Anatomy Of A Design: Behind Nassimi Textiles’ Innovative New Performance Fabric

Iwan Nassimi, Executive VP of Nassimi joins us this week to discuss the textile brand’s 2021 collection, Supreen™. The new performance upholstery material marries cutting-edge woven and coated technology to create a unique liquid-barrier textile. The result is a hard-working upholstery fabric with a luxurious look and a surprisingly supple hand.

Raymond Schneider: When did you first start to develop this new collection?
Iwan Nassimi: The initial concept for Supreen performance fabrics was born almost three years prior to its launch in 2020. We recognized a need in the marketplace for a new type of performance fabric that better reflects today’s design trends as well as a desire to greatly reduce environmental impact. Supreen was a very involved development, and we are thrilled about the results.

Raymond: What was the overall timeline from conception to achieving the final design?
Iwan: The production process, from concept to completed product, took approximately three years. Supreen is a composite material that marries Silicone, Polyester Fabric, and Polyurethane, each of which we had prior expertise in, and each of which provides its own unique set of benefits. Our goal was to combine these material types to create a new and better performance upholstery that extracted each of the materials’ best features. For the first year, we experimented with production methodologies that enabled us to unify them into one new material. Once we succeeded in achieving the construction and performance that we were aiming for, we started the design process, which was more focused around aesthetics. We developed several different fabric textures, each in a broad palette of colors.

Photo by Paul Brayton.

Photo by Paul Brayton.

Raymond: What was your initial inspiration, and where did the idea(s) come from?
Iwan: Nassimi’s original claim to fame was our invention of the first upholstery faux leather. At that point in time, faux leather was still referred to as ‘vinyl,’ and it looked and felt just like that – like the material on the booth of an old diner. Plasticky, synthetic-looking, sometimes a little too shiny, and usually quite stiff. Vinyl was used for durability and clean-ability benefits, but never for an enhanced design, look, and feel. With innovative new technologies and an attention to detail, we were able to create beautiful, luxurious, supple faux leathers that met both aesthetic desires and performance needs. Our faux leathers (and others) are now a mainstay in hotels, restaurants, offices, healthcare facilities, and even in homes.

For some time, we heard similar gripes about performance upholstery fabrics. There were moisture barrier fabrics available, but all of the options on the market looked and felt very commercial. They were typically quite stiff and boardy, often more evocative of a hospital room than a home or a boutique hotel. With design trends evolving to favor softer, more luxurious and more residential interiors, we observed a need for a better performance upholstery that combined performance and environmental benefits with soft, supple and elevated aesthetics.  

Additionally, the stain repellent chemistry that was being used on conventional performance fabrics was often harmful to the environment and human health. As with all of our product development, environmental stewardship was a central part of the motivation. Our goal was not to sacrifice any performance (such as clean-ability), but to achieve this whilst foregoing conventional harmful chemistry.

Raymond: Please describe your overall creative and design process.
Iwan: In the development of Supreen, we began with the idea of combining the best of three different product types to establish a new, elite type of performance fabric. This required us to call on experts from different fields to determine how to best unify these traits and achieve the results we were aiming for. We also looked to other industries for insight, most notably to performance outerwear, a field in which many new technologies are being employed to create lightweight, breathable and resilient fabrics. In the end, Supreen was the result of an unwillingness to settle for the status quo and an inquisitive, collaborative effort that incorporated new ideas and technology. 

Raymond: Did you have a specific audience or theme that you had in mind?
Iwan: In many ways, Supreen is a universal product that enhances any interior design setting. While performance benefits are primarily requested in commercial settings such as restaurants, hospitals, or hotels, asking  ‘would we use this in our own homes?’ became a key part of the development process. Our belief was that if we didn’t want the final product in our own living rooms – that is, if it was not luxurious, comfortable and beautiful enough for our furniture, not durable or cleanable enough to make our lives more carefree, and not free of chemicals and other components harmful to our health – then we should not expect it to be good enough for use elsewhere. As a result, Supreen was designed to suit both commercial and residential interiors – combining hard-working performance with one-of-a-kind softness and warmth.

Photo by Paul Brayton.

Photo by Paul Brayton.

Raymond: Did you utilize a new technique or technology to conceptualize this product?
Iwan: Yes! Supreen is a novel combination of three material types that, prior to our innovation, had only been used separately in upholstery material. In the production process of Supreen, we use a patented technology to purify the fabric to 99.9%, subsequently allowing for the Silicone and Polyurethane to permanently bond with the fabric and create two layers of protection – one to provide exceptional stain resistance, the other to create a total liquid barrier that protects the furniture from the inside out.

Raymond: Please describe any challenges that affected the design and perhaps steered you to an entirely new final design?
Iwan: The biggest challenge to the design process of Supreen fabrics is that the nature of the manufacturing process has the potential to alter the physical properties of the material. In the order of production, the fabric is woven first. At a later stage, the woven fabric goes through a bath in a silicone solution during which the silicone embeds itself into the fiber to create an invisible (and permanent) layer of protection on the fabric. On the flip side, the silicone can loosen the fibers, such that the seam strength and other properties can diminish. When we discovered this, we had to go back to the drawing board to re-engineer the different base fabrics to reflect greater strength properties that would meet our post-production standards.

Raymond: Describe your overall brand DNA and Ethos
Iwan: Believe in better. This simple, yet powerful phrase in many ways sums up what drives us and what we stand for. We try never to rest on our laurels, but instead always look for ways to improve our products and be a better supplier and partner to our customers. We manufacture performance upholstery materials, and ‘better’ relates to all aspects of these.

Better design – we aspire to design materials that are elevated in their aesthetic and performance, that will stand the test of time in color and design, as well as endure many years of use. Better performance – this is not limited to a singular feature, such as stain resistance, but to us, it means engineering materials that will offer the end-user ease of mind. Not least importantly, ‘better’ refers to the environment and our health. We were the first company in the industry to remove all harmful phthalates from our faux leathers, to produce fabrics without the use of chemical flame retardants or biocidal chemicals, and now with Supreen, we were able to achieve exceptional stain resistance without the use of harmful PFCs/PFAS. We have a long way to go, but we are always willing to go the extra mile to provide timeless, usable products that are long-lasting, and that have minimum environmental impact.

Supreen™ is exclusively sold through a handful of leading fabric distributors, click here to see the full ist.

Click here to see more of our “Anatomy of a Design” series.

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