A Textile Moment: The Relevance of Soft Goods in Commercial Interiors
This article was originally written by Royce Epstein for Trend Union’s “Talking Textiles” Magalog for New York Textile Month, which begins September 1st. Trend Union’s magalog is filled with essays and articles about textiles in fashion, interiors, design, and art, and was conceived by Li Edelkoort. The magalog includes an introduction by Li Edelkoort and a foreword by Caroline Baumann, director of the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum.
Hurrah, we are now living in a textile moment! For the last few years, soft hand and extreme textures found in textiles, carpet, and interior materials and finishes have been making their presence known in the market and in the eyes of the specifying designer. Textiles for interiors play a major role in the softening of shape and space. We are seeing surface texture everywhere, on both hard and soft surface materials, in architecture and the built environment.
Why the re-emergence of these textures? And why as a culture are we so focused on textiles today?
The answer can surely be found in design trends of the last 20 years. Once the dot-com boom happened, and the internet was ubiquitous, interior design became about designing pure spaces that were interested in looking like our collective vision of the future – almost like Stanley Kubrick’s vision in the film “2001: A Space Odyssey.” Shaped by Apple’s white, glossy, texture-less products and the rejection of post-modernism, a new contemporary visual language arose from the offices of Zaha Hadid, Daniel Libeskind, and firms that preferred minimalism to decoration.
But now that the sustainability movement has reached the masses, end users are demanding natural and reclaimed materials with relief and dimension, so we can all feel connected to the outdoors. This biophilic trend was started in the mid-90s and holds more relevance today, with health and wellness being important to people in the workplace. And with all of us suffering from iPhone fatigue, where we look at and touch glass screens all day long, surface texture allows us to connect with our primal, innate need for tactility while adding visual and physical interest.
We also see the reawakening of craft. The recent resurgence of the Handcrafted, Artisanal, and Maker movements can be seen as direct counteraction to our digital world. The sense of being touched by the hand gives products a boost of authenticity while moving us back a bit from the burden of the technological era. The desire for soft textures is also related to the familiar comfort of family and childhood, as well as more peaceful times when life was simpler. Even embroidery and stitch work have become prevalent, elevating the status of textiles, no doubt due to the sense of the hand, as well reaching back to our primitive desire to decorate.
With these considerations, extreme texture has emerged as an important element in design. Soft textiles, like natural wool felts and quilted fabrics, have been on trend for several years now and the demand for even softer and more textured surfaces is growing. Folds and pleats, especially, signal a break of form, creating a new visual language of patterning and elevated texture. Fuzzy surfaces like chenilles and boucles in fabrics are popular. We are also seeing chunky knits, where fiber size is exaggerated. While much of this is evident in textiles, we are also seeing the same desires in carpet. Spaces that have these extreme textures tend to be warm, inviting spaces that make the end user feel good, reassuring us that the human spirit always sustains.
Royce Epstein, director of design segment at Mohawk Group, weighs in on design trends that are influencing today’s products and interiors. Royce’s extensive professional career includes more than 20 years in interior design. In her role at Mohawk Group, Royce shares her passion and vision for design, cultural trends and the meaning of materials in a broad context. Constantly on the watch for new influencers in all aspects of design and culture, Royce feeds this insight to all of the industry’s touch points.