Today’s mattress fabrics combine the best of all worlds — cozy comfort, sharp design and a wide array of finishes — and are sure to satisfy consumers
It’s OK to judge a mattress by its cover, fabric suppliers say. In fact, they are creating today’s mattress fabrics to help consumers do just that. The most innovative fabrics augment mattress features by bringing them to the surface — and give important clues to consumers about the quality and benefits of a bed, whether those consumers are shopping online or in-store.
Join us as we examine some of the ways that fabric suppliers are helping manufacturers improve beds and make them more attractive to consumers, as well as how they are adapting their business models to better serve bedding producers.
And, of course, we’ll look at key trends in eye-catching colors and patterns that will shape bed designs in 2021.
Gray hues are expected to be staple colors for mattress fabrics well into 2021. These samples from Maxime Knitting show how gray works well in everything from classic to contemporary designs. …
… Maxime Knitting
Geometric shapes — whether classic, asymmetrical or oversized — have largely replaced floral motifs in mattress fabrics. This array of soothing neutrals is from Standard Fiber LLC.
“Colors and design need to stand out for photographing well since the next mattress purchase is the consumer’s next click,” says BekaertDeslee Global’s Hans Dewaele.
Rolling, compressing, boxing and unboxing is tough on a mattress — and, if after all that, the mattress emerges in the customer’s home wonky and wrinkled, it’s not a good look. Largely for that reason, knit constructions and wovens with knitlike properties lead the mattress fabrics category right now. With e-commerce sales continuing to grow, their dominance is expected to continue well into next year and beyond.
As industry veteran Brandon Wells says, fabrics with those “bounce back” qualities also help brick-and-mortar retailers. Mattress manufacturers are interested in “wrinkle-resistant fabrics, whether for a boxed bed or for alternative packing methods for shipping and better warehousing for brick-and-mortar stores,” Wells says. “Wrinkle-resistant fabrics can make the difference on a showroom floor.” Wells is executive vice president and general manager for Standard Fiber LLC’s mattress division. The company has operational headquarters in Burlingame, California. Its mattress division specializes in knits and wovens, as well as sewn covers and other textile components.
For years, mattress showrooms could best be described as “a sea of white,” but in recent years that has given way to “a sea of gray.”
Cool, warm and dry
One of the biggest trends in mattress fabrics is how they are being used to build upon or extend other features of the mattress, bringing them all the way to the sleeping surface.
First and foremost, that means fabrics that cool. “Cooling is still big, but it’s become a baseline rather than a trend,” Wells says. “Cooling used to be an add-on. Now components have to provide cooling.”
Many of Fine Cotton Factory’s fabrics provide cooling in several ways, says Skip Kann, director of special projects and business development for the Toronto-based fabric supplier. “Some have yarns that wick moisture away, some have topical treatments that provide cooling, some have PCMs (phase-change materials),” Kann says. “And some combine features. We were the first to market when we introduced our first high-
performance cooling yarns and wicking treatments at ISPA EXPO 2012, and have broadened the offerings to include many options since then, with a view toward affordability.”
BekaertDeslee Group’s patent-pending XCite knit technology pairs “soft pockets with improved ventilation” for a new way to cool, according to the maker of knits, wovens and sewn covers, which has headquarters in Waregem, Belgium. And Global Textile Alliance Inc. has launched Plexus, “a meshlike fabric that emulates spacer knits,” to improve mattress ventilation, says LeeAnn Harmening, design manager for the maker of wovens and knits based in Reidsville, North Carolina.
PCMs help maintain a consistent temperature in bedding, and Maxime Knitting’s MaxBreeze uses PCM microcapsules to absorb excess heat and later release it to maintain a comfortable sleep surface, says Lorne Romoff, vice president of marketing and sales for the Montreal-based fabrics company.
