ITA market roundtable focuses on performance fabrics


ITA Managing Director Carrie Dillon welcomes moderator Warren Shoulberg, and panelists Caroline Hipple, Norwalk president, and Christi Barbour, founder and partner at Barbour Spangle Design, to the panel on performance fabrics during the recent High Point Market.

HIGH POINT — The International Textile Alliance held a panel on performance fabrics during the recent High Point Market, and the panelists agreed on the importance of educating consumers about what qualities to look for in a performance fabric.

Norwalk president Caroline Hipple and co-founder of Barbour Spangle Design Christi Barbour joined moderator, journalist and consultant Warren Shoulberg for a lively discussion about performance fabrics as well as the recent supply chain issues.

“We need to continue letting consumers know that performance fabrics have UV protection and won’t fade, they are stain-resistant and bleach cleanable,” Barbour said. “Most consumers aren’t familiar enough with textile brands but want the soft hand of a cotton or linen, along with the durability of a performance fabric.”

Hipple said performance fabrics have come a long way from the days when they were mainly used in commercial settings.

“We can now do fabric in cream or white since it can be easily cleaned,” she said. “Each month at Norwalk, we choose our top 50 performance fabrics. I believe in 10 years, performance fabrics will be 90% of the market.”

The panelists also said more consumers are asking what chemicals are used on the fabrics to enable the performance qualities. Most textile manufacturers have anticipated this and have transparent explanations available for how the treatment is applied to their particular fabrics, according to the panel.

When it comes to the recent supply chain issues both Hipple and Barbour said they let customers know right away about any expected issues with procurement.

“I believe the supply chain issues are leading to lots of creativity and innovation in our industry. People are problem solvers,” Hipple said. “We bought a ton of fabric when the pandemic first started, so we’ve been able to guarantee 35-day shipping through December, but we are planning now for what we’ll do in 2022.”

At Barbour Spangle Design, the design team finds that many of their clients are interested in socially responsible buying and are willing to wait to get a quality product rather than just taking what’s available now.

“Most customers are frustrated about the long lead times, but they realize we have no control over that,” said Barbour. “They are now more willing to look at vintage and antique options since we have immediate access to those items. We’ve found that sites like Chairish and 1stDibs are getting more and more popular.”

Both Hipple and Barbour said that, once the conversation moves beyond the supply chain issues, it is possible to focus on the increased fabric options coming from the U.S. and companies that are sourcing from areas other than Asia.

The panelists also recommended working with associations like the American Home Furnishings Alliance and other trade associations that can help find new answers, since they have access to a wider range of solutions.


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