Past and future collided at the 2014 Trend Forum at Heimtextil, the global textiles exhibition in Frankfurt that kicks off the major design fair season every year, giving visitors a more philosophical and less immediate take on an industry on the precipice of major change.
"On the one hand, we want to look ahead and propagate technical progress as a chance for survival in this fast-moving age," said Olaf Schmidt, vice president, textiles and textile technologies for Messe Frankfurt. "On the other hand, the glance back into the past is important, as is the renewal of past traditions as part of the search for authenticity."
The Forum inhabited an entire exhibition hall, separated into two seemingly divergent themes: "Progress," focused on interactive, customizable concepts and bioengineered materials, and "Revive," which celebrated old-world craftsmanship and raw, pure textiles.
"These two main themes express our two sides as designers and consumers," explained Heike Dietz, the Forum's coordinator. "We are always looking for responsible ways to move forward, but we can never leave behind how centered traditional, hand-crafted materials make us feel."
"Look at the trend of younger people, skateboard kids who are constantly connected through their digital devices, now getting into crocheting," she added. "I think they're looking for a way to connect with their heritage, their cultural traditions, because these things are a big part of our story, our history, and those connections give us a sense place."
The Revive area, filled with heavy, organic, warm, and earthy stuff, was divided into a woven maze and a bazaar.
Progress was split into two areas: one was a Day-Glo playground, which explored reconfigurable furniture, mass customization with digital printing, and interactive wall surfaces (including foam that visitors were encouraged to pluck designs into); the other resembled a mad scientist's laboratory.
"Designers are working with scientists trying to synthesize nature for a more sustainable future," said Dietz. "Our thesis is that sustainability is not only organic, but that it will be synthesized nature. For instance, it might be possible to reprogram the DNA of plants, so at one end you have a strawberry, and the roots are lace. [This BioLace work is already being done by Carole Collet in London.] Or bacteria growing on the surface of water can be sewn into a jacket."
One of the more striking exhibits was the Mycelium Chair by Eric Klarenbeek. The Dutch designer mixed mycelium fungus with a compound of organic straw and water, creating raw material for 3-D printing. Printed into a design inspired by the natural growth of the fungus, the chair was then dried out to stop further growth and covered with a layer of bioplastic.
"We're very proud our Trend Forums not only show what's possible, but that manufacturers actually do take some of our ideas further," said Dietz. "These ideas start conversations that help move the textile industry forward."