BY BARBARA T. NELLES
There are two very different style trends being displayed on today’s well–dressed bed—the sleek, smooth look of all–foam specialty sleep and the ornate multihued couture outfitting innerspring and hybrid mattresses.
Clean, unquilted wraparound styling driven by the growing popularity of all–foam mattresses already has swept Europe and is increasingly seen in North and South America, ticking suppliers say.
Meanwhile, mattress manufacturers designing innerspring and hybrid bed sets are mixing and matching, cutting and sewing as many as six fabric components—the panel, mattress border, foundation border, tape, gusset and handle. Many beds now sport contrasting textiles on the mattress and foundation borders. Handles are an important design feature; mattress tapes are thicker and more colorful.
“Merchandising has become very important to our customers,” says Elena Arnold, director of knit designing for Culp Inc. in High Point, N.C. “Mattress manufacturers are playing close attention to how everything coordinates to create a more deliberate, more custom look—much like the upholstery industry has done for years.”
“I think things are going to get a lot more fun,” says Jeff Miller, vice president of business development for BRK in Pico Rivera, Calif. “There is a need for something to entice consumers to purchase this product—fashion can inject some urgency.”
Or, as Jerry Pratt, puts it: “It’s the ticking that gives beds sex appeal. It’s the billboard that delivers the message.” Pratt is president of Creative Ticking, a division of Beverly Knits, which has headquarters in Gastonia, N.C.
It’s not just bold design directions that are making news in mattress fabrics. New technologies—from super–stretch knits to temperature–regulating fibers to spacer fabrics—are solving problems of both mattress makers and consumers.
“Things have changed quite a bit in mattress fabrics in the past two years,” says Lynn Pappas, product portfolio manager at Bekaert USA, which has headquarters in Winston–Salem, N.C., and world headquarters in Waregem, Belgium. “We have the new Rayoz collection, the first four–color knit product on the market. It’s a double–knit ‘color rainbow vehicle’ that allows saturated color to pop through and shine.”
Rare just a few years ago, browns, grays, blues and greens are now commonplace on the borders of mid–priced beds, mattress fabric suppliers say. In panel accents, you’ll see everything from silver and burnished metals to cool hues like pale blue, lavender, aqua and sea foam.
When dressing a new mattress collection, manufacturers typically choose a common border fabric and then related patterns for each mattress panel. A new trend is to add a range of secondary accent colors in the tape–edge or top panel design motif to differentiate beds in a single group.
“For one price point, you may have taupe or silvery gray accents; for another, aqua; and for a third, peach accents,” says Laura Allred, design director of CT Nassau, which has headquarters in Alamance, N.C.
“While the retail floor remains mostly white, some accent color trends we see this year are browns into burnt oranges,” says Eric Delaby, vice president of sales and marketing for Deslee Textiles USA, which is based in Inman, S.C., with world headquarters in Zonnebeke, Belgium. “We’re also incorporating some color with ‘heathered’ yarns—these are different colored yarns twisted together to create more of a denim–type effect. You can blend a toned–down navy or maroon. It’s not new in textiles, but it is a new look in mattress fabrics.”
Among her company’s customers, brown continues to be popular but “people are also looking for cleaner colors,” says Ann Weaver, vice president of marketing for Waterloo, S.C.–based Lava USA, part of Lava Textiles, which has headquarters in Wielsbeke, Belgium.
“We introduced a true, medium blue with some sheen at Interzum Cologne,” she says. “There is also an almost iridescent color we call pearl that can have a pink to a blue hue. We’re getting a lot of requests for blues and silvers.”
Culp’s Arnold says the role of color is changing.
“It’s shifting from small accents to solids, closely following home fashion trends,” she says. “Neutrals are more saturated. Steel is warming up to mink; gold is deeper, richer. And small or large accents of fashion colors such as turquoise, deep orchid and cobalt are on the brink (of more widespread acceptance).”
When it comes to mattress fabrics, color trends vary depending on the region of the world.
Favored colors in Europe continue to be “lights and whites,” says Job Dröge, president of Tilburg, Netherlands–based Innofa. “In the U.S., for accents and borders, there is greater interest in browns, black, blues and even pistachio. In Mexico, vibrant colors like red, yellow, purple and salmon are becoming popular.”
Lorne Romoff, vice president of Maxime Knitting in Montreal, says that mattress fabric colors popular in Canada tend to be a bit more fashion–forward than those in the United States. Today, cool whites and silvers are selling in Canada, while whites, taupes and golden beiges are strong in the United States.
