To Market, To Market
Fabric functions within the anatomy of outdoor design
Laurie Rudd -- Casual Living, 7/1/2012 2:00:00 AM
The fabric of our interior lives may be cotton, or so sayeth Madison Avenue, but when it comes to outdoor textiles, high performance fabrics serve as both the foundation and finishing touch of the outdoor room. From performance to patterning, outdoor fabrics have held a position unlike any other segment in the growth of popularity of the outdoor room. Although furnishings and accessories have seen their share of innovation, the outdoor room wouldn't truly be as pulled together if it was not for the accomplishments, advances and textural artistry that the fabric category alone delivers.
"Textiles do make their mark on the industry because the fabric tends to be the first thing the consumer sees," said Natalie Scott, VP of sales and marketing for Outdura Corp., Hudson, N.C. "The outdoor room would not be as complete without the visual and performance ingredient of fabric." Consumers are not only recognizing the beauty that outdoor fabrics bring; but their durability has become a sought after component for indoors as well. With the growing scope of the category, its importance is undeniable.
MORE THAN FLUFF
"I think textiles are gaining in importance," said Chuck Zaberto, VP, Solarium Division of Richloom, New York. "Consumers are replacing things that were harder and creating a softer side to their outdoors." With the consumers' growing recognition of the value textiles add, outdoor furniture manufacturers are also responding.
"This season, Pride Family Brands' engaged designer Marcia Blake, to assist us with the fabric side of shaping our luxury message," said Steve Lowsky, president, Pride Family Brands, Fort Lauderdale, Fla. "We have put a tremendous effort into defining our brands through our furnishing designs and it makes good sense to complete this by investing in elevating the fabric element."
Laurie Bell Jenkins, designer, chemist and owner of Laurie Bell, LLC, Sarasota, Fla., has, in addition to launching her own online etail line of pillows, cushions and accessories, aided a long list of companies including Frontgate and Gloster in their fabric selections. "Fabrics are a way to further define a brand and bring a point of differentiation," said Jenkins. "I have seen the impact on furniture sales that the correct choices in fabric can make."
There is no question that the ability of outdoor fabrics to exert their level of importance has been driven by decades of advances in performance. "Durability is key in outdoor," said David Swers, VP and assistant general manager, Glen Raven Custom Fabrics, Glen Raven, N.C. "Outdoor fabrics need to have the durability, and once those basics are assured, then the fun items including developing and testing for continued advances begins."
Performance for textiles today involves not only standing up to the elements, but also the rigors of continuous use and adaptability to advanced design considerations.
"There is a very large push in the marketplace for more performance," said Ari Glaser, executive VP, Wearbest Sil-Tex Mills, manufacturer of the Bella Dura brand, New York. "In the past, performance has been about UV factor and ease of clean. What is being produced today including abrasion resistance and fabric finishing techniques exceed this, resulting in the highest degree of performance driven fabrics."
"Current advances in solution dyed yarns or the increased use of topical treatments for water and stain resistant are growing in importance," Zaberto said. "However, we also need to adopt a fashion and performance story. You will lose the game if we do not consider both."
"With Sunbrella fabrics, and their promotion of performance abilities, consumers are looking at fabrics in a new way," said Manoli Sargetakis, principal of Silver State Textiles, Salt Lake City, Utah. "Consumers no longer worry about a friend spilling wine on the furniture when these performance fabrics are used including on every piece of furniture, in all rooms of the house."
Indoor-outdoor use as a trend is exploding across the textile industry. It was acknowledged early on by Glen Raven in establishing partnerships with interior furnishing designers. "Through working with our internal partners like Joe Ruggiero or Richard Frinier, who understand furniture and the entire holistic indoor-outdoor room, we get beyond where the furnishing will sit and focus not only on what looks good, but also feels good," Swers said.
A The Alazxi is a performance
fabric line from Silver State
Textiles that boasts multiple
B Heritage is the fi rst
furniture fabric in the Sunbrella
Renaissance line of
recycled products and was
a Design Excellence award
C Abercrombie Textiles’ Eco
is constructed of recycled
D From left to right are Bella
Dura patterns Color Spree,
a small-scale; Shivali, an
ikat pattern; and Gateway, a
transitional pattern inspired
Designer partnerships are found within several textile manufacturers. The latest is the association of Laurie Bell Jenkins with Bella Dura. "Her wealth of knowledge in the marketplace was why we wanted to bring Laurie (Bell Jenkins) on," said Glaser of Bella Dura. "With her added knowledge it is about how to better fill every bucket and market to every aesthetic."