Lava is creating a restful sleep surface in another way. The company’s Per4mance fabric combines its .BeWarm specialty yarn — which has a warm, dry feeling — with Glacier or Xtra Cool fibers. The result is a fabric that can be used in a zoned panel to cool a sleeper’s head and body, and warm their feet, explains Ann Weaver, vice president of Lava USA. Lava, which specializes in knit mattress fabrics, has U.S. headquarters in York, South Carolina, and global headquarters in Wielsbeke, Belgium.
Health and hygiene
Mattress fabrics can help to keep the sleeping surface clean and hygienic, and suppliers have long offered options with antibacterial, antimicrobial, anti-allergen and similar properties. Maxime Knitting is among those that use silver to keep fabrics fresh and free of odors. Others, like Fine Cotton Factory, incorporate copper for its antimicrobial properties.
With the Covid-19 pandemic increasing consumers’ concerns about health, demand for wellness products is growing, too. “The health and wellness trend was in place before Covid. With the pandemic, it’s accelerated,” says Christina Pennant, creative director for Culp Home Fashions, the mattress fabrics division of Culp Inc. in High Point, North Carolina.
Aydin Aydin, brand coordinator for Boyteks, agrees. “Hygiene is the most important consideration when a mattress is concerned,” he says. “Products developed in line with the hygiene concept have become even more important in these days.” Boyteks, a supplier of knits, wovens, tape-edge and other mattress fabrics, is based in Kayseri, Turkey.
And with the novel coronavirus continuing to circulate, suppliers of mattress fabrics have joined makers of other consumer products in a quest to add antiviral properties. For example, Boyteks has come out with V-Guard, Lava offers ViroBlock and BekaertDeslee recently introduced Virase. Hans Dewaele, executive vice president and chief commercial officer for BekaertDeslee, notes that such antiviral fabric treatments may be most useful for hotel beds or store floor models and in other settings where many people may have contact with the sleep surface.
Although the rules in each country vary, manufacturers that claim their finished mattresses or other bedding products contain antivirals or other disinfectants are responsible for obtaining any necessary presale approvals or registrations before making health claims associated with their products, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Taking the term “performance fabric” to heart, BekaertDeslee has unveiled its Nightro collection of technical fabrics. “These fabrics provide better recovery during nighttime for better sports performance during the day and have been developed with athletes preparing for the Olympic Games,” Dewaele says.
Following along with makers of sleep accessories such as pillows and mattress protectors, ticking suppliers like Boyteks have been adding cannabidiol oil to fabrics. CBD oil, a product derived from cannabis, is reported to reduce anxiety and induce relaxation. In these stressful times, it’s another trend that’s expected to continue well into 2021.
Natural and sustainable
A related product, hemp fiber, is purported to offer similar benefits to CBD oil and also appeals to consumers who seek natural or more environmentally sustainable products. In recent years, mattress fabrics constructed of organic cotton, Tencel (made of cellulose fibers from trees) and bamboo from rayon also have been popular — and remain so, suppliers say.
“I think sustainability is going to be bigger and bigger,” Wells says. “Some manufacturers, especially specialty players, have always wanted organics, and others were interested before they saw the price tag. People are now willing to pay for it.”
More recent sustainable introductions include fabrics constructed with yarns made of “upcycled” plastics. A number of companies offer them, including BekaertDeslee, which introduced its Seaqual brand, made from upcycled plastics recovered from the world’s oceans, in 2019 at Interzum Cologne.
“All innovations related to sustainability, circular (economies), ecology and social responsibility” are key trends now, Dewaele says.
Last spring, Lava introduced its recyclable Everlife yarn, a soft yarn made from recycled PET bottles, and also unveiled Nxt Gen, a yarn made of 50% recycled PET bottles and 50% recycled garment surpluses.
Boyteks’ line includes Repreve Ocean and Ecocycle, constructed of yarns made from upcycled PET plastic bottles. Aydin says, “Our recycled and natural products are in great demand.”
Manufacturers Want “the Perfect All-in-One Solution”
When it comes to mattress fabrics, mattress manufacturers are a bit like a person seeking the perfect romantic partner: They want the total package.
