The two companies recently celebrated the 25th anniversary of their partnership by launching 5x5, a collection of five diverse designs each available in five colorways. Five artists, each with dramatically different styles, developed the designs, resulting in a collection that ranges from the brush strokes of Arturo Guerrero to the digitally inspired patterns of Phillip David Stearns.
“We got super excited about trying to show what could be done on Crypton with print today,” Susan Lyons, president of Designtex, says of Designtex’s digital printing capabilities. “There are no color limitations and very few scale limitations, and it’s a completely expansive way of developing a textile because you don’t have repeat limitations.”
Inside the Collaboration
Designtex and Crypton have been intertwined since the early days of Crypton’s existence. Crypton founders Randy and Craig Rubin launched the company from their basement to sell a unique performance upholstery fabric that was more comfortable and durable than vinyl and could be printed with heat transfer paper.
“We had the bottom-of-the-barrel designs because designs were sold to big companies, and we got what was left,” Randy Rubin remembers. “It was pretty bad, but anything we did was prettier than vinyl.”
Armed with samples, the Rubins approached Designtex, the leader in healthcare fabrics, to demonstrate the new fabric’s ability to resist stains and spills.
“I put the fabric down and we’re spilling on it. I’m thinking ‘Oh my God, we’re dead here,’ and in walks Susan Lyons and our whole business changed,” Rubin says. “Susan looked at the fabric, looked at me and she totally and completely got it. She saw we had this fabric that would work. Designtex became our first distributor.”
“I remember sitting in a conference room and feeling like ‘Wow, they came up with something that hadn’t existed before in the marketplace,’” adds Lyons. “At Designtex, we’re always interested in technological advances, and we like to work at that nexus of practical solutions to problems and combine that with an aesthetic solution as well. We felt it was such an important development that we worked with them and developed a collection to go out to the marketplace with, and then Crypton became a household name in our industry.”
Creating the 5x5 Collection
Sara Balderi, principal designer for Designtex, says 5x5 began with an initial list of about 40 designers. The list covered a wide range of art mediums, locations and styles. “We wanted a group that represented variety and different genders and locations, that had different points of view in general,” Balderi says. “They were all under the same construct of digitally printing these textiles, but from there it was really wide open, and that was the beauty of printing these as opposed to woven. They could utilize no repeats. You’re open to unlimited amounts of color you can use in the textiles.”
The collection is at home across applications, from hospitality to healthcare. The larger-scale prints are ideal for a large banquette or a set of coordinating smaller pieces, Balderi says. Some of the designs are destined to serve as the focal point in a space, while others can blend in seamlessly to enhance a space. And, just like the initial meeting between Rubin and Lyons, the launch of the 25 prints comes complete with a moment of designer fortuity.
Lyons and Rubin met to discuss 5x5, and Lyons mentioned designing privacy curtains for RxArt, a nonprofit that transforms bland healthcare interiors with contemporary visual art to help children heal. As it happened, Rubin had just partnered with photographer William Wegman for a photography installation orchestrated by RxArt on behalf of a Detroit hospital.
“We looked at each other and said ‘Let’s give proceeds to RxArt,’” says Rubin. “It was serendipitous. It was so cool.”
There’s no telling what the next 25 years of collaboration will bring, but one thing is certain. Whatever evolves will be exciting, innovative and completely unrestrained – just like the partnership itself.