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Ground-breaking innovations in textiles and trends in interior design, architecture and hospitality

27 Feb 2020

Sustainability and functionality: these were the major topics that dominated the trends for contract textiles at Heimtextil 2020. The world’s largest trade fair for home and contract textiles is the top trend barometer for interior architects, hospitality experts and planners. The broad variety of topics, high-quality specialist lectures, panel discussions and ground-breaking materials innovations are a clear demonstration of the potential that lies within the sector.

It was abundantly clear at Heimtextil 2020 that the developments towards greater sustainability are again gaining in dynamism. There is a growing demand for sustainable solutions. These are hugely diverse in nature and do not (yet) always end up as quite so ecologically acceptable as one might wish. For it is particularly the field of contract textiles where function is of prime importance. As a result, there is a tangibly growing interest in wholly organic products, as Rioma report, to quote one example. The Spanish manufacturer has an international reputation for its GOTS-certificated cotton fabrics (their ‘Flint Stone Wash’ range). The properties of Rioma’s upholstery and cover fabrics meet demanding technical requirements and are used in both interior design work and outdoor situations. At all events, many customers still nevertheless continue to opt for the ‘smaller’ green solutions, because of their better abrasion resistance: a mix of recycled cotton (30%) and polyester (their VelvetLin range). The latter lasts around five to six years in the contract business, whilst the organic alternative lasts only two to three years.

2-seater sofa made of green velvet on Heimtextil
Velvet that can do more. Redaelli/Marzotto - Photo: Messe Frankfurt Exhibition GmbH, Thomas Fedra

High-quality upholstery and cover fabrics constitute a strongly growing segment within Heimtextil. Particularly when used in commercial and contract situations, these textiles must, as well as satisfying sophisticated design requirements, also meet the highest technical and functional specifications.

When it comes to sustainability, many manufacturers find themselves still in the development phase. “We are currently investing heavily in ecological processes and products. That is a powerful trend,” says Riccardo Redaelli, Sales Manager at Redaelli 1893. At Heimtextil 2020, these Italian experts in high-end upholstery and curtain materials exhibited their Redaelli COEX range, a fire-resistant velvet, which is created without chemicals. This innovative technology is based on the molecular modification of cellulose. And, moreover, Redaelli are currently in the process of obtaining GOTS certification for it.

The German manufacturer Maasberg have also abandoned the use of chemistry with their Feishee-cotton brand. The ecological fabrics for the contract market from this innovative family business are compostable and hypoallergenic, they can be boiled and, on top of that, remain permanently flame resistant. Here too, the end product is not treated in the usual manner; instead the basic material is modified at molecular level. Not least because of the moderate pricing policy, these qualities of cotton are suited to public institutions such as schools, hospitals and care homes.

Coverdec’s main focus is the development of cork, a fashionable material at the moment, in the direction of timeless design. The Chorcho brand is a flagship for genuine cork veneer, which requires no additional treatment and is water repellent, anti-allergenic, anti-static, flame-resistant and sound absorbing. New to their range is the sound absorbing cork wall, with a modern, quilted effect. Whilst not for upholstered furniture, cork is an exciting alternative in many other sectors, where it fits in with the major trend for ‘vegan leather.’

Féline is a new player in the market. They have been exhibiting since the beginning of 2019. This start-up from the Netherlands presented a sustainable and highly flexible acoustic solution made from wool felt. For this, the company won this year’s ‘Heimtextil Trendscouting by AIT’ award. To select the winner of this celebrated award, the architecture magazine AIT first dispatches some 40 of its readers into the exhibition as ‘trend scouts’. They choose their own personal highlights from the products on show at Heimtextil. From these nominations, a panel of experts then selects the final winner. “Many customers are not aware just what a danger to the environment the traditional manufacture of felt is,” says Renske Vogel, Founder & Managing Partner of Féline. “Before we started, we did a lot of research and took plenty of time over the development. Now, with Féline, we can offer a really sustainable modern alternative.” For their Fresco range, Féline use a needling process.

This involves needles that don’t go all the way through. The front is pressed and remains smooth. The reverse side of the acoustic felt can be coated as desired and can thus be mounted on panels or walls with complete flexibility. As an alternative to wool, Féline also offer felts made from recycled PET bottles. “It is far from unusual in the contract market for there to be specifications which require the use of recycled products. And we deliver this option too, with our ‘Minimal Art’ collection.”

