A major decision point when faced with a seemingly never-ending array of textiles is whether to opt for a natural or synthetic textiles material. There is not a “correct” choice here – there are benefits to either (and we will discuss the other side next month).
There is a general perception that natural textiles are more luxurious. Indeed, there is an undeniable appeal to silk and wool blend rugs or a fine leather chaise. However, high-quality synthetic textiles on the market are so well manufactured that they are typically indistinguishable from their natural counterparts. These synthetic options also offer a number of very useful characteristics that decision makers should be aware of.
Synthetic Textiles – Engineered
Engineered textiles perform very well in high use situations. Fibers are generally stronger than the natural equivalent and the materials can better maintain color integrity which results in reduced showing of wear and tear.
Variety is another huge advantage to synthetic textiles. Colors, patterns, weaves, prints, textures, lustre and weight are all available in an array of choices and are often customizable. Suitable options exist for issues such as moisture control, odor control, stain prevention and cleaning, or fire performance. Materials are available that are anti-microbial, non-porous or suitable for sanitization.
While synthetic textiles sold for commercial or industrial applications have minimum fire performance requirements to meet, many engineered textiles will have especially high ratings as the materials are inherrently fire-retardant due to the nature of the material or the construction of fibers.
One last key aspect to consider is the environmental impact of your choice. Conventional wisdom has it that natural fibers are a more sustainable choice due to their being considered as coming from renewable resources. This is absolutely not a hard and fast rule. Not only must the relative lifespans of each product be considered but the use of water and energy through manufacture and transport.
Browse our updated range of area rugs while you contemplate your options!
With Techtextil Europe just over and the North American edition approaching later this month, having a look at recent innovations in high end technical textiles seems the thing to do. With just under 1500 exhibitors and over 45,000 visitors, the show is a significant event with participants from various segments of the industry.
Technical Textiles market to reach US$160 billion
The US Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration projects that the world market for technical textiles may reach up to US$160 billion by 2018. As with most industries, the developments in the high end of the market are a good indicator of what the industry as a whole will come to embrace as new technology becomes more accessible.
As might be expected by the motto “Connecting the Future”, the topic of innovative, sustainable solutions and cutting-edge environmentally responsible products permeated the trade show as was seen in both the product range and the symposium programming.
Symposium blocks discussed the future of an industry built on sustainability, resource management and circular economies. Specific issues included sustainable product design, bio-based fibre materials, recycling, upcycling, smart textiles and the evaluation of fire retardant additives in the textile extrusion process.
The benefits of Technical Textiles
While the technologies and products presented are too numerous to discuss, there are a few standouts of interest to the hospitality industry. The replacement of PFCs with protein-based water and dirt repelling finishes is particularly interesting. Green coating technology that relies on environmentally friendly halogen-free aqueous formulations offer a wide range of possibilities in function and design while the latest generation of nano-coatings feature an impressive 100% reduction in water waste among other benefits.
At the opposite end of the lifecycle, biodegradability of a product is an important aspect of assessing its sustainability with a focus of the treatment at the end of its useful life. Considering the 400 year timeline for the decomposition of plastics, there was an understandable emphasis on the use of both natural fibres and newer biodegradable man-made fibres from alternative sources – some as esoteric as non-food milk.
While color and patterns offer a more conspicuous impact, the creative use of textures and classic textured materials can add beautifully subtle depth to a design. Despite powerful patterns being on trend, the use of predominantly mild, monochromatic color schemes is not likely to lose its place in a substantial proportion of the hospitality sector. Varying the texture of a finish adds character and complexity without sacrificing the flexibility of a neutral shade.
Keeping in step with the trend towards customizable spaces, textured small furnishings and linens – napkins, table coverings, cushions, throws, spreads, rugs, etc. – allow end user an intimate interaction with the space. People are drawn to “touchable” materials and soft textures. A buttery leather complemented by a warm, nubby knit subtly engages touch and provides a sense of warmth and welcome.
As a matter of practicality, texture can be used in lieu of architectural or structural elements in defining space. Especially in large, or open plan areas, subtle changes in flooring or wall coverings can delineate spatial divisions and reduce the perceived scale of a space while not placing limitations on future reconfigurations. Carpet texture can even be used to direct foot traffic.
Classic Textured Materials
We are seeing rich, classic textured materials such as brocade, velvet and leather juxtaposed onto modern forms for a more contemporary presentation. The recent embrace of craft and culture brings interesting weaves to the fore while natural materials keep their place as the sustainability movement is universally embraced. Biophilic cottons, felts and knit fabrics fulfil an innate affinity for tactility and can build a feeling of wellness within a space.
If a simpler approach is preferred, pleats and folds elevate the style of basic window dressings. Newer technology allows for high definition dying and surface detailing of carpeting and rugs while accommodating a variety of budgets better than ever.