Önder Honï, vice general manager of Boyteks in Kayseri, Turkey, agrees with Innofa’s Dröge that whites continue to be popular in Europe. Gold and beige predominate in the Persian Gulf region, he says. Grays and pinks are fashion–forward in Turkey, while black, burgundy and dark blue continue to be strong in North Africa.
Texture, pattern & stretch
Today, knit panels predominate in mattress construction and the newest knits are sculptural, dimensional stretch fabrics, often with simplified, large–scale (or “jumbo”) designs.
“In the U.S., classic design motifs are still big but we are finding that people are open to new influences,” Dröge says. “They are using less florals and scrollwork.”
“Designs are getting more contemporary, geometric and color–blocked,” Pappas says.
Large medallions that run the length of the mattress or are centered on the mattress are increasingly popular, Romoff says.
“We are really experimenting with pattern scale and how they can work together in unexpected applications,” Arnold says. “Texture is becoming very important as knit panel designs are much more dimensional.”
Greensboro, N.C.–based Bodet & Horst USA, part of Bodet & Horst in Elterlein, Germany, sells cut–and–sewn zippered and “bucket” mattress, topper and pillow covers in the United States.
“We are seeing more interest in plusher, thicker fabrics that have a quilted look, but aren’t,” says Karsten Siewert, vice president of sales and marketing.
“In the past 14 to 16 months, manufacturers are relying on quilting less and less and are using the fabric to emulate quilting,” Pappas explains. “We’re creating knits that are multidimensional design surfaces. You may have large, billowy texture. ‘Multilevel geography’ is very much a part of the look.”
“Certainly on top panels, we’re seeing a lot more interest in dimension and definition—knit patterns with more ‘puff’ and multiple colors,” Miller says.
Knit suppliers offer super–stretch—also called “four–way” stretch—fabrics with elasticized yarns to cover both foam and hybrid mattress cores. Bodet & Horst’s Bielastic Comfort Streeetch was one of the first and won an Interzum award for “intelligent material and design” at the trade show in Cologne, Germany, in May.
“Blister–pattern, super–stretch knits have really taken off,” Romoff says. “These fabrics can be knitted with or without Lycra yarns and they hug the bed much like leggings hug your body.”
“You have to be able to help the customer choose fabrics that will marry well with the core and perform no matter what its application, whether gel, foam or springs,” Weaver explains. “For instance, heavier, four–way stretch fabrics with elastic yarns work best with the new gels. They won’t wrinkle and have good recovery.”
Super–stretch zoned knits pair well with the zoned innersprings and foams found in many high–end mattresses. Changes in the knit’s design can illustrate to consumers—as well as retail sales associates—the zoning in the components underneath.
At Interzum Cologne, Bodet & Horst went a step further, showcasing a prototype pressure–mapped knit ticking with extra stretch at pressure points for stomach, back and side sleepers.
“The whole industry is moving toward fabrics that won’t ‘deaden’ or negate the feeling of the foams or gel beneath,” says Scott Frisch, president of the Specialty Products Group of Springs Creative in Rock Hill, S.C.
In January, Springs Creative introduced SleepSkin, which is designed to mirror the movement of foams and gels in mattresses. The patent–pending knit mattress fabric is inspired by active wear clothing and is composed of polyester and Spandex yarns. It’s available in solid colors, as well as custom digital print designs.
As for woven panels, they haven’t completely disappeared from mattresses. Many premium and ultra–premium bedding collections now wear woven top panels—or in some cases, never abandoned them. These are fabrics with a satin hand and high–end silk, cashmere, cotton or linen yarns. Popular design motifs include large medallions with regal flourishes.
“In the upper end, with wovens you can have far more intricate designs and ‘dressmaker’ details,” Allred says. “We’re getting more interest in wovens because knits have so permeated the marketplace and manufacturers are looking for something different.”
From the yarn to the construction to the fabric finish, ticking suppliers are offering manufacturers a host of built–in performance features designed to do everything from improving a sleeper’s health to keeping mattresses clean and sanitary.
A number of fabric finishes and yarns incorporate anti–bacterial silver, including Deslee’s Argentum, which also won a material and design award at Interzum Cologne earlier this year. Other fabrics, such as the Outlast ticking Bekaert introduced in 2009, are made with phase change materials that provide temperature regulation.
