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CategoriesBella-Dura In the News Indoor/Outdoor Fabric Performance Fabric

Erasing the line between indoor, outdoor fabrics

HIGH POINT — As the popularity of performance fabrics grows indoors, the differences and demands for outdoor vs. indoor features and looks continue to blur, too.

Culp observed the trend about two years ago when it undertook the soft launch of its own outdoor line, Livesmart Outdoor. The company had been seeing great success with its indoor performance fabric line, Livesmart, so it decided to move back to the performance fabric category’s outdoor roots.

“People loved Livesmart, so it was a natural next step for us to create Livesmart Outdoor both for our customers looking to make outdoor pieces and for the many folks who just prefer the extra protection provided by outdoor-safe fabrics,” said Tammy Buckner, senior vice president of design and marketing for Culp. “The lines are very similar, and our outdoor product is being used on indoor pieces quite often.”

But if the look and use of indoor and outdoor fabrics are shared, what even makes the difference between indoor and outdoor fabrics? Primarily, fabric sources say, it’s the fabrics’ definitions of performance.

“‘Performance’ is such a common word, and there is no official criteria you have to meet to call your fabric performance, so it can be a bit confusing,” explained Sarah Keelen, design director for outdoor and performance for Swavelle, parent company of performance fabric brand Bella-Dura. “But the one thing all performance fabrics tout is their easy cleanability. However, not all performance fabrics are appropriate for outdoor use.”

Stringent requirements

From the array of “performance” definitions, a handful of qualities almost always arise in some mixed form: durability, cleanability, water repellency and fade resistance.

For fabrics used outdoors, those qualities are more important, as performance features need to go well past just offering cleanability to perform. Outdoor environments require that performance fabrics offer significantly higher lightfastness and durability rates, and many put an emphasis on water resistance.

“Everyone knows a lot more happens outdoors, so to keep outdoor fabrics fresh, they have to be made for lots of sun, rain, snow and more,” said Christy Almond, vice president of product development and marketing for Valdese Weavers. “There are a lot of elements to contend with.”

But just because a piece of fabric may not face those exact conditions indoors does not mean those outdoor features go unused. Inside, water resistance translates into extra protection for spills, and durability and high fade resistance can add to the lifespan and overall quality of the fabric.

And fabric manufacturers such as Valdese Weavers, Sunbrella, Richloom Fabrics and Bella-Dura Home already cross-market performance fabric brands for indoor and outdoor use.

“Features that are usually associated with the outdoors, like fade resistance, are still beneficial,” said Almond. “If you have a sofa with an outdoor fabric on it, you can put it in a sunroom without worry or in front of a large window. And if the fabric is waterproof cleaning a spill inside or out is even simpler.”

Through the COVID-19 pandemic, outdoor cleanability has become even more important to Valedese Weavers’ Insideout brand, too. Culp and Bella-Dura Home have seen similar questions come from customers during the pandemic, both from consumers and retailers who have also begun more regularly cleaning furniture on their showrooms floors.

“We’ve had a lot of inquiries about bleach cleanability during the pandemic because people are being extra careful,” said Almond. “People wanted to be sure that regular cleanings with different chemicals wouldn’t compromise their fabrics’ colors or feel.”

To meet that information need, Valdese Weavers doubled down on testing its pieces’ cleanability in February, ultimately releasing updated information on the best ways to disinfect and clean its fabric pieces with cleaning products such as Lysol sprays and diluted bleach.

Outdoor design trends

Almond noted that, outside of performance features, the success of indoor/outdoor brands is in large part related to both technological advancements, making way for more advanced and textural outdoor-safe fabrics, and the outdoor room design trend, which has led many to invest in their outdoor spaces and furniture pieces.

“Now more than ever people are merging what outdoor and indoor spaces look like while trying to create some cohesiveness in their homes, especially with open concept living,” said Almond. “We are seeing a lot of the same trends indoors come outside, but we are still seeing some of the more playful patterns for outdoors, too.”

Specifically for Valdese Weavers, classic prints like gingham in trending colors have done well both indoors and out, calling back the look of a traditional picnic blanket and updating the motif with seasonal colors. Warm neutrals and more artisan textiles continue to trend for the company in both settings, along with blues and grays, which have been trending for several years.

