This eye-catching medallion was inspired by handpainted Spanish tiles. The elegant motif is woven on a vibrant textural ground that replicates the variation that occurs with paint on ceramic.
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Creating harmony between beauty and performance, the 2020 collection from Bella-Dura HOME introduced a softer, more decorative look that is ideal for… Read More
After a year like 2020, the way we see and use design trends has changed. Once cultivated through travel, cultural experiences, markets and other means that required actually leaving our homes, in the midst of a global pandemic, design trends feel simpler, more rooted in our need to find a haven from the chaos and fear of the world.
“The pandemic has influenced a new outdoor living experience that is defined by warm, cozy and visually appealing spaces that are also functional,” says Greg Voorhis, executive design director, Sunbrella. “Homeowners are taking time to recognize how their indoor style preferences can be reflected outdoors, and vice versa. We are learning to explore the hues and motifs to which we are naturally drawn through new colors, patterns and textures that provide a comfortable and well-designed home environment indoors and out.”
With that in mind, we take a look at some of the major trends influencing performance fabric design for 2021.
Warm neutrals, from brown to warmer grays, as well as white and beige shades, reflect a need for calm and simplicity.
“Everything’s warming up,” says Sarah Keelen, design director, Swavelle/Bella Dura Home. “We’re getting calls for camel and lighter browns. I think gray is still important, but now it’s more half and half with orders of browns and grays, whereas it was all gray before.”
Another color trend tied to the longing for serenity and wellness? Blues. While always a go-to for the outdoor room, blue is becoming even more versatile with shades like denim, chambray, indigo and turquoise coming into favor.
“Blue families are important,” says Haynes King, product manager, Outdura. “We are getting a great response to a deeper navy color family that we are calling Starry Night.
Other shades to watch out for include nature-inspired greens—think the colors of a vibrant meadow—as well as earthy, orange-infused reds like persimmon.
With everyone living vicariously through Instagram and other social media channels during the pandemic, eye-catching patterns have grown in prominence.
“How things photograph is becoming more important because you’re seeing everything online,” says Keelan. “In the digital world, people are gravitating to patterns that contrast because they read better online—so we’re selling more black and white.”
At the opposite end of the spectrum, less eye-popping patterns like subtle stripes or patterns built with slight color variances are also hot. And menswear-inspired looks showed up in several showrooms, such as Para Tempotest, at the ITA Showtime Market in November.
The marriage of pattern and texture though the use of novelty yarns and weaving techniques continues to grow in popularity for outdoor spaces.
“In terms of texture, patterns that reflect dimension through intricate weaving processes and bouclé yarns will continue to gain popularity as homeowners look to add depth to their spaces,” says Voorhis.
And textures that offer the same softness and style of indoor fabrics are also in high demand.
“Dry, natural looking textures like a linen slubby look is big,” says Keelen. “And people are still really responding to a soft hand and things that drape well.”
One of the biggest trends in home textiles right now is making performance fabrics in higher demand than ever—bleach-cleanability. With fears of the spread of coronavirus, the ability to sanitize performance fabrics without damage or color fade has become a major selling point.
“That’s all people are asking about,” says Keelen. “It seems more important than the abrasion, the bleach-cleanability.”
And that cleanability is important in both indoor and outdoor spaces.
“Obviously outdoor fabrics need to be cleanable as they are exposed to the elements, but a more casual lifestyle means we are more likely to need to clean indoor fabrics as well,” says King. “Children, pets and frankly, maximizing use because of more folks staying home, bleach-cleanable performance fabrics are more practical and worry-free.”
Of all the challenges we’ve faced over the past year, the quandary of having too much business was probably the last thing anyone anticipated. But after COVID-19 lockdowns began to ease in May and June, suddenly everyone seemed to want to update their homes, including the backyard.
Retailers were inundated, filling orders as quickly as possible, clearing much of their inventory. At the same time, supply chain disruptions, material shortages and factory closures put manufacturers and suppliers in a precarious position, unable to meet the growing demand for new product.
And that perfect storm of increased demand coupled with shortages has certainly affected the performance fabric business. While these issues have forced some companies to get creative to keep product moving, others have taken advantage of openings in the market to expand their presence.
