CT Nassau creates every textile element of the mattress, from the foundation fabrics to the top of the bed.
Designing mattresses today is like starring on Broadway. It’s not enough to act or sing. These days to get a job on the Great White Way, you have to act, sing, dance, do gymnastics and perhaps even roller skate (for those of you who remember Starlight Express).
That’s how CT Nassau approaches design: The company does it all — mattress panels, borders, tapes, handles, sewn covers, foundation fabrics and more. The company also provides marketing materials, such as foot protectors, pillows or any textile complements.
Conceivably, a client could come in and design an entire mattress in one day.
“We can give them the total look,” says Andrea Lazzaroni, executive vice president and chief operating officer. “They can go home with paper simulations and a physical sample because we are very fast in our execution. We build not only a mattress but a full collection with different combinations of tastes that include tape, border, panel, decoration, foot protector and marketing materials to advertise in the showroom.”
How does the company do it all? Two words: vertical integration.
Done in a day
While the company is controlled by the majority shareholder Stellini Textile Group Milan, CT Nassau – Continental Ticking Corp. of America runs two manufacturing facilities in the United States and one cut-and-sew facility in Toronto, Canada. The company’s 75,000-square-foot plant, located at its headquarters in Alamance, North Carolina, has a capacity to produce 8 million to 9 million yards of tape and ribbon per week, or enough to trim more than half a million mattresses.
The second plant, a 75,000-square-foot facility in Burlington, North Carolina, has the capacity to produce 50,000 pounds of polypropylene yarn per week and more than 80,000 yards of woven and knit mattress fabrics each week using state-of-the-art technology. Additionally, the cut-and-sew factory in Canada has the capacity to produce 5,000 to 8,000 covers per week.
“The factory is organized in a way that we start from the polymer, we produce our own yarn internally, and then we use it in both of our U.S. facilities, for tape and ticking,” says Paolo Stellini, managing director of Stellini, while giving BedTimes a tour of the Burlington plant.
“If somebody wants a new color, theoretically we can create the color, make the yarn, put the yarn on the loom, weave it and deliver the sample the same day,” he says.
Speed to market is critical now, according to Taber Wood, vice president of sales for CT Nassau. “All of our customers are trying to get the same piece of the pie,” Wood says. “So, it comes down to speed, who can get their concept in front of that person, that decision-maker, quicker and can promise delivery.”
To be at the front of the race, it doesn’t hurt that CT Nassau’s tape factory is just 2 miles down the road from the ticking plant — and it’s all under the same management and operation. It’s an initiative that promotes the efficiency and effectiveness of the North American facilities.
“Our management team oversees both,” says Tanya Brooks, vice president of manufacturing for CT Nassau. “So even though we have a tape facility and a ticking facility, management and operations are all the same, and we spin our own yarn, so your border, fabric panel, tape and handle — everything will coordinate because it’s all the same raw material.”
Which brings us to the other key ingredient behind CT Nassau’s ability to quickly create the total look: three in-house designers. Beth Rugh focuses on knit tape and ticking, and Denise Dickinson specializes in woven tape and ticking. Meanwhile, Angela May is the account manager who’s proficient in trend analysis and CAD programs.
“We develop the qualities and the design here in this building,” Stellini says. “And it’s delivered to the looms electronically, so there is no delay between the creation and actual production of the fabric.”
On the day of the BedTimes tour, the designers were busy discussing the finer points of heather gray versus white for one project, while working on “mattress simulations,” or virtual renderings. “You can see what the fabric looks like on the mattress and send it to the customers digitally,” Rugh says. “Before we make any yarn or do any labor, this comes first. It saves lots of time and money.”
Recently they got an interesting request from Kingsdown when the company sent them a colorful 1960s bikini as inspiration for a new fabric.