Newer to the mix is bold combinations of black-and-white or neutral, and a full spectrum of green shades, from kelly to teal green, that pair up with a resurging interest in botanicals both in patterns and home decor in general.

At Culp, designs for Livesmart and Livesmart Outdoor are also very similar to each other, with the decision Buckner and her team to share looks and color palettes between the two lines having been informed by earlier trips to Salon del Mobile and Maison & Objet as well as the ongoing coronavirus.

“People are really looking for casual comfort during this time,” explained Buckner. “People are spending so much more time at home that they are looking to be comfortable, and they are looking for that inside their homes and outside now, too.”

While COVID-19 “pushed the trend to the next level,” Buckner said the outdoor room trend had been growing for a while before, with design shows like Maison & Objet dedicating trend displays to seamlessly blending indoor and outdoor pieces and materials.

Translating that blend into Livesmart Outdoor, Buckner said the company is approaching both brands with the same styles and themes, focusing on eclectic looks, boucles, chenilles and similar color palettes. Between the lines, Buckner said that, without a tag differentiating the two, people would not be able to tell the difference between them.

“We’re using a lot of light body plains all over on like sofas, in light or white, with black or dark java pillows. Really, block prints are just really huge right now. … Simple stripes mixed in with simple, small geometric have been important, too.”

Clean lines and, more specifically, a move away from the traditional florals and loud colors associated with outdoor looks have defined Livesmart Outdoor’s offerings.

Different spaces, different uses

Sunbrella approaches its fabrics with a little more emphasis on designing for both spaces separately, having divided its indoor- and outdoor-focused fabrics into divisions with separate marketing and design pushes, while still recognizing that both groups can go indoors or out.

“We design with aesthetics in mind, so when we approach an outdoor space its more about color and having more saturated, lively color,” said Sarah Dooley, marketing director for upholstery at Glen Raven. “That being said, we have seen trends over the past few years where you kind of have that sense that neutrals are moving outside as well as they are inside, and that’s reflected throughout. We really try to meet what the market wants.”

Dooley said that the design team at Sunbrella has had to adjust its thought process to help mimic indoor looks as they have seen people begin approaching outdoor design like they would the rest of their home. Neutrals have come into fashion in a big way outdoors, with pops of color and pattern being allocated to smaller pieces as accents, just as it has inside.

For texture, being sensitive to the different uses of fabrics indoors and out has been key, according to Dooley, as she noted that the sofa fabric you want to cuddle up with inside should feel different from the fabric on your outdoor lounger.

Keeping in mind the overall differences between indoor and outdoor design has been key to Bella-Dura Home’s approach, too.

“There is a real difference in the looks people buy for indoor verses outdoor use, which comes down to the environment the fabric will be used in,” said Keelen. “A typical outdoor space may be surrounded by trees, flowers, a pool, deck or patio — all of which provide a lot of texture. …  To balance all of this textural interest, fabrics are usually more paired down than indoor ones.”

Indoors, Keelen said fabrics have more wiggle room because texture is created by what is put in the room. Additionally, Keelen noted that outdoor fabrics often make use of more bright colors and contrasting patterns because of the natural light whereas indoors these colors can “overwhelm a space and people make much subtler choices.”

“I think the indoor outdoor lifestyle is something that will continue, even more so now given the current situation,” noted Dooley, adding, “We are all focusing on ways to stay on trend while also remaining timeless in both spaces.”

CategoriesPerformance Fabric

Global Furniture Performance Fabric Market Key Companies Analysis with Market Opportunities : ( Revolution Fabrics )

 

 

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Revolution Fabrics
Valdese Weavers
Sunbrella (Glen Raven)
Chella
Crypton
American Silk Mills
Bella-Dura (Wearbest Sil-Tex Mills)
Perennials and Sutherland
Richloom Fabrics
Toray

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Solution Dyed Acrylic
Microfiber Nonwoven

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Commercial Furniture
Residential Furniture

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CategoriesBella-Dura Performance Fabric

Defining performance: Fabric sources seek standardization, clarification of terms and qualities

This press release is submitted and shown here in its original form, unedited by furtituretoday.com.