"Everyone is able to reflect their indoor sensibilities in their outdoor aesthetic," said Tom Notaro, VP sales and marketing, Sunbury Textile Mills, New York. "Our products are being cross-marketed and when customers are looking at outdoor products, the fabric could easily be interpreted in any room in the house."
For Abercrombie Textiles, a history of working within the indoor fabric segment is now benefitting its efforts with the company's outdoor collections. "With our brands' long history working with interior fabric buyers, we feel a positive connection as we carry this knowledge and design sense to outdoor applications," said John Regan, CEO, Abercrombie Textiles, Cliffside, N.C.
With interior uses and professional design expertise, performance fabrics are seeing trends multiplying in fresh and unique directions not only in wovens, but sling constructions as well. "Texture is in the forefront, although we try to keep textural patterns simple, but to add a twist," said Nancy Egge, senior designer, Twitchell, Dothan, Ala. "In our latest designs, we are utilizing pearlescent yarn in combination with chenille yarns for a softer hand and added texture." The creation of texture through yarn dimensions or combinations is a trend that is repeated across the category.
"People also are changing the way they want texture," said Sargetakis. "It is requested more as a design rather than plush. As they want more sophisticated designs, they want texture as a contrast to feel soft , but not overall."
Innovation across the performance textile segment is not solely durability or design. Many are making strides to provide lasting features to benefit users and the environment.
At Phifer, one feature drawing attention is MicroBand, an antimicrobial treatment that is infused into the fiber lasting the lifetime of the yarn and keeping mold and mildew at bay. "Even in the out of doors, consumers want to be cleaner," said Joan Worthy, sales rep, Phifer, Inc., Tuscaloosa, Ala. "We see it as a positive feature much like our Green Guard certification that recognizes fabrics that produce no ‘off gassing' and therefore a better air quality when used indoors."
E The Slate group from
line of fabric constructed of
F Bold colors in Ikat and
stripes are featured in
Sanateo & Sancristo from
G Custom fl oral designs
from Sunbury include
Bramble Rose (top) with
textural and visual contrast
and Alistair Floral in indigo
H Following suit in the latest
color trends is Textilene
SUNSURE from Twitchell’s
"The advances in alternative premium yarns, like polyester, have opened up new horizons for Abercrombie to offer our customers," said John Regan, CEO, Abercrombie Textiles, Cliff side, N.C., "We can now offer better sustainability, better water protection and better stain protection, a completely sustainable system that benefits everyone. "Abercrombie's sustainability plan offers recycled outdoor fabrics at the same price as non-recycled counterparts. "It costs us a little more, but it's going to stimulate a system that makes that smart choice easier and easier to make as time goes on," Regan said.
"Our continued focus on innovations in sustainable fabrics led to the development of our Renaissance line that is made of yarn produced from reclaimed fiber, and fabric waste," said Suzie Roberts, VP, business manager decorative fabrics for Glen Raven. "Sunbrella understands the green story and are taking what would have been internal waste elements and recycling. The result is good business."
NEW MARKETS, NEW USES
If sustainability and indoor-outdoor usage are the industry's latest trends, the hottest new market is the contract/hospitality segment. "Hospitality, contract and designers are our primary market," said Silver State's Sargetakis. "Overall, the places our products can be used is expanding dramatically."
Sunbury design and sale teams are targeting designers, architects, spas and hospitality venues that need the performance and welcome the design aesthetics of their brand. "The hospitality segment is looking to give that resort lifestyle to their customers," said Notaro. "With the sophistication of the category stepping up every season, we see outdoor continuing to be solid and do not see it slowing."
Whether the finishing touch or fundamental component, the outlook for the fabric category has a common thread. "We are positive about the category. It will continue to be strong and colorful," said Phifer's Worthy. "As the economy improves, we will expand on what homeowners have. We see their outlook brightening as the economy does."
Similar sentiments were expressed from others. "With Outdura's new ownership, we see aggressive growth possible," said Scott. "We are committed to the category and see great potential."
At Silver State Textiles, Sargetakis recognizes the entrance of new players within the market and sees his company's connection to a premium brand as a key to their growth.
"Our big challenge is adapting the individuality that each customer wants and trying to keep ahead of the new environmental requirements," said Twitchell's Egge. "As far as market potential, the sky is the limit."
"None of us are immune to the economic situation and everyone has been very conservative," said Glen Raven's Swers. "Everything we read or see has a good positive outlook. Consumers continuing to entertain at home is a very positive long term trend. We have to continue to work with our customers giving these consumers what they are looking for in designs, new techniques as well as new textile applications."
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