“We have many beautiful fabrics,” Boyteks’ Honï says, “but our main purpose is to improve sleep quality. We see a tremendous demand for fabrics with performance features—fabrics that help mattress manufacturers tell a story.”
Some of Boyteks’ newest fabrics have anti–bacterial and deodorizing properties. Others are even marketed as being “moisturizing” or “energizing.”
Spacer fabrics are not new—they’ve been available for about 10 years—but their popularity and visual appeal are growing as fabric suppliers help manufacturers create more breathable visco–elastic, latex and gel beds. Spacer fabrics are three–dimensional—two fabrics joined by vertical monofilament fibers. They can be used as borders and in border insets and sometimes appear in panels.
“There are spacer fabrics now with patterns and textures. They used to be very plain,” says Adam Lava, sales manager for A. Lava & Son Co. in Chicago. “Fabric suppliers are trying to cross that line between beauty and performance—that’s the future.”
Innofa’s Airvent, also a 2011 Interzum award winner, takes the concept behind spacer fabrics to the next level. The knit technology incorporates “air grids” into the knit pattern, helping the mattress core breathe.
“Unlike utilitarian–looking spacer fabrics, Airvent has functionality while being aesthetically pleasing,” Dröge says. “It brings enhanced breathability to stretch knits.”
Springs Creative relaunched—and renamed—its AirSkin collection of spacer fabrics in 2010. The open line includes one construction in five colors, but there are an additional 50–plus custom fabric constructions and designs available with highly textural upholstery looks.
Clings, from Tietex International Ltd. with headquarters in Spartanburg, S.C., solves another problem: The filler cloth has a nonskid coating that prevents sheets and bed skirts from slipping. Introduced in 2011, it’s used on the underside of one–sided mattresses and the top of the foundation. The coating can appear in grid or dot patterns or in a custom design that spells out the mattress manufacturer’s name—a reminder to consumers about the origin of their bed when they rotate the mattress.
“The product is gaining a global audience,” says Wade Wallace, Tietex vice president. “In Asia and Africa, we’re seeing more and more production of one–sided beds. Clings is used on mid– to high–end beds and is also strong in the hospitality industry, which does not use fitted sheets.”
Deslee’s Quick Fit, a presewn mattress cover with borders and panels—and yet another Interzum award winner—does away with the need for a cut–and–sew operation in a mattress factory, yet is far more interesting than a typical zipper or bucket cover that wraps around a foam core, Delaby says.
“It’s possible for Quick Fit to include a quilted top, microsuede border and an FR barrier,” he says. “We perfected Quick Fit for smaller European beds and have now adapted it to the U.S. market.”
As is probably clear by now, at this year’s Interzum Cologne, fabric innovations were standouts—and big winners. The “Best of the Best” award in textiles went to Bekaert’s Smart Wrap, which incorporates fiber optic technology capable of monitoring a sleeper’s breathing patterns. (See BedTimes’ in–depth Interzum coverage in its July 2011 issue.)
“This is stage one for a larger series of experiments,” Pappas says. “Where can it best be applied? Nursing homes? Hospitals? To prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome? We’ve got some dreamers in our crowd. We’ll see what the future brings.”
It’s all about the border
“The ‘bling’ is in the border,” says Jorge Sifuentes, sales manager at Enriquez Materials & Quilting Inc., a fabric, quilt and components supplier in Commerce, Calif. “In the last year or two, people are trying to inject a little more color, especially into the border materials with the fabrics and tapes. They may use a thicker ‘bar’ tape—some are very brightly colored. It’s no longer just about matching the panel fabric. We are seeing borders that pop and that have more contrast and visual effect.”
When it comes to border design, the key trend right now derives from upholstery. Mattress makers are abandoning quilting on borders and dressing the sides of beds in upholstery fabrics borrowed from furniture collections.
“Things we’ve been talking about for a while are finally coming true. We are seeing more upholstery–style fabrics with luster and good tactile sensation. More and more, we are seeing mattresses with the look of a contemporary sofa. It’s a clean, padded look—not bisected by lines, quilting and stitching,” says Laura Allred, design director of CT Nassau, which has headquarters in Alamance, N.C.
“The upholstered look of microsuede borders continues to be popular and won’t be leaving anytime soon,” says Adam Lava, sales manager for A. Lava & Son Co. in Chicago. “It’s a good look at a decent price.”
Tietex International Ltd., based in Spartanburg, S.C., offers a wide range of upholstery fabrics for borders.
