue. A fter a decade of uninterrupted growth, the company faced its fi rst crisis in the early '80s. Not only was the U.S. economy in deep recession, but China had opened its trade borders for the fi rst time, fl ooding the market with inexpensive Battenberg lace knock- offs. Peacock Alley had invested heavily in producing Nottingham lace, and it comprised half its business. Customers couldn't tell the difference between fake and authentic lace, and stores began to opt for economical ways to weather the downturn. Faced with declining orders, Mary Ella and Gayle sought a new direction — this time with a small Italian textile mill. Its fi ne Egyptian cotton sheeting was exquisite compared to the percale and polyester blends that saturated the American market. Peacock Alley launched a new European aesthetic, focusing on white, taupe, and soft neutrals in solids and understated jacquard and matelassé. This classic look remains a company staple, decades later. Mary Ella, who had purchased Gayle's share of the company, liquidated all her savings and investments to keep Peacock Alley afl oat. The gambit worked, but the squeeze was on. The family was in jeopardy of losing the farm, and fi nances were lean. Ray, the epicurean, had an idea: supply Dallas' rising-star chefs, such as Stephen Pyles and Dean Fearing, with unique, organic produce THE FARM WAS A WEEKEND PASTIME THAT INFLICTED PAIN ALONG WITH PLEASURE, BUT WHEN A GLOBAL RECESSION HIT IN THE EARLY '80S, IT PLAYED A CRITICAL ROLE IN WAYS NO ONE IN THE FAMILY COULD IMAGINE. Linens drying in the wind. A smokehouse at the farm is now an offi ce. PHOTOGRAPHY YELLOW DOG PRODUCTIONS, HEATHER HAWKINS, JANE SOBEL KLONSKY; PORTRAIT MISAEL RODRIGUEZ.

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