Treat it as it Should be Treated and it Will last the Distance

The fabric industry is more price driven than it used to be, yet price should not compromise quality.

Too often cheap inappropriate retail fabric is used in the accommodation industry instead of a long lasting commercial fabric.

“Poor fabric selection can lower hotel standards when fabrics look shabby prematurely and refurbishments don’t last. It is only when bigger complexes become involved with experienced commercial designers and architects that people understand the right type of fabrics to be used,” said Gary Coman, managing director of HotelHome Australia.

“With any fabric it all depends what the application will be. There are hundreds of applications and reasons for doing things,” said Lyndall Keller importer and distributor of Olivades fabrics from France. “We understand our range thoroughly and can advise people.”

Olivades is a family owned factory in Southern France and is one of the very few left who completely design and manufacture in France in that particular style of fabric.

“It is important to establish where the property is and what sort of limitations it might have. For example, an island might not have access to dry cleaning, so they have to look at options that are washable and conversely an outback location might have limitations with regards to water,” said Mr Cheatley national contract/commercial manager for Warwick Fabrics. “You have to be diligent at specification time to ensure something fit for purpose will be used. There are a few mills in Australia that can manufacture very good quality textiles made to commercial specifications.”

“We use Australian fabrics and also manufacture in Australia to produce the finished commercial product required for Australian conditions,” said Mr Coman. “There are some extremely good hotel fabrics imported from Europe, however many fabrics from other parts of the world are bought on price and they are not always produced to commercial standards, hence they will not perform as expected.

“People in Australia, often want to know if the fabric is going to fade. We use high quality commercial dyes with a colour fast rating of around six, the best available is seven,” said Mr Coman.

AN31-3-DivaChocxDiva Chocolate Caramel“If the property starts with a designer then you can see the original plan because you can’t do it piecemeal, you need an overall concept,” said Ms Keller. “It is important to have your plan worked out first.”

“Selection of fabric is a design and operational decision,” said Mr Cheatley. “Some big hotel groups may have wool, polyester and leather through their rooms for upholstery. There is no set rule, especially for upholstery. Polyester seems to be the most functional product for curtains in bulk. Silk, cottons and linens and those sorts of fibres are not practical for hotels.”

Some important factors to consider when selecting fabrics are:

• Cost factor—you get what you pay for when you comprise quality in favour of a cheap price. Eventually you will pay more for frequent replacements instead of wisely choosing something that will last the distance and not date too soon.

• Rub test awareness—also known as the rub test and tests for abrasion. The Martindale rub test checks fabric for its durability and suitability for various situations, for example, commercial application in hotels. The test gives a score in 1000s of ‘cycles’ or ‘rubs’. The higher the Martindale score the more suitable the fabric for heavy usage. Domestic fabrics average 20,000 rubs, whereas commercial rub test is 40-50,000 and higher.

For example, Kothea velvets and Faux Leathers have scores of over 100,000 making them suitable hotel fabrics for heavy use areas.

The Martindale rub test is mainly used in the United Kingdom and Europe. The United States and some other countries use the Wyzenbeek test, commonly referred to as ‘double rub’.

It is important to note that you cannot surmise a Wyzenbeek score from a Martindale score or vice versa. They are two different tests.

• Durability—will it last the distance for what it is intended?

• Fire/flame retardant—confirm with the supplier and check if the fabric is low flame or has a specific flame retardant. Fabrics can be treated.

• Stability—a fabric that doesn’t move around and easy is to use.

• Fade factor—are commercial dyes used?

• Care labels—legally provided with any product.

• Maintenance—check and understand the care labels correctly.

• Specific care instructions conveyed to appropriate staff—What is a warm wash to one is a hot wash to another. Instructions must be specific and clearly understood to ensure longevity of the fabric.

AN31-3-MalibuGoldxMalibu Gold Aqua• Cleaning—know how and where the fabrics will be cleaned ensuring the company/staff understand the cleaning instructions. Should it be washed or dry-cleaned? For example, wrong dry cleaning mixture could delaminate the fabric.

• Washability—should the fabric be cold, warm or hot washed or washed at all?

• Shrinkage—understand the fabric’s function for the environment it is to be used in. Just because something looks good does not mean it is suitable. If the fabric is washed or tumbled dry is there chance of skrinkage? A cold tumble dry could turn into a warm or hot tumble dry and your curtains or similar may be returned a smaller size.

• Insurance—misinterpreted care instructions may lead to loss of insurance compensation.

“The biggest problem we have is cleaning and maintenance and the difficulty in a property conveying that information from management through to the people on the floor doing the work,” said Mr Cheatley. “How the care labels are interpreted can be a problem and the other is the initial inappropriate selection of fabric for product. Wrong selection for example, is something with an open weave going into a bedspread and the polyester filling in the bedspread migrating through the fabric.”

Limited or no fabric training will lead to mistakes. In some cases additional training is required for interior designers and project managers with regards to fabric clarification and specific use.

“You need an expert to select the right type of fabric to suit the purpose. For example, you can’t use a viol on upholstery as that is more of a curtain material,” said Ms Keller. “There is a lot of white bed linen these days so colour can be brought in by using cushions, throws, valences, upholstery and bed heads. I recommend some acrylic for indoor/outdoor use, which are very durable and sunproof and some fabrics have Scotchguard integrated into the fabric so moisture beads and has less chance of staining,” explained Ms Keller.

“You need flame resistant fabric for the windows so it has to be Trevira or flame resistant. Linens are very big because they give that natural look Some decorators tend towards that equal natural look,” said Ms Keller.

The construction and the sort of yarns must be very tight so the fabric doesn’t snag. If it snags the loops are too long. We have different yarns running across as well as going up and down.

A true commercial fabric, will consist of shorter loops, not long floats, ensuring a tight construction. When a fabric is woven with long floats (that is a yarn is not tied down by every yarn it crosses) the fabric is subject to snagging which eventually leads to yarn breaks and fabric deterioration.

AN31-3-VoodooxVoodooIn a typical hotel room, the bed is usually the most used piece of furniture in the room so the bed covering has to be durable like a semi-upholstery.

“Most printed fabrics are printed on a polyester cotton and many don’t meet commercial speculations.

“The abrasion isn’t as important because the fabric is on a soft bed and moves around with it hence the abrasion factor is markedly reduced,” said Mr Coman. “Cushions need to be commercial quality with zippers for easy cleaning.”

Environmentally friendly products come into play in the fabric world today, with a number of ranges available that use recycled polyester.

Encore fabrics from Warwick fabrics, have been developed in conjunction with leading yarn suppliers. The recycling of solid polyester waste products prevents their disposal to land fill. Each metre of Encore fabric will use the equivalent of no less than four, two litre plastic bottles each weighing 30gms.

“Fabric awareness is a very important part of your property and investment and you do need to learn more about fabric so an informed decision can be made,” reaffirmed Mr Coman.

The quality of the initial installation plays a big part of when a refurbishment is required. It could be up to 10 years or more.

“I’ve seen things fail after 12 months so it is a lot about the quality of products at the first installation and then the quality of the maintenance after that. That is where the performance criteria comes into play – us being aware of what we are offering the client and the client being aware of what they need. Treat the fabric as it should be treated and it will last the distance,” emphasised Mr Cheatley.

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