“It’s not just about price or looks or how it performs. It’s about everything: They want a fabric that looks amazing, has a fantastic price and meets their technical requirements,” says Christina Pennant, creative director for Culp Home Fashions, the mattress fabrics division of Culp Inc. in High Point, North Carolina.
And, adds Sandy Brown, president of Culp Home Fashions, “they want excellent service from start to finish. There’s a push to create the perfect all-in-one solution.”
Creativity and customization
Service starts with regularly bringing out fresh collections of designs and treatments — and then allowing mattress producers to use those as jumping off points as they design new beds.
“Collections are conversation starters. They show we invest in design and showcase our capabilities, but they are a starting place. About 90% of what we do is custom,” says Brandon Wells, executive vice president and general manager for Standard Fiber LLC’s mattress division. The company has operational headquarters in Burlingame, California.
Lorne Romoff, vice president of marketing and sales for Montreal-based Maxime Knitting, says, “every few weeks, our creative department sends out new products. It opens up a conversation. Our customers will come back and say, ‘I like that but can you do this?’ They don’t just want a copy of what someone else is doing. They want to have a distinctive look.”
Ann Weaver calls Lava’s design team, which works closely with bedding manufacturers to tailor designs to their needs, “the best in the industry, bar none.”
“(Chief Executive Officer) Johan Vanwelden does the majority of our product development and then we have a terrific design team,” says Weaver, who is vice president of Lava USA. In addition to its global headquarters in Wielsbeke, Belgium, and U.S. headquarters in York, South Carolina, Lava has operations in Romania and Indonesia. Its key markets include Canada, Europe and the United States, as well as Southeast Asia.
Boyteks’ focus on research and development helps the company to “lead the industry in terms of innovation through our brand,” says Aydin Aydin, brand coordinator for the company, which is based in Kayseri, Turkey. “We differentiate ourselves from our competitors by means of innovation.” Boyteks exports to more than 100 countries from its production facilities in Turkey. Key markets include Asia, Europe, South America and the United States.
Like suppliers of other components, makers of mattress fabrics increasingly provide multiple services to bedding producers.
For instance, Maxime Knitting has expanded its capabilities beyond knit mattress fabrics and also offers zippered covers and fulfillment services. “We do it all,” Romoff says. “We knit, manufacture zippered covers, laminate foam and ship.”
“More and more people are looking for a one-stop shop,” Wells explains. Standard Fiber is able to serve as that by offering mattress fabrics, sewn mattress covers and foundation covers. It also has years of experience with other bedding products, such as mattress and pillow protectors.
Fine Cotton Factory touts its origins as a maker of apparel fabrics to distinguish itself from other mattress fabric companies, says Skip Kann, director of special projects and business development for the Toronto-based fabric supplier. “We were the first fabric manufacturer to use our fashion business and combine it with our functional yarns and finishes in mattress fabrics,” he say.
“We’ve competed with offshore products for a long time and have been held to very high standards by customers,” Kann says. “Our deep understanding of fabrics and our capabilities with technical fabrics makes us different from our competitors.” In addition to panel and border fabrics for mattresses, the company offers FR socks, “including a first-ever breakthrough technology without glass and antimony,” Kann says. Most of its production is done in Toronto, but it also operates a factory in India and sources fabrics from three facilities in China. Its primary markets include Canada, India and the United States.
The novel coronavirus pandemic shone a bright spotlight on weakness in the supply chains of many industries, including bedding. For the most part, fabric suppliers say they haven’t experienced shortages of yarns and other items needed for fabric production but have been affected by scarcities of other bedding components.
“We’ve seen shortages of lumber and springs. We don’t have shortages in our yarn but if my customers can’t put together a bed because they don’t have other components they need, then they won’t need my fabric,” Romoff says. Still, he says, since economies began to reopen in early summer, “business in general is flourishing. I hope it’s like this for the next five years.”
Stefan Hoffman agrees. “The mattress industry has seen a tremendous boom since the end of the coronavirus shutdowns,” says Hoffman, vice president of bedding for Global Textile Alliance Inc., a manufacturer of wovens and knits based in Reidsville, North Carolina. “Suppliers across the mattress supply chain have had to react to these increases as best as possible despite limitations in labor and raw materials.”