 

revolution fabric 3-2019

HIGH POINT — As the popularity of performance fabrics in the textile industry has grown, the rise of one-off uses of the term has also expanded. And some in the industry worry that, without some regulation, confusion and misunderstanding about performance fabrics may damage consumers’ understanding of the category.

“There is zero understanding of what makes a fabric a performance fabric,” said Nolan Mitchell, Richloom Fabrics Group’s vice president of upholstery sales and merchandising. “Somebody may say that it’s durable if it does 50,000 double rubs, and that makes it performance. Other people may say it has to be cleanable, others that it has to be liquid repellent.

“From a fabric supplier to a furniture manufacturer to a retailer, everyone has a different take on what their definition of performance is.”

From the array of definitions of “performance,” a handful of qualities rise to the top: durability, cleanability, water repellency and fade resistance.

“There isn’t an enforced set of features in the industry that a fabric has to have to be called a performance fabric, but a few usually show up,” said Mitchell.

Along with those debated features, issues with quality also complicate matters. Traditionally, “dated” standards and minimums that were not created to reflect the specific goals of performance fabrics are all that exist to regulate the category, according to Milliken Specialty Interiors’ development manager, Ron Swindle.

“Companies can get outside certifications, such as a Greenguard certification, and do testing for portions of their performance fabrics’ features, but there is nothing definitive for the industry,” said Michael Saivetz, Richloom Fabrics Group’s chief operating officer and vice president.

Testing and certification specific to performance fabric would only work for the industry, according to Saivetz, if defining performance standards started at the retail level. When it doesn’t, fabric companies must rely on their own set of definitions for qualities, making it difficult to get the industry to agree on one definition of what a performance fabric has to be.

“If you get everyone and their competitors together, of course they’ll make the argument for their own features, so you need to start with looking at what features consumers want and then move on to fixing the testing of those features,” said Saivetz.

Another problem for creating a standard definition is enforcing minimum quality testing standards, as much of the testing takes place in house and allows companies the room to test as they see fit.

Along with that, Saivetz points out variables in the tests themselves can be another hurdle for standardization. For example, Saivetz says if a company tests its fabric’s cleanability with a salsa stain and lets the stain sit for two hours while another company lets it sit for just a few minutes, then the results are skewed.

Creating more rigid guidelines specific to performance fabrics features could help alleviate that.

“The only thing that could fix the certification gap for performance fabrics would be someone creating updated, standardized testing with more strict guidelines and minimums,” said LeAnne Flack, Milliken Specialty Interiors’ marketing manager.

A better job of telling the story

For now, many fabric suppliers are relying on their own performance stories to help differentiate themselves and their product from the mass collective of performance fabric brands.

“If everyone is claiming the same performance story, then it’s up to us to show our customers what makes us different and teach them about what a real performance fabric looks like,” said Anderson Gibbons, Revolution Fabrics’ vice president of marketing.

At Covington Fabric & Design, Vice President of Design Chari Voehl said the company is focusing on its design aesthetic, its line coordination and its merchandising to set the brand apart. This, she said, helps the company create “comprehensive stories” in looks that give consumers options beyond what may be found in other product.

“Whether it’s polyester or cotton, if you like the pattern, you like the pattern. You have to give the consumer designs they want to pick up,” Voehl said.

Similarly, Revolution Fabrics is leaning on social media to tell a story about its eco-friendly product to win over customers and build a “recognizable brand name” that people trust and seek out.

“Revolution Fabrics uses polypropylene, which is a byproduct of oil refining and natural gas processing,” said Sean Gibbons, CEO, “and before it was reinvented in the 1960s as a material to make things like fabric, it was being burned off and discarded. So by using it in our product, we’re starting with a green product because we’re upcycling something that would otherwise have been thrown away.”

Polypropylene fabric, which are sometimes called olefin fabric, according to Sean Gibbons, also require less energy and water to make because it is not grown somewhere and then shipped like a natural fiber, and it produces little waste. In addition, the fabrics do not require chemical washes to achieve cleanability and durability, so Revolution Fabrics do not come in contact with PFC chemicals, which, according to Sean Gibbons, have been linked to harmful health effects.

