For seven years running, London-based studio FranklinTill has been predicting what the future holds for textiles with a presentation at Heimtextil. The annual textile trade show —held in mid-January—drew nearly 70,000 visitors and buyers from 156 countries to Frankfurt am Main this year, many of them on the hunt for tomorrow’s brightest ideas. FranklinTill co-founder Caroline Till earned a Masters in printed textiles from London’s Royal College of Art and practiced textile design before realizing research was her true calling and joining up with fellow co-founder Kate Franklin. At the fair, Till found the time to sit down with Interior Design and share more on how she predicts trends, the unique (and tiny) creative field her mother was once a part of, and her favorite ceramic artist.
Interior Design: What is your goal with the trend booth at Heimtextil?
Caroline Till: Our goal is always to give information and inspiration to the audience, but what makes this project complex is that this audience is very broad. Furthermore, we have the role to inform exhibitors and manufacturers as to how they need to consider future-proofing their business. That’s particularly in relation to sustainable innovation—we’ve had several speakers in the lecture program talking about new materials. On a near-future level, we have the responsibility to communicate to the general visitor what's influencing the ever-evolving design taste, as in why these particular design trends are resonant at this particular time and what color palettes they are associated with.
ID: How does the submission process work?
CT: We create the trend themes and then we send a trend book around as a sort of brief. Manufacturers can then send in fabrics that they feel are relevant—this year we had submissions from over 2,500 manufacturers. Then we go through the fabric selection process, flying into Frankfurt about four to five times between September and December. At Heimtextil 2019, we had about 1,500 fabrics on display.
ID: Are you able to see quantitative results in terms of how your trend space influences the industry?
CT: That’s really fascinating. As I explained, the manufacturers receive the trend book—and that’s several months before the fair. Some then act very quickly to create products inspired or informed by these trends. For the 2019 Heimtextil, for example, an Indian towel manufacturer created some towels inspired by some of the graphics in Pursue Play—they already have buyers.
ID: Can you describe a few current projects?
CT: Often our consultancies are under NDA, so we can’t really name names, but we’re working on a project with a major electronics brand. We do a lot of color consultancy, so we’re helping them define the color, material, and finish of new product lines. That involves really extensive research and looking into a specific generational mindset—who their target customers are, where they are positioned globally, what's influencing their lifestyle, and what sort of design aesthetic, material, and color is likely to resonate with them the most. We are continuously researching viewpoint, color, and taste. We’re also working with a major U.S.-based fashion conglomerate to explore what technological and scientific innovations are impacting the denim market.
ID: How do you think your childhood influenced your design thinking?
CT: Our house was full of color. My mother is an artist and was always doing creative things with us, like painting. When we were growing up she was also a model maker, making dollhouse miniatures. She specialized in tiny plants and flowers and was often asked to make 1/12 replicas of people's gardens. My mother is also a great storyteller, always explaining everyday narratives in a very engaging way. With all this creativity, I was naturally always curious. This job is very nosy, really! You’re wanting to constantly know what is going on.
ID: What does your own house look like?
CT: Like the house I grew up in, my house is also very colorful. My husband is a graphic designer and we love a combination of clean graphics, but then there is also something more painterly. I have a lot of ceramics. My favorite ceramicist is a guy called Dylan Bowen. He creates very chunky, earthenware pieces that have a very painterly glaze. I like the combination of clean bright color, but with more painterly pieces that have a bit more soul.
ID: Where do you look for inspiration?
CT: Everywhere! Our job is basically constant research—we need to be informed, to know what is going on. We expect the people who work for us to be reading everything from New Scientist to Dezeen. I used to teach a master’s program at Central Saint Martins – University of the Arts London for quite a few years and the program was focused on the intersection of design and science. I still am very connected to academia and work with universities and students. There are always fresh ideas coming through there.
ID: How do you use social media?
CT: I use Instagram a lot as it is really useful for more timely information. However, more recently I’ve become a bit disillusioned by it. There just isn’t anything interesting at the moment. We’ve actually spent quite a lot of time encouraging our team to go to the library. We are all a bit obsessed with ‘the new and next’ because of social media, but really, there isn’t such a thing as ‘new’—everything is an evolution of something else. Historical references are just as important as contemporary references.
ID: Can you name someone in the industry that you particularly admire?
CT: I really like the work of Faye TooGood—I think because she comes from a more of a fine art and a stylist background. She worked for British magazine The World of Interiors, which focuses on historical interior design, for many years. She does a lot of spatial design and product design with less of a focus on perfection. Design can be a bit too perfect and a bit too clean.
ID: How do you see the future of the textile industry unfolding?
CT: The role of textiles continues to be massively important. And I hope that more and more people continue to realize it. Looking at the tactile qualities, there’s a particular focus on softness in many of the trends for 2019. There’s also the acoustical benefits—I think people often neglect to think about how textiles absorb sound. Designers and architects can make or break a space through effective use of textile—textiles are really quite powerful.