“There are bold patterns and a range of textures—from nubby, chunky and fuzzy fabrics to very low texture,” says Wade Wallace, Tietex vice president
The foundation border is often given a true upholstery fabric border, while the mattress border may have a contrasting mattress fabric border.
More European–style upholstered foundations, mattress borders and matching headboards are moving into the U.S. market, says Eric Delaby, vice president of sales and marketing for Greensboro, N.C.–based Deslee Textiles USA, part of DesleeClama in Zonnebeke, Belgium. “We launched a colorful collection of woven, upholstery fabrics for bed borders and headboards at Interzum Cologne.” The Cocoon collection is targeted to mid– to high–end bed sets.
“With the addition of upholstery fabrics on mattress and box–spring borders, we’re seeing more decorative borders with more texture and larger–scale patterns,” says Elena Arnold, director of knit designing for Culp Inc. in High Point, N.C.
Spacer fabrics—three–dimensional materials made up of two fabrics joined by vertical monofilament—that improve the breathability of foam mattresses also are changing the look of borders. (See main story starting on Page 34.)
And Ann Weaver, vice president of marketing for Waterloo, S.C.–based Lava USA, part of Lava Textiles in Wielsbeke, Beligum, points to another change in border design: “There is a definite trend to bringing that top panel down to the border. We are seeing ‘self–borders’—and even some two–sided mattresses again.”
FR fabrics catching on
Mattress fabrics with inherent flame retardancy are now widely available to mattress makers. In the United States, FR–inherent ticking is designed to help mattress manufacturers comply with the federal open–flame mattress standard, 16 CFR Part 1633.
Adam Lava, sales director of Chicago–based A. Lava & Son Co., a leading producer of zippered covers, says that use of FR–inherent fabrics on foam beds is definitely a growing trend.
“We work with them every day. As specialty mattresses take more slots on retail floors, expect fabric suppliers to improve the quality of these FR–inherent knits and use of them to increase,” he says. “Their role as part of a bed’s total FR solution is certain to expand, especially for the bed’s top panel.”
Most often, FR–inherent ticking replaces the FR sock that slips over a foam core to create an FR barrier between the cover and the core on an unquilted, smooth–top mattress, ticking suppliers say. A tape–edge can be added using FR thread, but for quilted looks, an FR quilt fiber is both more cost effective and is needed to meet FR standards.
Creative Ticking’s patented Caress Barrier Solutions TioTec has FR yarns knitted into the fabric. The patented technology uses Firegard FR yarn manufactured by Springs Creative, based in Rock Hill, S.C.
TioTec is covered by a series of U.S. patents received in 2009 by Ron Sytz, Creative Ticking chief executive officer, and Harrison Murphy and Mike Slavik, two executives with mattress and furniture industry fire–barrier supplier Ventex Inc. in Great Falls, Va.
The technology has been licensed to other major ticking suppliers, including Bekaert, Culp and Deslee.
“TioTec is our No. 1 growth area,” says Jerry Pratt, president of Creative Ticking in Gastonia, N.C. “This is an innovative solution that reduces labor during mattress production. It has ‘four–way’ stretch and a soft hand.”
Deslee Textile USA’s version of FR–inherent fabric made with Firegard yarn is called Ecosafe NxG (for “next generation”). Its first generation FR fabric, Ecosafe, introduced in 2005, is still widely used in zippered covers, says Eric Delaby, vice president of sales and marketing for the Inman, S.C.–based company, which has world headquarters in Zonnebeke, Belgium. The finished fabric, which is a cotton and rayon knit, is coated with “polymerized naturally occurring salts” applied to the knit’s surface.
“The two solution choices satisfy a range of customers looking for an all–in–one FR solution for visco–elastic beds,” Delaby says. “Expect the third–generation fabrics to have even better, softer and more refined feels and to be effective with all different fuel loads.”
“’Bodet & Horst FR Solution fabrics are sold in Europe for hospitality mattresses,” says Karsten Siewert, vice president of sales and marketing for Greensboro, N.C.–based Bodet & Horst USA, part of Bodet & Horst in Elterlein, Germany. In the United States, the company offers cut–and–sewn covers made from knits woven with FR–inherent yarns.
“FR–inherent knit fabrics have come a long way, are much plusher and are used on foam and hybrid beds,” says Mike Cottonaro, senior vice president of sales and marketing at Culp Inc. in High Point, N.C. “But even when using FR–compliant fabrics, it is incumbent on the mattress manufacturer to gain further FR confirmation through independent lab testing.”