“He really helped engineer a more sophisticated backing for the flooring, because as an architect he felt there was real potential for [woven vinyl] commercially,” she says. “He fell in love with it
all over again, like I did.”
Sultan eventually went down to Chilewich’s manufacturing base in Georgia to find a better way to back the material, and the couple launched Plynyl® flooring at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair in 2001.
“I swear it was a phenomenon,” Chilewich recalls. “We couldn’t breathe because there were so many people in the booth. It was just so new.”
They took home the ICFF Editors Award for Carpet and Flooring, and have been developing new products ever since. Sultan is now CEO of Chilewich | Sultan, while Chilewich operates as creative director.
The two of them form a powerful combination.
Where Chilewich experiments to bring new weaves, shapes and textures to market, Sultan brings a deep understanding of the material needs from an architect’s perspective. Together, they formulate fully realized ideas where aesthetics and performance meet. And while she stands in as a front woman for the brand, he is able to tinker behind the scenes, fine-tuning the “methyl- exyl- dexyl- crexyls” of the process, he says.
But don’t let the jokes fool you. Sultan is an R+D guy, with a straight gaze and a solid grasp on what makes a material work. Recently, he helped Chilewich introduce a tile backing system called BioFelt™, a fabric-like material composed of 82 percent pre- and post-consumer content.
As with most of Chilewich’s new projects, BioFelt got off to an auspicious start when Oakley chose Chilewich as an exclusive flooring and tabletop partner for the design of the Oakley Safehouse at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.
Oakley’s Safehouse program has been running since 1996, and is aimed at providing Olympians with a relaxing escape between events. The 2012 Safehouse spanned two floors of London’s Design Museum—all covered in Chilewich Plynyl with BioFelt backing.
Barely stopping to celebrate BioFelt’s successful first year on the market, the two are already knee deep in their next innovation. This time Sultan
is working against petroleum-based phthalate plasticizers—the compounds put in plastics to make them malleable and soft.
If all goes according to plan, we may be seeing new corn- and soy-based backings for Chilewich’s contract flooring products as early as 2013. For those focused more in the consumer market, don’t feel left out just yet. Chilewich will begin selling iPhone 5 cases in Apple stores this March, too.