To communicate all of that information, Anderson has focused on bolstering Revolution Fabrics’ online presence through video, blog and social media content creation.

“Our goal is to create and use transparent online content that helps the consumer with a problem they have and that helps them understand our product and its story,” said Anderson Gibbons. “We want to become a household name and product that people like and understand.”

Richloom Fabrics is working with creating its own eco-friendly story, too, citing its “clean chemistry” as a large part of what it uses to differentiate itself from other performance fabrics. Richloom Fabrics’ chemistry, according to Mitchell, creates no harmful emissions for the environment and is safe for use in the home.

“Our product, its design and its quality, defines us, but our safe chemistry is what we really use to set us apart from other brands.”

Long-term dedication to performance

At Sunbrella, Glen Raven’s performance fabric brand, the company is leveraging its long-term track record to help differentiate itself from other brands.

“You have to look at our brand and its integrity and history through the decade,” said Harrison Hood, an indoor sales manager at Glen Raven. “The closest competitor we have has only been around a handful of years as opposed to our almost 60, so a consumer purchasing a sofa with Sunbrella on it has likely had a positive experience with our fabric elsewhere.”

Sunbrella’s brand recognition has afforded the company many opportunities, Hood said, but ultimately it is Sunbrella’s solution-dyed acrylic yarn that has the biggest impact on the performance fabric’s brand definition.

“Our added finish is just as good if not better than any other finish you’ll find in the marketplace, but all of those finishes wear off, and when they do — for most of those brands — you just have a regular old fabric underneath. When our finish wears off, you have the cornerstone of our brand, the solution-dyed acrylic fibers.”

Crypton cites that same dedication to performance fabrics as the company’s biggest defining feature. Senior Vice President Jack Eger said for Crypton performance fabric is not just the “bandwagon we’re jumping on,” giving the company a head start on scientific development, innovation and quality control.

“Performance is all we do, and it has been for 25 years. It is quite literally what defines us,” said Eger. “We’re also differentiated by our ability to innovate and set scientific benchmarks that raise the bar for others.

“Most of our competitors don’t have the expertise in fabric science that we have built at Crypton, so our fabrics are a lot more resilient than typical fabrics,” he continued. “We’re able to set our quality standards higher than industry criteria suggest, to ensure that every yard of fabric meets an incredibly high brand-wide standard. Nobody that started making performance last month or last year is going to have those distinct advantages.”

Education key to addressing misinformation

Bella-Dura, which utilizes a modified polypropylene yarn to create its fabrics, separates itself from its competition by producing contract-grade solutions for the home, contract, hospitality and healthcare markets.

“We use an improved technical fiber that meets and beats industry standards, so we try to market those enhanced features first,” said Susan Lobel, Bella-Dura’s vice president of marketing and brand development.

Bella-Dura also puts an emphasis on producing educational content, Lobel said, in the form of sales training, video content and brochures as a way to help everyone — from furniture retailers to consumers — understand the features of performance fabrics.

Recently, the company launched a “Think you know performance fabrics?” advertising campaign to highlight the misinformation that can exist in the industry.

Milliken Specialty Interiors has addressed its own educational efforts through things like webinars and other content, looking to teach people about its “minimal chemistry” story and approach with Breathe, the company’s performance fabric brand that uses natural or recycled fiber and a plant-based water repellent.

“Without any kind of standardization or certification, the burden of education really falls on companies,” said Flack.

Creating easy to understand branding and language has been key for Culp’s LiveSsmart performance fabrics according to Tammy Buckner, Culp’s senior vice president of design and marketing.

“We try for a simple story. Everyone needs to be able to understand what it does in the simplest terms. The more complicated it gets, the more confused they are.”

With that, Buckner said, Culp tries to educate users on its fabrics’ features and its defining points, such as its status as a mid-price performance fabric, using more approachable language and explanations.

“I think more and more the whole industry, and the consumers too, are expecting fabrics to perform,” Buckner said. “At some point, that’s just going to become the norm.

“So it’s important to build our performance brand and our customers’ understandings of our fabric now, because performance is here to stay.”

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