Camira Q&A: the material impact of fabric

Catherine Counsell is Design and Development Manager for Camira, the world-leading British company that designs and manufactures over 8 million metres of fabric every year for clients across the globe. You’ll find Camira’s world-renowned fabrics on trains and buses, in theatres and shops, schools, hospitals and offices. Catherine has been working with Camira for 21 years and is responsible for the creative and trend aspects of the contract business, working with customers worldwide to understand their fabric needs. We talked with Catherine about the latest fabric trends and discover why grey is the new black.


Q1. What are the key trends in fabrics for commercial interiors at the moment? 

Our customers want fabrics with contrast in terms of colour, texture, pattern and plains that can easily be used in combination with one another to create fresh, individual interior schemes.

Melange fabrics are very popular at the moment, partly because of the perception of “softness” that they give, but also because they are very effective at disguising dirt so can look new for a longer period of time. There is also a real trend for simple fabric structures where the interest is created through clever use of yarns.


Q2. Tell us about the latest ranges from Camira and what inspired them.

We track trends very closely, and gather information from a wide range of sources. This information is then distilled into specific themes from which we create our own trend stories. We sketch, paint, sculpt and stitch elements to form pieces which support these stories and create ideas for pattern and texture. These inspire our fabric developments. This way of developing is of huge importance to us, and we launched our first Trend Book in January, 2016.


Q3. How is flexible working having an impact on workspace / fabric design?

There is a real appreciation of diversity in the workplace and the need for different generations to work together within a space which addresses their individual requirements, whether that be in terms of flexibility, ergonomics, acoustics etc. This is applicable both within the office workspace and beyond, for example in coffee shops and hubs. With the increase in use of hand held technology, employees no longer expect to work for 8 hours a day at a fixed desk, and therefore we are seeing more breakout areas with soft seating and a more domestic ambience. As a backlash to being constantly connected, people are also seeking to get “off the grid”, with WIFI free areas (blackspots) beginning to become popular within offices.


Q4. Like us, you work across education and commercial sectors. Are Higher Education providers raising their game as far as their interiors are concerned?

Definitely. In a bid to attract students we are seeing more “high-end” fabrics being specified into Higher Education installations, with an emphasis on wool/wool blends and sustainable fabrics.   Since the introduction of tuition fees students’ expectations have increased resulting in changes in campus layouts and improved accommodation.

 Q5. Do you think workspaces are taking inspiration from learning environments?

Yes. As young people are entering the workplace, they expect a similar environment to the one they experienced at university, namely a flexible landscape which is relaxed and adaptive.


Q6. What would your advice be to clients when it comes to choosing fabrics?

Technical performance is the most important consideration, particularly in terms of flammability. Fitness for purpose is also important so think about the user profile before specifying. Lower cost fabrics might seem like a good choice initially, but over a longer term this might be false economy as they are likely to lose their aesthetic more quickly. Think about how a fabric will look on day 1,000, not just on day one!


Q7.  You’re known for your commitment to reducing the environmental impact of fabric manufacture.  What choices can clients make that have green credentials?

Sound environmental processes are at the heart of what we do. Our pioneering work using wool blended with bast fibres such as nettle, hemp, flax and jute means that our clients can specify beautiful, hardwearing, natural, fabrics which are inherently flame retardant to Medium Hazard flammability without the addition of chemicals. Clients can also choose from a range of recycled polyester fabrics, some of which incorporate closed loop manufacturing using our own yarn and fabric waste.


Q8. We’re fascinated by the role colour plays in learning and work environments.  What would your advice be around the use or role of colour in the work space?

The temptation can be to default to black as a base with highlight colours. However, as grey takes on the hue of surrounding shades, this can work as a more contemporary alternative. It also gives a corporate, formal look whilst being calming and grounding, and works well with most interior finishes. Very dark, saturated navy, teal, olive and burgundy are also effective base colours and on trend at the moment.

Blue is very popular in workplace environments and is often used in schools, having been proven to increase productivity and concentration. It is associated with calm and tranquillity. Turquoise and Aqua shades are reported to improve mood and lift depression. Everyone is comfortable with colours found in the natural world so looking to the landscape is a good way to generate colour inspiration.


Q9.  On a personal note, what inspires you and where do you get your ideas from?  

I’m fascinated by the synergy between science and nature, and mathematical order within the natural world. A real appreciation is emerging of how much we can learn from biomimicry and taking the time to think “how would nature do this”?

My ideas come from a variety of sources; our “Trend Wall”, advancements in technology, photography and finding different, hands-on ways to come up with design/texture. Most important though is communication with our customers in all of our geographical and market areas to understand their needs and make sure that every range and every colourway earns its place in the Camira portfolio.