One of the greatest challenges in designing commercial textiles has been creating durable, cleanable, affordable, and aesthetically pleasing fabrics for highly trafficked and 24/7 environments like healthcare facilities, theaters and airports. In addition, there is more demand for textiles with sustainable manufacturing practices, and companies like Designtex are taking on this responsibility and producing some very innovative fabrics.

Hardwear was initially produced in 1994 as a high-performance wallcovering. Designed in collaboration with textile designer Nancy Giesberg the wallcovering used PVC-coated polyester yarns in the weft for durability. The most recent generation, including Radar, again in collaboration with Giesberg, is for seating and uses nylon in the warp and PVC-coated weft yarns for durability and cleanability. Also, certain chemicals (phthalates) have been removed from the weft yarns and replaced with FDA-approved agents that comply with restrictions in California. The result is a textile that appears like a beautiful two-toned wavy twill, evoking sound waves, with a toughness to withstand extreme wear.

Matilda McQuaid is Head of Textiles and Deputy Curatorial Director at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum.

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