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Heimtextil 2014 Highlights Cutting-edge Trends

FRANKFURT–Continuing its signature commitment to promoting the latest trends in interior and textile design, Heimtextil 2014 gathered a group of leading, global consultants to design its showcase of all things cutting-edge, “Progress!/Revive!”

Assembled in creative collaboration with the U.K.-based trend and design consultancy Franklin Till, this year’s celebration of the industry’s top innovations is based on the dichotomous pairing of progress and revival, accentuating the mutuality of looking forward to a future of improvement and looking backward for sources of inspiration. The emphasis on progress gives center stage to science and the technology it spawns, highlighting the most recent developments in the production and manipulation of both new and existing materials. Due deference, however, is also paid to the continuity of tradition, the reassurances of community and the shared cultural heritage that underwrites both.

Heimtextil 2014’s trends exhibits are all organized around these two “movements,”  progress and revival, and then further subdivided into four distinct categories. “Generate Collision!” and “Engineer Nature!” are both exhibits included under the theme of progress.  “Generate Collision!” explores new technologies created to satisfy the rising demand for product uniqueness and consumer customization consistent with high volume production. Computer algorithms have been invented that facilitate this mass-customization, allowing assembly line manufacturing of non-duplicating patterns. Previously, conventional wisdom held that mass-production and individual customization were inherently at odds; now, the two can be perfectly combined. Absolut Vodka, one of the companies showcased at Heimtextil,  uses such an algorithm which allows a machine to control splash guns and color mixers to create a unique label for each bottle they sell. Equipped with thirty-five colors and fifty-one patterns, the process is capable of generating 94 quintillion different labels.

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“Engineer Nature!” is devoted to the symbiosis of nature with man-made technology, exhibiting ways to produce more sustainable, eco-friendly products through the convergence of organic biology with synthetic materials. Scientists are experimenting with the possibilities of growing “living” fabric, generated from the manipulation of cellulose bacteria, living membranes and microorganisms. This is a truly interdisciplinary endeavor, bringing together the biological sciences with textile manufacturing and apparel and interior design.

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One popular exhibit, “Xylinum,” shows how the material to upholster a chair could potentially be made from biologically occurring bacteria, or cellulose fiber, the building blocks of all organic life. Such a material grows like a skin around an object such as a chair, and would be both durable and biodegradable. Jannis Hulsen, the lead scientist for the Xylinum project, said that the possibilities for producing ecologically responsible, sustainable materials is virtually limitless and relies upon the uncomplicated amalgam of cellulose fiber, water and polymer material.

“Exalt Purity!” and “Rejuvenate Craft!” are exhibits that are both classified within the theme of revival. “Exalt Purity!” captures a sense of resistance to an increasingly synthetic world, and presents alternatives to it through a return to nature and its raw materials. These exhibits express a more primitive, unadorned aesthetic as a counterpoint to the current inclination to over-stylization. Many of the designs displayed in this section were meant to be evocative of nature, combining man-made luxury with the colors and shapes of flora and fauna.

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“Rejuvenate Craft!” is animated by a dual inspirations: the same break to the frenzied pace of modern life one finds embedded within the Slow movement and a reemphasis on local community and culture in craftsmanship. The Slow movement, a collective effort to substitute the meticulous, artisanal creation of food and products for today’s hasty production processes, is the muse for “Rejuvenate Craft!” Not just about the unhurried mastery of yesteryear, the exhibit reconsiders the importance of storytelling through making, or the way craftsmanship can act as a vessel of a cultural narrative. Intricate woodwork and handmade weaves and knits are examples of the section’s offerings.

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At each of the exhibits, designers and artisans were on hand, eager to discuss their innovations and in some instances to provide demonstrations of their work. The area was packed with onlookers, often armed with cameras, who seemed enthralled by both the exhibits and the visually arresting aesthetic of the space itself.