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Hello from Heimtextil

Considered to be one of the most important international shows of the year, the Frankfurt event delivers a world of ideas in textiles

03/01/2013 By Kenn Busch

"If you only have time to do one thing at Heimtextil, you must visit the Trend Forum."

First-time visitors to the year's premier textile and design event hear this often. If you've made the early January pilgrimage to Frankfurt before to see the latest ideas in textiles, chances are you make the Trend Forum your first stop, and for good reason.

Heimtextil is unique because it is literally the intersection of every dimension of design: commercial and residential, fashion and furnishings, color and texture, luminance and translucence, east and west. It's also the first major international event of the year, and sets the stage for trends worldwide.

Actually, "stage" is a bit of an understatement. The Trend Forum occupies an entire hall in the massive Messe Frankfurt facility, where you'll find the concepts distilled by the Trend Table fleshed out in fantastical displays, samples and experiential environments.

"The Trend Table members are from the trend offices we have in six countries: France, Brazil, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands and the U.S.," says Olaf Schmidt, vice president of textiles and textile technologies for Messe Frankfurt. "They meet each year in March to discuss what the trends will be for the next 18 months.

Interview: ‘Nothing is Fashion Dogma Anymore’

Based in Finland, trend analyst and journalist Susanna Björklund tracks design and future trends across Europe and throughout the world. She is a long-time observer of Heimtextil, and interprets what she finds at the fair for her readers, students and clients. We've asked her to help us put the Heimtextil fair into perspective.

I&S: How much do trends really change from year to year?
SB: Trends don't obviously change by the clock. For some years there seem not to be many new things around and then suddenly a shift or a change happens and it becomes more obvious. For some years now the manufacturers (in all fields, not just textiles) have also been extra cautious, not investing in anything new, expensive and innovative; they have instead tried to be as commercial and safe as possible. But people also need change, and now I feel there is a shift toward richness in surfaces, layering, and courage to mix and match. It's a definite shift away from Scandinavian-style simplicity. Interesting lace and laser cuts bring a richness, and wallpaper is coming back after several years. 

I&S: Does the show really reflect global trends or is it more Euro-centric?
SB: I am probably biased being European, but the trend panel always has people from Japan and America as well—this time also from Brazil—discussing and mixing the opinions of six nations. That should give a wider, more global reflection. I went to listen to Mark Woodman's [Global Color Research] color trends presentation and he was showing different colors for Europe and the States. Colors in the U.S. tend to be more muted.

I&S: Do you see markets immediately embracing the show's trend assertions, or are they treated more as suggestions than fashion dogma?
SB: People see what they want to see. I always use this example with my trend lectures: If someone likes animal prints, out of hundreds of top designers there are bound to be at least 10 always using them, so this person could always argue they are in fashion, season after season.

Nothing is fashion dogma anymore, but surely a show like this will give you ideas to where the world is going, as well as ideas for something new that will inspire ideas into your own line of business.

You need a degree of vision to spot the trends. I find it strange when magazines say there was a lot of this and a lot of that. Well, out of a zillion manufacturers of all levels, if you see loads of something it is not a new trend any more. It's always worth looking into what innovative, high-class manufacturers are doing, even if the price range is out of reach.

"But there's never just one trend, one color direction. In the fashion business, people like to have a starting point for discussing trends, a reference point for creating new collections. What we try to do is to provide global intelligence for product design and forecasting, and it has proven to be very influential.

"For this year, the Trend Table decided on 'Being' [as the umbrella concept], meaning everybody's different, and they want to express themselves in their own way. Within 'Being' there are four different characters with different behaviors, drawn to different colors. So you have different styles, but in the end, it's one trend direction."

The Trend Table's work is captured in the Heimtextil Trend Book, which can be ordered from their website ( Visitors can also view a well-produced video on the 2013 trends.

"To feel at home, we need a space that we feel emotionally connected to, an environment that fits like a glove, like a third skin, as an extension of our personality," begins the Trend Book. Playing with the concept of "you are how you live," the Trend Table has profiled four powerful personality types and explored the interior design possibilities that might better allow them to be who they want to be:

  • The Historian is partial to the finer things of bygone eras, artisanship, opulence and precious materials

  • The Eccentric is a hunter-gatherer, attracted to eclectic combinations, kitsch, flamboyance and whimsy

  • The Inventor wants function to be fun, and thrives in creatively interactive settings that inspire and entertain

  • The Geologist is a nature fanatic, and digs organic imperfections and rough, unfinished finishes in the context of the unknown and the unexpected

The Trend Book, like the Trend Forum, is a total immersion experience, leading from the conceptual all the way to precise color palettes for each character. It's an ambitious endeavor, and it has served to brand Heimtextil as one of the most important fairs in the world for fashion and furnishings.

WATCH: See a video detailing the four trend personalities at the I&S Media Center. 

"If you want to know what's happening in the textile business and in fashion and interior design, you have to come to Frankfurt," says Schmidt. The world seems to agree: the 2013 exhibition hosted exhibitors from 62 nations and visitors from 132.


Kenn Busch is a writer and photographer specializing in global materials coverage and education for architects and interior designers. He is based in Madison, Wis.