We’re self confessed suckers for a fabric sample book. The textures. The colours. Even the smell. We just can’t get enough of them. But beyond the temptations of the holy cloth how about the sustainability question?
It’s impossible to pick up a newspaper without the justifiable outcry for all of us to take responsibility for the beautiful planet which we share. Many of our corporate end-clients understand this and are demanding a sustainable ethic within their design briefs, often seen as a necessity not just to fulfil corporate goals but equally importantly to attract and maintain a motivated and passionate workforce.
Contributing to the sustainability of a corporate workplace takes details. So many elements which need careful consideration, the never ending balance between spec and budget. And unfortunately, the furniture options are not straight forward. Thankfully we have 40 years’ experience to guide us through the basics of a fairly complex topic and explore the possibilities for discerning clients looking to incorporate more sustainable options into their workplace projects.
“When we talk about sustainability within a contract furniture context we believe there are three main ways for us to step beyond the aesthetics of colour and design, and reduce the environmental impact of our products; Materials, Logistics and Waste. Almost everything we use is sourced within a 40 mile radius of our High Wycombe workshop, reducing our carbon footprint but also making us nimble to respond to any customer requests or market changes. Logistics and the recycling of our waste have been discussed in our Supplying Sustainability article together with a general mention of materials, but fabric options are rapidly expanding with manufacturers investing in new product development to satisfy the demands of sustainable- savvy designers and we share some of them from our network of suppliers here.”
In recent years, synthetic fibre consumption has accounted for 62% of the 96 million tonnes of total textile fibre consumption (Source: ICAC, CIFRS, The Fiber Year, The Fiber Organon, Lenzing estimates (2014). With clear material benefits such as anti-wrinkle, durability and non absorbency it was no surprise that nylon, acrylic, polyester and polypropelene shot up in popularity until consumers realised the impact of their non-renewable and non-degradable properties. Fabric manufacturers have been fast to catch up with a selection of different initiatives.
Whilst obviously not being a new material, the qualities of wool have long been overlooked with consumption running at a mere 1.2% of total textile consumption (Source: ICAC, CIFRS, The Fiber Year, The Fiber Organon, Lenzing estimates (2014)). With natural properties such as annually renewable, completely biodegradable and naturally flame retardant it’s no surprise that more designers are turning to this proven textile fibre.
Photo credit: Gordon Burniston for Bute Fabrics
Combining natural fibres from nettles with virgin wool was the result of an initiative by Camira in conjunction with academic partner De Montfort University, and supported by Defra, to use the common stinging nettle as the raw material fibre input for a new environmental textile for contract upholstery applications.
Photo credit: Camira fabrics
Crafted using 45% recycled wool, Re-wool from Kvadrat is a rich upholstery textile with a sustainable profile. The textile is partly made by reusing scraps from Kvadrat’s yarn spinners in the UK. ‘The idea was to create a both honest and environmentally friendly – textile with a poetic feel by recycling leftover material from Kvadrat’s own production’, explains designer Margrethe Odgaard.
Photo credit: Kvadrat
Recycled industrial waste
Made from post-industrial recycled materials, Messenger from Kvadrat offers a reduced environmental impact. For instance, plastic soda bottles damaged during production are one of the ingredients for the design.
Photo credit: Kvadrat
Recycled consumer waste
The post-consumer recycled polyester used in the production of Kvadrat Merit is made from fibres derived from consumer waste, which have been used, disposed of, and diverted from landfills. These are reprocessed, spun into yarn, and then woven and dyed.
Photo credit: Kvadrat
Just a few examples of how our fabric suppliers are introducing exciting new products which go beyond the lure of textures and colour combinations.