Leaders in Design: Talking Tabletop with Rosanna Bowles

Rosanna Bowles – www.rosannainc.com

Rosanna Bowles, President and Art Director of Rosanna — an award-winning international tableware and design house founded in 1982 — unveils some of the company’s newest spring collections, shares how millennials are influencing the tabletop market, and where she thinks the industry is headed.

DNJ: What’s trending in tabletop?

Rosanna Bowles: Items that can be used in multiple rooms of the house – pieces that are decorative and also functional – are trending right now. So imagine a tray you could use to hold candles in the bathroom or to serve appetizers on at a cocktail party. We’re also seeing designers mix and match multiple eras of design right now. A single collection might include pieces that reference mid-century modern, art deco, and art nouveau all at once. It’s eclectic, much like the fashion world right now. Designers are layering pattern and texture with no steadfast rules.

RB: But more than any of that, people are interested in dinnerware that has integrity and that is made with high-quality, beautiful materials. It’s starting to become more prevalent to see a story behind products that enhance the product’s meaning and specialness.

DNJ: Describe how the industry has evolved in recent years. 

RB: It used to go like this: you bought two sets of dishes, one for everyday use and one for special occasions. When the 2008 recession happened, it dramatically shifted the tableware industry away from formal sets and into small, giftable, one-off pieces that didn’t break the bank. That trend directly contributed to the mix-and-match dinnerware aesthetic we see more of today. Another driver for evolution is that a new generation has started homemaking – millennials. They want dinnerware that’s more eclectic and that tells a story that resonates with them. And because they graduated into the recession, they didn’t have the money to buy full sets of dinnerware, so they were kind of mixing and matching by necessity. Their entrance to our market has definitely also pushed changes in our industry.

Combining these two factors, we see people buying basic white dinnerware and layering in different patterns, serving pieces and shapes. People have all but abandoned traditional dinnerware sets and ways of setting the table. These days, it’s all very fluid. But that doesn’t mean tabletop is dead; it has just evolved.

DNJ:  How have changing eating habits driven change?

RB: Part of tabletop’s evolution has come from the way we eat: seasonally, with a lot of shared plates, and with more one-dish meals. That means it’s up to us as designers to keep pushing the envelope by offering different looks that resonate with the way people live and entertain today.

DNJ: In your opinion, where is the industry headed?

RB: My prediction for the future? That dinnerware will continue to become less and less bound by convention and more and more open to creative reinterpretation.

DNJ: How has the Rosanna brand adapted to these changes?

RB: We got heavily into producing small, giftable items during the recession. As of 2018, we’ve returned to the table, designing pieces and collections with cross-generational appeal that reflect the way people are entertaining today. We’re working very intentionally to tell the story behind our designs and to showcase the high-quality materials we use. Our goal is to make things that become part of someone’s history, not throwaway products that get donated to Goodwill once the next trend comes along.

DNJ:  Where do you get inspiration for your designs?

RB: All kinds of places. I look to schools of fine art, lately the Post-Impressionists, to the stacks of retro Christmas cards my father sold as a representative for Norcross Greeting Cards in the 50’s and 60’s, to design eras and design trends from around the world, like Scandinavian design. I also love collecting artisan pottery and referencing those pieces as we work to achieve a look that shows the human hand that created them. 

DNJ:  What is hot for Rosanna in 2019?

RB: Tableware 2.0! We’ve returned to the table with a new approach that’s more vibrant and dynamic than anything that has come before.

DNJ: In your opinion, what should every table not be without?

RB: Beautiful dinnerware, of course! I’d also say one essential piece that sets the mood for the table and signals the dominant aesthetic to your guests, such as a fabulous vase, unique stemware, or bold plates in shape, color or pattern.