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Photo c.2003 Glenna Morton, About.com
 
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More choices, more patterns, more dishes

Note to all brides-to-be: don't set the date until you'll had adequate time to pick out your china pattern, because shopping for dinnerware is now a lot more fun -- and a lot more complicated.

Not only can you choose from veteran manufacturers such as Lenox, Noritake, but there are a host of other designs available from a wide variety of sources in a profusion of styles and colorways.

The traditional English chinamakers, including Royal Worcester, Royal Doulton, Royal Albert, Spode, Aynsley, Wedgwood, and Minton, now share the market with Villeroy & Boch, Haviland, Hutschenreuther, Meissen, Lalique and many more -- for a truly mind-boggling display of color and pattern on retail shelves.

In addition, a new choice has hit the stores -- "Designer china" -- featuring tabletop collections by several popular clothing and lifestyle designers such as Christian Dior, Ralph Lauren, Donna Karan, Gianni Versache, and Calvin Klein. Does this mean you can match your clothing to your bath towels, and your footware to your fine dinnerware? Consumers will be the ones to decide how much is "enough", as they snap up products by their favorite designers.

Clothing magnate Alexander Julian jumped the fashion fence a few years ago, designing furniture, fabrics, and rugs in his signature blocks of color. The look is at once casual, whimsical, and yet refined. And while his foray into the home furnishings market might signal a future expansion into linens and tableware, Julian has confidently declared "I don't want to design anything I can't put my feet up on." (We assume that eliminates dishes.)

He may be one of the few leading clothing designers to forgo dinnerware design, since many of his peers are turning to home products and tableware as natural extensions of their "lifestyle" and image creation. Many work with a prominent china manufacturer to produce their tabletop designs. Ralph Lauren china, for example is made by Wedgewood, Paloma Picasso for Villeroy & Boch, and Versace for Rosenthal.

Let's take a peek at some of the current websites giving you a preview designer china collections that are available now, as well as some that are set to debut in the future.

Choosing China and Crystal

There may be no other designer like Ralph Lauren, and there may be nary a household left in America without an RL product.

From blazers to belts, towels to teacups, paint, furniture, fabrics, china, stainless, sterling, and more -- his elegant tableware designs range from denim themes to the classically formal to a studied English country chic.

Rosenthal china produces china designs by both Gianni Versace and Bulgari, famed for fine Italian jewelry design. Versace's tabletop designs are deeply colored, ornate patterns with golden details, while Bvlgari shows simpler dinnerware shapes in two classic designs ringed with gold.

Calvin Klein, dubbed the "king of minimalism" by Vogue, has taken the home market by storm, with everything from bath towels to teapots. Fans of his earthen colors, spare shapes, and timeless design will want to collect some Calvin Klein tableware to compliment a minimalist, contemporary interior.

Block China has produced a whimsical Andy Warhol china collection in red and black designs, with some plates featuring the famous Campbell's Tomato Soup can label.

In addition to these current lines, three other popular clothing designers have tableware collections in the works, including Tommy Hilfiger, and Nautica's David Chu who is working with Pfaltzgraff on a Nautica tableware collection.

And, finally, if your taste runs decidedly casual, take a look at the dining collections of Debbie Mumm, Michael Graves at Target stores, and Martha Stewart. While not clothing designers, they prove once again that celebrity sells, and the public is eager to buy into the celebrity mystique.

 
 ~ Glenna Morton

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