Office Insight December 11, 2017 – Office Insight features Carnegie and Gensler's collaboration on the PFRM collection.

Athletic and athleisure wear have redefined the way many Americans dress and live, for better or worse. The industry has reshaped everything from appropriate levels of dress to what it means to be a luxury item. The athleisure trend – buying athletic apparel for its comfort, stretch, and sweat-wicking capabilities – as it pertains to the clothing industry may have already reached its peak; according to the NPD Group and reported by Business Insider, U.S. activewear apparel sales totaled $45.9 billion, but industry experts are predicting a cap in 2017 along with a resurgence in denim sales.

That doesn’t mean athleisure is out. The trend, and the properties that make it desirable, are now moving into new industries and product categories.Textile company Carnegie teamed up with Lee Pasteris, principal and Design Director of Gensler L.A., to bring athletic wear properties to contract textiles. First introduced at NeoCon 2017 and now available for purchase, the PFRM collection draws inspiration from the “strength, durability and boldness of modern athletic apparel” and uses high performance material technologies to hopefully offer design-ers something new.

“In working with Lee in this athletic- and athleisure-inspired space, we wanted to create something that actually improves the performance aspect,” said Mary Holt, Executive Vice President of Creative at Carnegie. “We wanted to challenge ourselves to push our boundaries. The PFRM products have a lot of built-in features, whether that means it has the ability to look better longer, or perform in a superior way.” The collaboration began after Ms. Pasteris won a grant to study nano technology and performance finishes at Cornell University; her work in developing a self-cleaning white fabric inspired her to create PFRM.

“We knew the idea of athletic- and athleisure-inspired things was very much in the design air,” said Ms. Holt. “Designers have some sort of telepathy when certain vibes and trends are in the air. “When we started the collection, we initially had a much broader scope, including windows, walls and upholstery. We always feel that we want to include as many of our product areas as makes sense. But as we worked, we decided that it was going to be a much stronger story to introduce only upholstery fabrics. We had such a strong point of view, and we didn’t want to take away from that.”

The collection introduces eight new upholstery textiles that inject tactility, youth and vibrancy into the workplace. The collaboration between the Carnegie design team and Ms. Pasteris’ team at Gensler was robust, involving design charrettes, focus group feedback, and a lot of curation within and between the teams. Gensler breathed life into the project by offering something invaluable: an interior designer’s point of view. Ms. Pasteris found a lot of freedom in Carnegie’s design and development process. “Carnegie was equally interested in my perspective, and very open to moving outside their comfort zone,” said Ms. Pasteris. “When we got through the process of sketching out basic ideas, and as it started to evolve into what it was going to be, we met at the Carnegie showroom to see everything. To be able to see our ideas actually come to life in a new textile was amazing. They were open to working with new mills, and creating new technologies.” The design and development process for a new collection often takes about 18 months, but PFRM came together in a quick 12 months.

The collection’s Relay pattern, using a textured chenille yarn, is a more literal take on a tennis net structure. And Flex is a knit directly inspired by the knits used in running shoe fabrics, featuring a lot of give in both directions for added comfort. But many of the patterns have a more nuanced, abstract influence. “I always find that the most interesting designs are not inspired by just one thing,” notes Ms. Holt. “Good design is about exposure. It’s more about a feeling, a sense of something, than one specific influence.”

The Triathlon fabric finds inspiration in the way new athletic leggings are being designed. “Instead of solid or one-print leggings, Lee drew from the idea of piecing a few different prints together,” said Ms. Holt. “Eventually, that project became three separate fabrics – Triad, Triad Stripe and Triathlon.” The knits in the collection stand out for their ease of movement and flexibility, and incorporate cutting edge knitting and laminating technologies. Pivot and Stride are both knits that approach the same design issue.

Gensler also took the lead on developing color studies for the collection. “Creating the color studies was a very close collaboration with Gensler,” said Ms. Holt. “We wanted to make sure it was usable in hospitality, corporate, indoor, outdoor. There are influences from around the country, and the colors are very clean and crisp, and relevant to our industry. Design firms are also doing a lot of education projects with it, which was a little surprising to us at first because we weren’t targeting that. But the colors speak to that.”

The PRFM collection represents a true collaboration in the sense that both Carnegie and Gensler grew from the experience – something Ms. Holt called attention to. The collection also makes a strong move to redefine what a luxury item is, and this is perhaps its most compelling attribute. “The idea of luxury doesn’t necessarily have to refer to a luxury fiber,” said Ms. Pasteris. “It can be about something that’s high-performing, something that gives you added value in new, captivating ways.” Redefining luxury is an idea with more staying power than a typical trend – something that will retain relevance and continue to inform new designs.

To read the full editorial, go to Office Insight.

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