Those shortages throughout the industry, however, have strengthened fabric suppliers’ commitment to maintaining nimble supply chains.
GTA has “a global manufacturing footprint,” Hoffman says, with production facilities in Reidsville, as well as in Belgium and India, and a sourcing office in China. Its primary markets include Canada, Europe, India, South America and the United States.
“We call ourselves the reliable global innovator,” says BekaertDeslee Group’s Hans Dewaele. “Our truly global footprint of 20 manufacturing units in 17 countries makes us unique and has proven to be very important during these VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous) times to mitigate supply risks,” says Dewaele, executive vice president and chief commercial officer for the company, which has headquarters in Waregem, Belgium.
BekaertDeslee’s largest manufacturing operations are in North America, with factories in Mexico and the United States, Dewaele says. Its European customers are served by several factories, including those in Romania and Turkey, and satellites in Estonia, Czech Republic, Poland and Spain. The company’s global reach also includes facilities in Asia and in Latin America, and a joint venture in South Africa.
Jeff Veach, vice president of Culp-Lava Applied Sewn Solutions (the cut-and-sew division of Culp), says his company’s global supply chain “allows us to flex and change quickly.”
“I think one of the biggest advantages for us is our strong, robust global supply chain,” Veach says. “We have redundant capacities globally and multiple manufacturing touchpoints that give us flexible, large-scale capacity.” Culp has production facilities in Canada, China, Haiti, the United States and Vietnam, as well as a long-term partnership in Turkey.
Romoff notes that Maxime Knitting has a “mirrored” production facility in Mexico that was “cloned” to operate in the same way as its plant in Montreal. The company also recently bought finishing equipment from a competitor, giving it a second finishing line in Montreal, for three lines total. It also recently added another 14 knitting machines.
“We continue to grow and grow to service our customer base,” Romoff says.
Standard Fiber, which has headquarters and three warehouses in the United States, has built its global reach by forming relationships with more than 100 textile mills in China, as well as in Brazil, India, Indonesia, Pakistan and Vietnam
“Manufacturing through joint ventures and partnerships provides flexibility,” Wells says. “With our footprint and supply chain, we can be aggressive on price, but also are innovative and offer a lot of value to customers.”
The Look: Color and Pattern Trends
The colors and patterns of a mattress fabric catch the customer’s eye. Let’s look at the hot (and cool) hues and design motifs that are adorning mattresses today — and glimpse what’s coming down the runway for 2021 and beyond.
Feeling blue — and gray
For years, mattress showrooms could best be described as “a sea of white,” but in recent years that has given way to “a sea of gray,” Ann Weaver says.
“We’re still seeing a lot of gray but it’s a softer gray. It’s calming and sophisticated,” says Weaver, vice president of Lava USA. Lava has U.S. headquarters in York, South Carolina, and global headquarters in Wielsbeke, Belgium.
“I think the greatest color for a border is charcoal,” says Skip Kann, director of special projects and business development for the Toronto-based Fine Cotton Factory. “And subtle charcoal patterns seem to be the strongest look. Charcoal goes well with anything. It’s flexible, so if you want to mix in a blue or gray, or yellow or gold in your top panel, it works with everything.”
Blue, a naturally calming, restful color, also remains a popular — and evolving — color for mattress fabrics.
“Blue is always strong and currently we see a push toward heather blues and denim shades. We are introducing a new yarn color called Jaded that is a soft green with blue undertones. We have heard very positive reactions to this new yarn color,” says LeeAnn Harmening, design manager for Global Textile Alliance Inc. in Reidsville, North Carolina.
Mattress fabrics haven’t totally gone blue and gray, of course. There still are plenty of whites to be found. Kann notes that optic whites in clean, contemporary looks are favored by many Fine Cotton Factory customers and often are used in combinations with blues and grays.
Others see a softening of whites. Lava offers an ivory hue “that’s not really beige and not really white, but a really pretty color that’s in between,” Weaver says. “It’s a softer, more neutral color, and we’ve had good results with it.”