“CT Nassau has become an integral partner with Kingsdown, providing fine, detailed fabrics unique to the mattress industry,” says David Ballantine, vice president of national accounts and product development for Mebane, North Carolina-based Kingsdown. “The design team at CT Nassau works well with our inspirations and delivers exclusive luxurious looks. Kingsdown enjoys working with the entire team at CT Nassau and looks forward to using more of their incredible fabric designs.”
Another high expectation on clients’ lists: sustainability. For mattress materials to be sustainable, they must be designed and manufactured sustainably from the start. Stellini is proud of the strides CT Nassau has made toward producing sustainable materials and achieving zero waste.
First, the simple proximity of the two plants cuts down on transportation costs and related pollution. And the facilities also have their own finishing and shipping departments.
When it comes to dyeing, most factories use a lot of water. But not CT Nassau, thanks to its vertically integrated process to make polypropylene yarn.
“In this plant, we don’t use water to dye yarn,” Stellini says. “So, it is already a giant step compared to all the other yarns. We just blend the color chips, and there is no water involved.”
At one point in the production process, the yarn looks too synthetic. “It’s shiny and people don’t love that look, so we have another machine that converts this yarn to a luxury upholstery look,” he says.
However, this treatment uses less energy than producing polyester. “The level of energy that we use to go from the synthetic look to the textile look is not like running an oven where you use an incredible amount of energy because it’s done just using air and water,” Stellini says.
The advantage of this yarn is that it allows the fabric to be recycled. “It melts very easily, and you can convert it into other materials,” he says. “Most toys are made with this polymer, and diapers for babies are made with this polymer, so it is very compatible with human skin. You will not have any allergic reaction to this yarn.”
Stellini says the challenge is to use less energy. “If your production can reduce the amount of energy to get the same products, then you are getting greener and greener,” he says. “We have been working for many years to get to the point where we have zero waste, and the amount of energy used is reduced every year.”
The next act
Thinking of the future, CT Nassau has big plans.
“Within two to three years, we’re looking into combining both tape and tick facilities under one roof to be more efficient and to reduce costs,” says Brooks, vice president of manufacturing. “We’ve always talked about enhancing our vertical integration. We also know that the industry wants to be made in the U.S. (due to supply chain issues), and that’s a concentration of ours.”
To become even faster and more vertically integrated, the company will leverage the local supply chain even more, she says.
Lazzaroni adds that merging the two plants will involve investing in new technology.
“We are speaking about an $8 million to $12 million investment that can happen in the next 36 months,” Lazzaroni says, emphasizing that the company is monitoring the economy and mattress market closely to decide when to make the move.
Meanwhile, the company will continue to focus on providing the total look to customers, being a one-stop shop, and acquiring and retaining talent.
“Technology is just a tool; then you need good people to use the tools,” Stellini says. “This is what we are invested in. CT Nassau is not just a nice name and a building; it’s the people that run the factory who make it possible.”
Cue the final bow, the standing ovation and the curtain call.
Meet the Designers
After earning a bachelor’s degree of fine arts in textiles from East Carolina University, Denise Dickinson worked for 18 years in the contract/hospitality market. She joined CT Nassau in 2018. When Dickinson is not designing woven tape and ticking, she loves to read and attend live theater.
While interning as a knit designer at Cotton Inc., Beth Rugh graduated from the College of Textiles at N.C. State University. She worked for more than 12 years designing circular and warp knits for the automotive industry. After a six-year stint as a knit designer for Culp Home Fashions, Rugh joined CT Nassau in 2017. She specializes in designing knit tapes and ticking.
Angela May recently joined CT Nassau’s sales and creative team, bringing 20 years of industry experience in product development, sales and design. She has a bachelor’s degree of fine arts in textiles from East Carolina University. Throughout her career, she has held creative roles in residential, hospitality and mattress fabric manufacturing and design. May has freelanced for smaller independent companies and worked full time for Hunter Douglas Hospitality, Burlington Industries and BekaertDeslee, where she was director of cover and pillow design.