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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Meet Kaye Gosline, Director of Design, Milliken Floor Covering

Kaye GoslineMeet Kaye Gosline, Director of Design, Milliken Floor Covering, and a Woman In Flooring.

I know Kaye as the "Queen of Color" because of her intense color passion. Always generous with her color inspiration, she readily shared her color trend presentations so I could further inspire Wear-Dated upholstery fabric customers back in the early Solutia days.

Today, Kaye Gosline is also director of Design at Milliken which she joined three years ago. I consider Kaye a fascinating
Woman In Flooring and had the opportunity to speak with her on July 10, 2009. I had forgotten how full of color and imagery her voice is. Needless to say, the time flew by and I felt as if I had gone around the world with her.

C.B.: Kaye, I read wonderful things about you. You've made a statement with the new Milliken New York showroom and I loved your recent Floor Focus color trend article. Would you tell me more about what you're doing at Milliken?

Kaye: When I first came to Milliken, I was creative director. I'm now director of design for Milliken, overseeing contract floor covering globally. The role includes product development and working with global design teams and also the marketing of products. It's important to be involved all the way to the point of sale.

It involves looking at things differently and working with different products and customers. Milliken truly is a global company with customers in the Middle East, that we service out of the UK, the US, or China. I travel to Asia and China once a year, usually in the Fall for the China Interior Design Association conference, and then to major markets. China loves US design and quality. They are evolving their own cultural expression. I also travel to the UK 2 to 3 times per year.

C.B.: How difficult is it to design product for a global marketplace?

Kaye: Look at the U.S. marketplace and think of the diversity we have. There are plenty of similar differences globally and we follow a similar process for the UK and Dubai. We accept that there are differences. We also believe strongly that it's best to be true to a vision than to try to satisfy everyone. We have two young designers and have charged them with finding concepts that meet a need, being true to that vision and then pursuing it to the hilt. You can always fine tune. Just don't play it safe!

Think of the Ben and Jerry experience. That's what we're looking to do. It's a constant reality check and that's why we have teams of people with diversity and perspectives.

C.B.: From what you describe, it sounds like Milliken has gone through a lot of change.

Kaye: Over the last three years, Milliken has truly embraced a marketing mindset. We've restructured and brought in new talent. We just hired Laura Roman, for the hospitality carpet business. She brings tremendous experience. Mark Clayton, previously with J&J, Beaulieu and Shaw, is joining as business director for the residential division. He, too, brings lots of market experience. And, Barbara Haaksma has just moved from the automotive group to floor covering.

A downturn in the economy is a tremendous opportunity for a private company like Milliken. We're in the mood to grow. We have a young CEO; he's 43 years old and wants to take the company into new areas and grow what the company knows. So, we're restructuring and adding resources where needed to take full advantage of this opportunity.

C.B.: How did you get started in flooring?

Kaye: I attended Auburn University. My mother worked for Monsanto in Decatur, AL. At the time, kids of employees were invited to be summer interns. I worked in the Physical Testing lab, and the dye lab, Decatur. I loved the chemistry and the elegance of things coming out. At Auburn, I had a textile chemistry scholoarship and worked for Monsanto when I graduated.

In 1981, when Monsanto exited the continuous filament polyester business, I was laid off along with everyone at the Technical Center. That's when I was first exposed to a carpet mill - Coronet. I worked there as dye lab manager and met a young designer, Ann Hurley. She would pick colors, I would match them. We got to talking about trends and colors and where color trends originated. It was fascinating!

Then Monsanto called back and asked me to return. I wanted at that point to get outside the lab, be with people, and do sales and marketing. Ben Baker, who was in carpet product development, hired me as the color and design expert. I got involved doing product road shows, joined CMG in 1988, and moved into Ultron in 1992 or 93, marketing Ultron carpet fiber for the contract market. That's also when I truly became the Queen of Color!

C.B.: What do you like most about flooring?

Kaye: I really love the people and customers I interact with in the A&D community. I love working with them on projects. That's truly rewarding. These are the best people, great friends, and a tight knit community. I really enjoy that camaraderie. NeoCon feels like a birthday party. Love trade hows. Dave Caples, president of sales & marketing for Milliken, loves the process of NeoCon; I love the high from the interactions. We are kindred spirits with different personalities.

C.B.: What do you like least about flooring?

Kaye: People just don't appreciate how cool carpet is. It has fabulous texture and there's little awareness and appreciation for how the texture is achieved, that you were able to create an amazing end result that looks good and truly improves performance.

C.B.: What 5 things you would do differently to change the flooring experience?


For NeoCon 09, we created a collection called Ghost artists - inspired by architecture and the beautiful buildings created where - even in high profile buildings - no one realizes who the architect is. I'm thinking of the facade of a building in Chicago with intricately carved details that you may never see, but you might know that they were there. Artists, but ghosts.

I'd love for people who walk through an airport to be able to stop, screen and see the designers who designed the spaces. The Genslers and Millikens and what inspired the product, color, texture, spatial decisions.

I'd love for carpet to be able to tell the story of its creation, including the supply chain of people who brought the product to the end user.

But carpet sits quietly. How to connect that story with the end user? [C.B.: My suggestion: wouldn't it be nice to be able to point an iPhone and get that story?]

Finally, color plays an important role is shaping business and the environment. It goes beyond a branding strategy to include the goals and aspirations of the people who work there. It layers goals and aspirations within.

C.B.: What a perfect way to touch on carpet trends/construction, style, color trends. What do you see happening?

Kaye: Read my 2009 Color Trends article in Floor Focus. In it, I discuss the sense of optimism that you see in design despite all of the doom and gloom. At Milliken, we recently started from scratch with our colors and realized how far color had come in recent years. How colors work in combination matters as does color psychology particularly in areas like healthcare. We truly believe that colorful solutions to client issues are what keeps designers motivated.

C.B.: What about blogs, social media, social networks, etc. - how do you use them? How do they afffect what you do in your marketplace?

Kaye: I personally use Facebook, Linkedin and occasionally check one blog or two on travel destinations. Professionally, I have used many color blogs and websites. My attention span is short but not short enough to Twitter. :)

C.B.: Thank you, Kaye! You've certainly inspired me to look upon flooring in a new light.

What are your reactions to Kaye's ideas about changing the flooring experience? Wouldn't it be marvelous to be able to download the creation story of the floor covering that you're about to walk on?

What about being true to a vision while designing floor covering? I sense so much opportunity to develop unique products with that mindset.

Do read Kaye Gosline's Color Trends article. It will surely have you reconsidering color.

Previous Women In Flooring Interviews.

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Unknown said...

Terrific interview with Kaye! I'm sure you both enjoyed your time together. I learned quite a few things I didn't know about Kaye. I miss you both.
Rose Anne

CB Whittemore said...

Rose Anne, I'm so pleased you enjoyed my talk with Kaye. She is truly so full of colorful and inspiring energy! I loved speaking with her. I miss you, too, and hope that all is well. Thanks for stopping by. Best, CB

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