Q&A with Ian Burn, Marketing director of Camira Fabrics
Please tell us a little bit about yourself:
I am a marketer, linguist, wordsmith, gardener, and outdoor enthusiast who loves the interiors industry! I’ve worked in marketing roles for over 20 years, mainly at Camira – in all its different guises – and before that in the food industry. So sheep have featured throughout that time – for their fibre, their meat, and their intrinsic character of the beautiful Yorkshire Dales.
Tell us a little about Camira.
Camira is a global textile innovator, designing and manufacturing a wide range of contract and performance fabrics for commercial interiors and public transportation. The company was founded in 1974 in Huddersfield, was acquired by US modular flooring specialist in 1997, then returned to independent ownership as Camira in 2006. We now design, manufacture and sell about 8 million metres of fabric a year in up to 80 countries worldwide, with our capability extending from yarn spinning to weaving finished fabrics.
We understand that commercial fabrics are the key focus…
Yes, that’s right. We’re active in a number of commercial interior segments, including office interiors, education, healthcare, hospitality, and mass passenger transport on buses, coaches, trains and underground. If anybody has travelled on London Underground or buses, used main line trains, or sat on an office chair, then in all likelihood they’ll have come into contact with upholstery fabric from Camira.
How important is wool to the range that Camira has?
Wool is absolutely vital for our current product portfolio and future development pipeline. Transport fabrics have typically used wool moquettes for their design and durability, but we’re now also providing high performance wool flat-cloths which meet the rigorous demands of the travelling public. Our fastest growing wool fabric offices and education is a popular wool felt, which has hit the mark right around the world. Of course we do offer synthetics as well, but for many applications you just can’t beat wool.
What attributes of wool make it good for the commercial location?
Wool is a performance fibre with unique “smart” abilities. Firstly, it upholsters really well, in is especially forgiving around the curves and contours of “soft seating”. Then its performance properties are endless: it has long-lasting appearance retention thanks to its microscopic armour-like coating, it has great flex and recovery, it’s breathable, it dyes beautifully, and it’s naturally flame retardant. On top of everything else, of course it’s environmental being both rapidly renewable and bio-degradable.
Camira is leading with innovations on wool – tell us about these.
Camira is an industry leader in innovative wool – “bast fibre” blends, which are providing new fibre and fabric choices for the interiors marketplace. Bast fibres occur naturally in the stems of certain plants, such as nettles, hemp, flax and jute, and they combine intimately with wool and create stunning designs with a captivating environmental story as well as further enhanced performance characteristics. It all started with our award winning Sting fabric made from wool and nettle fibre, where we grew the nettles on UK farms, worked out how best to extract the fibre, then developed the optimum ratio yarn blend to meet the required technical standards and look fantastic at the same time. One thing that we discovered is that the natural flame retardancy of wool is improved further still when it’s mixed with bast fibres from the different types of plants. One of our latest innovations is blending wool with recycled jute from old coffee and cocoa sacks which are pulled back to fibre, then spun with wool and woven into fabric.
Are there any famous locations that feature your fabrics?
Lots of them. London Underground for a start, which has used our fabric for decades; Routemaster buses; the BBC from TV studios to office facilities; the major high street banks; Odeon cinemas; Leeds First Direct Arena; many of the US tech firms such as Google, Microsoft, Adobe, Skype, and many more.
You are working with CfW on the Chinese New Year – Year of the Sheep installation at Yauatcha in SoHo. How did this come about?
We’ve been committed supporters of the Campaign for Wool since its very inception, taking part in the Savile Row launch, then the US equivalent in Bryant Park in New York, and more recently at the Wool Interiors event in Southwark Cathedral. When we were asked if we’d be interested in a collaboration for Chinese New Year, it seemed such a perfect fit to do something fun, not only to promote wool, but to showcase it in the gorgeous interior of the Yauatcha restaurant. It’s been great working with the Campaign for Wool’s talented design team as well as the Hakassan Group’s superb PR people. Clearly, the prospect of Michelin-starred food was also a plus.
What fabrics have been selected and why?
We’ve used three different wool fabrics for different elements of the scheme. Eight chairs in the restaurant have been upholstered in our Monroe fabric which was chosen for the “pop-art” colour palette which matched perfectly to the pop-art theme of the graphics and branding. Monroe is an elegant wool bouclé, inspired by 1950s Hollywood glamour, with a beautiful texture and handle. The other two fabrics are classic wools: the wool crepe Aquarius has been used as seat cushion pads and for upholstered stools in the bar area, while the wool felt Blazer provides the dramatic blaze of red adorning the central floor to ceiling pillars in the main restaurant. It all works together very tastefully and hopefully enhances the dining experience.
Finally, do you think the Campaign for Wool is having a positive effect on the world of wool?
Definitely! The Campaign, its partners and retailers have helped enormously in re-positioning wool as the sustainable fibre of choice, not only in fashion, but now also in interiors. It’s all part of an on-going education programme, supported by high profile design initiatives, to help consumers and trade channels to re-imagine wool as an exciting, design-led, and sustainable textile choice.