Pops of bright colors
Accenting these fields of grays, blues and whites are bolder colors used sparingly.
“We are seeing bold yellows, oranges, corals and some reds used as accents,” Weaver says. “Brighter blues, too, but all used minimally for a ‘pop.’ ” When Lava introduced four new yarn colors last spring, it included Atlantis (a vibrant blue) and Basil (a deep green), as well as Fog (a soft gray) and Mint (a pale green with blue undertones).
What’s on the color horizon
What colors can mattress retailers expect to see more of in the coming year or two?
“What I’m seeing in home furnishings right now are soft beiges with hints of gray, and also ivory and aquas — very calming, soothing colors,” Weaver says. “It takes a while for home fashion trends to make their way to the mattress industry, but I think after what we’ve been through this year (with the pandemic and economy), we’ll be seeing pure, calming, serene colors.”
Harmening predicts “soft pastels that are inviting and livable” for 2021. “We (also) see a purple shade coming that is a balance of red and blue. It is a calm color that is symbolic of spirituality,” she says.
In addition, Harmening notes, “earth tones will be strong, bringing attention to craftsmanship and the human touch in design. These tones provide a great opportunity to tie in the sustainability story.”
In general, when it comes to fabric designs for mattress panels, traditional florals have faded and bold patterns — often oversize, repeating or asymmetrical geometric shapes — are going strong.
Aydin Aydin points to “simpler, classical designs” being “at the forefront” today. Aydin is brand coordinator for Boyteks in Kayseri, Turkey.
Online direct-to-consumer sales are affecting fabric designs. Mattress manufacturers need fabrics that “pop” on screen and convey a “visual softness” that appeals to shoppers buying via smartphones or laptops, says Hans Dewaele, executive vice president and chief commercial officer for BekaertDeslee Group in Waregem, Belgium. “Colors and design need to stand out for photographing well since the next mattress purchase is the consumer’s next click,” he explains.
This year, Maxime Knitting tried something new with its fabric designs. The company teamed up with two local artists, taking their existing works and translating them into ticking designs. “It was a really interesting approach,” Romoff says. “It gives the artists a new audience for their work and gives mattress manufacturers and retailers a story to tell. We’ve gotten a great response.”
Border designs are as important as panel patterns. “A top panel sells the bed, but a great border draws you to the bed,” Kann says.
In terms of trends, “we’re seeing heavier fabrics used on borders — neutral, menswear-inspired fabrics and fabrics that may look like upholstery grades or wovens but that have that stretch,” says Jeff Veach, vice president of Culp-Lava Applied Sewn Solutions, the cut-and-sew division of Culp Inc. in High Point, North Carolina.
Harmening says, “texture (still) is key in borders,” adding that fabrics like velvet “bring a level of sophistication and luxury.”
The right border fabrics also help mattress makers streamline production. By using common borders across a collection or line, manufacturers can decrease SKUs and reduce time spent changing fabrics on machines. It’s another fabric trend that suppliers expect to continue and even accelerate.
Fabrics that show functions
That brings us to another key fabric trend: using fabric colors and patterns to subtly communicate mattress features.
“Another thing we’re hearing more and more is manufacturers wanting the aesthetic style of the fabric to convey the function. Instead of just putting a ‘hemp’ or ‘cooling’ logo on the bed, they want the look — the fabric design — to convey the story,” says Brandon Wells, executive vice president and general manager for Standard Fiber LLC’s mattress division, which has operational headquarters in Burlingame, California.
Christina Pennant, creative director for Culp Home Fashions, agrees: “We’re making relevant shifts in patterns so that they take on the nuances of a fabric’s features, such as organic shapes to indicate a sustainability story.” Culp Home Fashions is the mattress fabrics division of Culp Inc.
“Color can be used in a similar way,” Dewaele says. For instance, he explains, there is “a need to work with warm hues of copper, gold and brass, and also cooler metals, for translating the idea of virus-resistance.”