Designtex + Coalesse worked together to utilize the expertise of small specialty mills and dive deep into nuanced color exploration.
Below, Coalesse Global Director of Design John Hamilton and Designtex Director of Design Catherine Stowell share their insights and perspectives on the collaboration — their inspiration, their challenges and successes, and the collection’s ultimately unique applications.
JH: Coalesse design has always loved what Designtex produces and how they have approached their collection, and we saw an opportunity to have greater synergies between the upholstered products that we develop and the fabrics that are used to finish them. By designing with the complete product in mind and with a greater understanding of the manufacturing process, we could create a series of new materials that would make our solutions ultimately better and that would perform at their best when used with our products.
CS: The purpose of this collection was to imbue materials with the quintessential Coalesse aesthetic. We had to understand precisely what that meant – in terms of color – specifically value, tint and shade. In terms of pattern – mid scale? Micro? Macro? Physical tactile elements are important – what type of hand should the materials have? Opulence? Sturdy? Well crafted? Causal? Formal? Manufacturing and craftsmanship – what Coalesse values did we want to emphasize?
The result is a collection of 9 thoughtfully crafted textiles that celebrate the synergies between Designtex and Coalesse. We worked with fine craftspeople to utilize the expertise of small specialty mills, featuring a rich tactility of fine fibers and finishing. We dove deep into color research and edited the collection to a tight palette of universally useful neutrals and tints – and shades of a select range of hues. We studied pattern types and scales to come up with a pattern offering intended to enhance the Coalesse portfolio of products.
JH: Classic and smart, sophisticated but approachable, energetic and diverse.
The Designtex team is also very passionate about pushing their process and had already been exploring new weaving techniques, new fibers to use in the looms, and several specialized mills that were willing to experiment with us. We defined a shared brief that focused our explorations and leveraged the research done into biophilia and patterns for enriching environments – this allowed for a collection of fabrics to be created that align with the updated Coalesse color direction and that have a compelling story behind their creation.
CS: While the two companies work together often – the Designtex and Coalesse design teams had not yet collaborated on a design project like this. The Coalesse team did a diligent job of pulling colors from the Designtex product line and visually juxtaposing pairs of colors that they would or would not use. Yes to a grey tinged blue; no to a brighter cobalt blue. It was incredibly clarifying to see their discerning color point of view and a great way to ‘get to know’ their team better. This set us up with a good baseline to begin our work in earnest.
CS: At the time of the collaboration the studios were located on opposite coasts – Coalesse in San Francisco, Designtex in New York. While this made meeting in person cumbersome, it gave us the opportunity to utilize digital tools. We used a shared doc to capture process and progress, back and forth communication was done using the comments feature. Of course nothing replaces physical samples, so we sent plenty of packages of swatches, yarns and trials back and forth.
JH: Our approach to problems is similar in many ways, but the two studios were located on opposite sides of the US, and the time differences and distance between us was going to be a big challenge to the success of the project.
We were able to leverage technology to actually enhance the collaboration.We used high definition telepresence to connect visually and then we used shared cloud storage and documents to keep the content co-owned and constantly evolving. We were able to see each other and then also see the content that we were each creating, which helped to align us faster and execute quicker.
JH: The palette is welcoming and natural, it reflects the feeling and light we have in California, but also in many other areas of the world. It pulls from the landscapes that we are inspired by and the living nature found in these places. And it reflects the neutral tones that allow diverse products to have greater compatibility with each other in the settings they are used in.
Our patterns are directly connected to our research into biophilia and the diversity we found when built environments intersect with living environments. The symmetry of some aspects in nature and the asymmetry of other parts. The repetition that you see on the surface and the differences you find when you look closely. And then how light can move through, around and with natural elements to create the unimaginable patterns that we all respond to so positively. Coalesse color and pattern is simple yet complex, it is comfortable and insightful, and it is classic and international.
CS: While the products in this collection can be used on any furniture pieces, they were developed with the Coalesse suite of products in mind. We were able to visualize the patterns on certain pieces during development and make pattern decisions or scale adjustments based on how the proportions of the patterns looked on the furniture pieces. We rarely get to do that so early in the process, so that was special for us.
Several of the textiles have overlapping concepts of pattern and color, encouraging designers to mix and match each component. The highly dimensional quilted surface of Burrard has a built in partner in Burrard Ground Cloth. Bixby Micro and Macro can be used alone or in tandem, encouraging designers to toggle back and forth between scales.
JH: The latest introductions from Coalesse all work very with this new collection. The fabric collection is interesting by its unique approach to how the patterns can be incorporated – in some fabrics, the patterns are a part of the construction of the fabric while in others the patterns are quilted into the material itself. In some of the fabrics, the pattern is in the weaving and the jacquard, while in other versions it is left pure and allows the ground cloth to give greater contrast to the quilting process.
The fabrics will add dimension and interest to those spaces that are softer through upholstery and that connect users in social ways. They will perform in work environments and make the personal type spaces even more restorative. And the fabrics will allow for a connective thread that runs through and ties together an environment of diverse settings.
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