Dealing with Disruption
Due to the global nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, the effect of shutdowns and quarantines has compounded, with not only American facilities losing weeks or months of production time, but factories closing abroad, as well. This, along with port closures and other logistical issues has meant both products and raw materials have been significantly delayed.
Even companies like Glen Raven/Sunbrella, which has domestic manufacturing facilities, have felt the effect of pandemic-induced supply chain issues.
“The ongoing pandemic has created disruptions in the global supply chain, which have had an impact on our raw materials supply,” said David Swers, president, Glen Raven Custom Fabrics. “While we have a high degree of vertical integration that enables us to control quality and balance within our own processes, we work closely with key partners on the materials that go into that process.”
Glen Raven has responded by making investments in its global operation including purchasing a new production facility in France and expanding its domestic factory.
“We continue to look for new areas of improvement to better meet the growing demand for our products and our customers’ needs,” said Swers. “As part of our previously announced expansion plans, we are building a novelty yarn mill at our facilities in Burlington, N.C., to increase and stabilize our supply of high-quality yarn for our fabrics. We are making additional investments to improve our systems and expand production capabilities at our plants in the U.S. and abroad to support our manufacturing and retail partners.”
For Swavelle Mill Creek, owners of Bella Dura Home, the timing of the pandemic couldn’t have been more inconvenient. The company relaunched the Bella Dura Home brand in late 2019 with a preview at Casual Market Chicago that year. The company was set for its major rollout to the casual category in 2020—then COVID happened.
“The ball was rolling and things were looking great, and then, boom, the pandemic hit and boom, casual market was canceled,” said David Thomases, executive vice president, Swavelle Mill Creek. “In terms of introducing Bella Dura Home, we hit a bit of a bump in the road, but everyone hit a bump in the road. Our focus became video fabric presentations and Zoom meetings—it was just a different world.”
Outdura has seen disruptions, as well, which have been compounded by increased demand.
“For us it has hit certain colors of yarns as their popularity grew, but we’ve fortunately continued to weave fabrics throughout the year in our North Carolina facility,” said Haynes King, product manager, Outdura. “We are carefully watching the raw materials issues, which may continue in 2021. Logistics issues, especially around container shipments, are being monitored as well, and plans developed to mediate that risk.”
While COVID-19 disruptions have certainly caused headaches for performance fabric makers, the pandemic also has revealed opportunities for growth and evolution.
Outdura has ramped up its cut yardage program, launching the Ovation 4 book at the November 2020 ITA Showtime Market, offering customers a curated collection of popular styles.
“Cut yardage is becoming a very important part of our business, and we continue to invest in it,” said King. “We launched Modern Textures in 2020, which is a collection of seven patterns offered in nine colors each. This is targeted at providing great body cloth options at competitive prices. Additionally, there is added benefit to being able to ship quickly and offer the flexibility of cut yardage.”
For Swavelle Mill Creek, building the Bella Dura brand looks different from how the company envisioned its rollout, but with a little help from digital tools and the good, old-fashioned postal service, they’re reaching their customers.
“It was a bump in the road with the pandemic in introducing the brand, but we’ve made it work, and we’re in the middle of doing some major development work with some outdoor players,” said Thomases. “It’s all custom development, and it’s all done with file transfers and a sample gets sent to our design director’s house and she sends it to the customer’s house—it’s a little different, but we’re learning to work through it.”
Though they’ve experienced some challenges over the past few months, Glen Raven sees this pandemic as an opportunity to make investments and capitalize on a time of unprecedented demand to build an even stronger future.
“With change and challenge come new areas of focus and opportunities for growth,” said Swers. “For example, research shows that spending more time in nature can help combat feelings of stress and anxiety. Anecdotally, recent behaviors show that people are shifting their routines to prioritize more time outdoors. While this concept may sound familiar, people are now taking it to heart as they seek new ways to embrace their surroundings and invest more thoughtfully in an outdoor space that performs year-round.”
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.”
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.”
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Sunbrella (Glen Raven)
American Silk Mills
Bella-Dura (Wearbest Sil-Tex Mills)
Perennials and Sutherland
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