Selections offer orientation for every area of application

Numerous events, demonstrations and activities are available to provide help in finding one’s way around the plethora of textile products for the most varied applications and specifications at Heimtextil. As well as the sector awards, such as the ‘Heimtextil Trendscouting by AIT’, the ‘Best of Tours’ at Heimtextil 2020 provided another form of product selection by users for users. This involved asking participants in the guided tours led by experts in the field, to pick out their own personal favourites from the relevant tours. Particularly frequent mentions were made of Decobel, Englisch Dekor Handels GmbH, Leder Reinhardt, Marburger Tapetenfabrik, Style Library, Trevira and bespoke wallpaper manufacturer, Welter Manufaktur für Wandunikate. 

A compendium of textile materials, the ‘Interior.Architecture.Hospitality LIBRARY’ offered a new and practical tool for interior architects and designers to use in their work. On site at Heimtextil and online all year round as well, (, the library showcases a selection of exhibitors’ products, selected by a textile engineer on the basis of four functional criteria (flame-retardant, sound absorbing, hard-wearing and water repellent). At the same time, the choice of products was made bearing in mind the test certificates submitted with them, and clearly shows the inventiveness that exists in the contract textile sector and the refinement with which functional properties are combined with the most sophisticated and sensitive of design aspirations. Particularly notable in the ‘sound absorbing’ category are products that do well as a result of their honeycomb structure and at the same time offer outstanding, digitally printed colour designs. In the ‘water repellent’ category, we see once again that these do not necessarily always come with plain, flat surfaces. In the ‘hard-wearing’ category, those textiles that score highly are the ones which have significantly lower weight per unit area than the others. And in the ‘flame-retardant’ category, there was a tendency to choose textiles, which, in spite of being able to withstand the most stringent fire tests, had a delicate texture and extremely low weight per unit area, as well as often having an open web-like structure.

Also in the library is an innovation in the field of upholstery fabrics that the Albani Group introduced at Heimtextil 2020. ‘Silicore’ is offered in a range of products and is based on silicon, i.e. on quartz, and thus offers a sustainable alternative to PVC. This new type of faux leather is certified for use in the shipping industry – i.e. it is fire-resistant, lightfast, extremely low maintenance and durable. Because it is not PVC – and hence no softening agents are used - there is no evaporation or cracking. In addition, the material remains extremely pliable long-term. And it is top notch when it comes to maintenance: even indelible marker ink can be removed with just plain water and a micro-fibre cloth. Yet at the same time, the material is able to withstand powerful bleaches without harm, if any should come into contact with it. The use of quartz as a raw material and the long lifecycle both contribute to the product’s sustainability credentials.

Traditional suppliers such as the Gruppo Mastrotto are working intensively on their manufacturing processes. Gruppo Mastrotto have optimised their leather manufacture with regard to ecological standards. Accordingly, the process waste from the tannery forms a raw material for in-house processing or is passed on, for instance, to the cosmetics industry.

Currently, the most widely distributed products relating to sustainability issues are undoubtedly yarns made from recycled PET bottles, not least in the hands of manufacturers like Trevira, who, together with their huge network of partners, are constantly developing (and re-developing) new solutions for almost all areas of application. Vanelli, for instance, report strong growth in demand from the hotel industry for new products made from recycling-based Trevira yarns. “In collaboration with their partners, Trevira have worked hard over the past few years to get their synthetic fibres to look and feel natural. Added to that, there are constant attempts to improve the various functionalities and properties of the product.  With the result that Trevira now have fibres and filament yarns amongst their products that are manufactured in both pre- and post-consumer recycling processes,” says Anke Vollenbröker, Marketing Director at Trevira.


Heimtextil – The world’s leading trade fair for home and contract textiles.
Heimtextil is the world’s largest trade fair for home and contract textiles and, every year in January, provides a barometer for all current trends and topics of interest in the sector. Around 3,000 exhibitors from all over the world come to the Frankfurt Fair and Exhibition Centre to present their textile products and furnishing solutions, together with a rich variety of specialist lectures, guided tours by experts, staged trend scenarios and sector events. Some 370 Heimtextil exhibitors offer solutions specifically for the contract market and target interior architects and designers, architects and experts in the hospitality industry in particular. Under the heading ‘Interior.Architecture.Hospitality’, they can find a range of products and services specifically tailored to their requirements. The next Heimtextil is to be held from 12 to 15 January 2021.

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* preliminary figures 2019