Brighter and Better

May 17, 2005
Commercial textiles have lightened up

Look carefully at modern textiles. Colors are brighter, cleaner, and fresher. Patterns are less busy. Solids are bursting onto the scene. The marriage between function and aesthetics is complete.

“For so many years, commercial textiles tended to be dark and muted,” says Lori Weitzner, principal of New York City-based Lori Weitzner Design and a designer for Pallas Textiles, Green Bay, WI. “There used to be a joke that we should just make them look dirty, because when they are dirty, no one will notice,” she laughs.

It’s true that multicolor patterns do hide dirt. And, from a design standpoint, it is easier to pull an entire color palette from a pattern. But today’s multicolor textiles have evolved greatly than those of even 5 years ago - both in color and performance. “Today, each color has its own place,” Weitzner explains. “Everything used to be neutralized. Now, each one is clean and punchy.”

Designers, including Weitzner, are stepping out of the proverbial box and moving beyond patterns. The newest trends in commercial textile design are solids and uni-colored textures.

“It’s more about the quality of the fabric, the texture, and the sheen [rather] than the pattern,” Weitzner says. “There’s more pure color, and less muddy color. It’s clean color and not acidic. Acidic color is over.”

And color rules within product lines. As one example, Weitzner cites an upcoming line of solids that will have 18 different hues. She also points out that a number of patterned textile lines offer at least eight color combinations. “You need to have at least three kinds of red, blue, and green,” she says. “You can’t just do one of each. It’s too hard.”

Uni-color textures are coming back, she adds. These non-patterned fabrics, dyed in just one color, offer a true purity of color. “Coming back with a ‘new twist’ are dobbies with different, interesting yarns,” notes Weitzner. “We blend colors, but we keep it tonal.”

Another emerging trend might cause maintenance-oriented facilities managers to gasp in horror. But it’s true: Neutral fabrics are hot.

The color family that was once taboo in commercial settings is now cutting-edge - thanks to improved performance characteristics, including durable fabrics and yarn components that make commercial textile products easy to clean and resistant to staining and moisture. “Light neutrals are finally really in,” Weitzner says. “They’re very elegant. New fabrics make [them] so easy to clean. You no longer have to shy away from beige and ecru.”

Robin Suttell ([email protected]), based in Cleveland, is contributing editor at Buildings magazine.

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