Digital printing stars at Heimtextil 2016

Every one of the 35 times I have attended Heimtextil, I try my hardest to detect a trend that the Furnishing Textile industry will be taking over the coming year and beyond. And every year I struggle… Differentiate the attention-seeking, show-stopping displays, that are not intended for sale, just here to draw people onto the stand, from the genuine ‘direction’, is not an easy task.

Heimtextil is by far the most pre-eminent furnishing textile event in the world, always held the second week in January at Frankfurt Germany’s Messe, acres of exhibition halls on several levels, literally kilometres of alleys with displays costing hundreds of thousands of euros to little stalls reminiscent of a bazaar, and probably millions of samples. The trick, of course, is to find the hidden gem, the next big thing!

One of the strategies I adopt is to follow a piece of advice given to me by an old textile sage, on my first visit to Heimtextil all those years ago, and that is to observe where the crowd is. He believed that the crowd always get it right. And he was right!


Digital printing revolutionizes the textile industry

So… What did I discover this year? In a word, DIGITAL! Plus a few other directions indicators, which we will share with you.

Digital printing has changed the interior textile industry irrevocably. Florals on a massive scale were certainly the most obvious representation of this extraordinary technology. Many of the manufacturers combined interesting textures with printed effects resulting in a fascinating product that before the advent of digital printing was available only at exotic prices. Exotic, expensive fabrics are often described (in textile parlance) as being woven by the light of diamonds.

We also saw a strong presence of glitz or lustrous effects right across the board. Countless ways of adding shine effects! In woven textiles flecks of bright peeped through, subtly tucked away in the weave, and at the other end of the scale some fabrics, especially vinyls, looked like sheets of bright metal. In fact, vinyls are back in favour big time. They may have been some justification in the concern about the ecological effect of PVC on our planet Earth, but the industry now has a very high standard of EP and many of the components formally used in producing old PVC have been replaced with non-polluting chemicals.


Sheers shine in the interiors

Metals were not alone in the “shine” department. Bright lustrous yarns delivered a rich effect, the use of a lacquered foil enhancing the lustre in a subtle way and often associated with prints, giving a pearly effect to the background.

Sheers have very often been the quiet background component of interior furnishing. No longer! We saw many sheers, which contained fine metallic yarns of copper, aluminium and all manner of innovative materials, taking the former poor commodity sheer to a place of stardom in the interior decoration scene.

Here again, digital printing opens up a world of opportunity. Since the digital process has removed the constraints of roller printing, we see designers breaking out in so many ways. It is as if they have been freed from their shackles and can now express themselves in a whole new way. This was obvious in highly engineered designs and the free use of incredible colour.


The strong influence of Scandinavian design

As far as an emerging pattern type, one could not miss the strong presence of classic Scandinavian designs. In the hall where Textile Designers show their ranges (more acres of booths) the presence of studios was disproportionately Swedish, Finnish or Danish.

In the main Halls the Scandinavian presence was very evident. Vallila of Finland displayed a number of designs from the library of Metsovaara, a well-known and respected contributor to the world of Interior Design in the 1970’s and 80’s, and of course, many designs of the Metsovaara/Marimekko genre were displayed.

Another dominant feature was the amount and consistently similar leaf motif. Sadly the ‘fun police’ don’t permit photos but we did manage to get permission from some exhibitors. The leaf theme was particularly evident in printed fabrics. Printing enabled intricate detail that Jacquards don’t quite manage. Hence the very fine depiction of the veins in the leaves and the wonderful textures.

One reason I find attending Heimtex of great benefit, is not just what is contained in the booths, but what happens in the walkways and hotel foyers. The benefit of bumping into and comparing notes with the movers and shakers of the worlds Furnishing Textile industry is beyond measure. Many have been friends for decades and have contributed to Materialised’s success in many ways.


Gary Price


Photos: Jean-Luc Valentin / Messe Frankfurt 

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