The 14th edition of Techtextil North America trade fair ran over June 20-22 with more than 150 exhibitors from 17 countries and regions, 5 symposium sessions and over 20 expert industry presentations.
Techtextil North America – Outline
Like the major Frankfurt edition, the show vertically assembles the technical textiles industry from R&D through materials, production and treatment through to recycling. This year showcased a number of new participants.
A new addition was a series of talks in partnership with The Nonwovens Institute hosted throughout the event and open to all attendees. The Graduate Student Poster Program was present for the 4th year running, showcasing budding research in related fields.
Next year’s edition will be held May 22-24, 2018 at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta.
We return this month to discuss the other side of the question on whether synthetic or natural textiles are the better choice for your project. Although often used to make a statement, the push for “natural” – in this case the fibers – is more than just a political stance.
Natural Textiles – Qualities & Uses
Natural textiles fibers have some innate qualities that may make them particularly preferable where they come into direct physical contact with the user. For example, wicking, insulation and breathability are particularly important when selecting bedlinens and bed dressings. Cotton and silk are particularly suitable for those with sensitive skin or allergies while hemp has excellent moisture dispersion and anti-microbial properties – excellent anywhere from institutional and to luxury hospitality conditions.
Manmade materials do not carry the same (metaphorical) weight of their journey from farm to user. Natural textiles are an agricultural product, overwhelmingly from small-scale enterprise in developing regions. Natural fibers are a renewable resource and can present and exceptionally tidy cradle-to-cradle loop when disposal is adequately planned for. Similar to synthetics, upcycling and recycling are also viable end of use options.
In choosing natural fibers, you are also putting yourself in the somewhat unique position of choosing what can be perceived as both the luxurious and responsible option. There is a certain cachet that comes from being able to proclaim that textiles used in your spaces are pure, natural, ethical, sustainable. “Sustainable” may also intersect with the fair trade and other ethical sourcing movements.
Many natural textiles fibers are also extremely practical. They can be good insulators, easy to clean, noise dampening and static resistant. Wool may even meet fire performance standards without chemical treatment. There are luxury properties using recycled, fire-rated and machine washable linens that are both beautiful, safe and cost effective all through their useful life.
The décor of a typical property is changed every 5 to 7 years on average. Classic design and material choices are always suitable and can even delay the need for costly updates. High quality natural textiles are inherently beautiful and are available in a range of colors, textures and styles varied enough to bring to life any vision you have. Check out our Area Rugs to spice up your property.
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.
Textiles material choices are ever increasing while applications are only limited to our imaginations. Textile research is a growing field worldwide with developments emerging everywhere – from industry, studios and academic centers.
A group of researchers at MIT has recently developed a material that reacts to temperature – expanding as it warms and contracting as it cools. The planned application is in athletic wear but there conceivably could be adaptations made for textiles used in interiors. It is not a huge leap to consider the use of such a material in bedlinens that could regulate temperature to the user or multiple users. Or possibly sheers that becomes more opaque as the day wanes, providing privacy as space becomes lit from inside.
Industrial nettings and specialized architectural membranes are among the high-tech textiles developed for construction purposes with others on the way. Students at the Bartlett School of Architecture are looking at an unusual way to use textiles where instead of applying the material to a supporting structure, the fabric itself is constructed in a load bearing matrix. So far, the resin reinforced felt has only been used in the fabrication of a wall and chairs but the idea noise dampening and tactile characteristics of felt offer great potential.
By all accounts, a plush simplicity is still the predominant design aesthetic. However, there is a countertrend of a more maximalist philosophy to interiors that pays homage to world cultures through use of traditional color, pattern and weave. A stand out theme at the Milan Design Week in February this year, was the showcasing of vibrant, nearly discordant layers of texture and print in bright, warm colors in culturally themed displays.
Wall hangings and floors featuring ethnic motifs in traditionally favored shades and furniture upholstered in vintage prints and upcycled fabrics do not easily transfer or scale to most hospitality design layouts. These bold collaborations do however give designers license to branch out from the almost bland industry standard.
Boutique and luxury establishments have embraced this prerogative but we expect to be seeing more expressive, interesting design choices through all sectors. Custom design of rugs and fabrics is now cost effective and incredibly versatile. A unique textile that merges with your existing layout can quickly elevate the appeal of your space while still holding true to your brand. In complete redesigns, options are virtually unlimited with the variety of texture, colors and materials available.
There has been an ongoing shift in the hospitality industry towards creating authentic spaces that represent the core of a brand’s identity. This growing trend towards establishing individuality leaves brands and establishments looking for ways to express a unique identity while continuing to satisfy contemporary tastes.
This shift has led to the evolution of bespoke, personalized spaces that embrace the end user with the comfort of the sensation of a “home away from home” while providing an elevated experience. Textile trends continue to aim towards providing comfort and practicality. Subtle luxury blooms through the background of neutral tones as eye catching accents lend an edge to elegance.
Interior designers are increasingly detailing custom elements to inject precisely the right touch of uniqueness to a concept. Manufacturers are meeting this demand for customization with technological developments that bring an increasing variety of solutions at a range of price points, allowing for the customization and personalization of materials to suit the needs of the various sectors of the industry.
Digital printing offers an extraordinary level of detail and color integrity. Quality advancements of custom printed fabrics offer an increased level of creative control where patterns can be echoed across varying materials for various uses across single or multiple locations to achieve a visual cohesiveness. Precise color matching introduces options for brand color scheme representation.
Custom designed weaves and embroideries can be used for bold design choices in statement elements or as a subtle way of adding a touch of personalization to standard necessary furnishings. Minute details, such as the “embossing” of a logo or crest on linens add a richness of experience when used.
Character is found in what sets things apart. The quality of design is found in the details – or the details within the details.
Color is the immediate focal point of current trends and this year Pantone has declared it to be Greenery, a fresh, zesty shade of green that recalls fresh herbs and spring foliage. The psychological impact of the color – at once invigorating and soothing – on its own makes it ideal for interior spaces but it also symbolizes a deeper cultural shift towards a renewed connection with nature and our responsibilities to it.
The shade Greenery doesn’t hold a monopoly however as the prominent use of varying shades of green and, indeed, actual greenery is immediately identifiable in hospitality spaces worldwide. Greens provide flexibility within a palette by performing both the duties of an accent and a neutral depending on the chosen pairings. This allows for more freedom with interim updates if necessary.
Hospitality décor is still trending towards an understated, contemporary elegance featuring a neutral backdrop for accent pieces and shades. Soft, organic tones reflecting natural materials such as slate, wood, sand, and marble are prominent in upholstery and draperies while dimension is contributed by texture, weave and draping. Floor covers display similar shades but contribute character (and practicality) through use of bolder patterns and color.
The influence of nature is not only aesthetic but is seen in the direction of industry innovation as an important part of brand identity which must now be built on sustainability.
Green is Green
Textile production is a high water use industry. Producers are developing and introducing textiles and production methods that significantly reduce water use and pollution both during and post production. Indoor air quality, is another aspect of concern and with green building certifications (such as USGBC’s LEED) on the rise in the hospitality infrastructure, there is a growing market and thus trend towards low VOC emitting materials and installation.
Clearly, the natural world is truly crossing into our built environment. It’s a trend to feel good about.