Among the trends spotted at NeoCon this past June was the idea that movement is an essential component to wellness, as evidenced by a variety of furniture solutions that offer users tremendous flexibility and range of motion, encouraging activity in the workplace. One might presume textiles are excluded from the party due to their seemingly static nature, but the new PFRM upholstery collection—the first-ever collaboration between Carnegie and Gensler—challenges that preconception and demonstrates that fabrics have an important role to play in the wellness game as well.
Drawing inspiration from the strength, durability, and boldness of modern athletic apparel, the PFRM collection features eight patterns (three of which are knit) and aims to deliver function, comfort, and durability through high-performance material technology.
“The collection was really born out of this idea of looking at athletic wear, where the way athletic fabrics are designed is not just to look good but to actually improve the performance of the athlete,” said Mary Holt, executive vice president, Creative, at Carnegie. “So, how can the fabric improve the performance of the overall piece within a space? That was kind of the design challenge.”
The year-long collaboration began when Gensler issued two research grants to Design Principal Lee Pasteris, part of which was spent on developing a new line of high-performance fiber. “My ultimate goal was to create self-cleaning fabric or fibers, for textiles, and so it was a product line that was inspired by athletic wear and active wear, and about high performance,” she said.
Pasteris noted that the design process with Carnegie was collaborative from start to finish, including initial concept design, sampling, all the way to the final decisions on patterns and colors that would be included in the PFRM collection. Additionally, she said Gensler conducted focus groups internally to ensure the concepts were resonating with other members of their team across the country.
“We sent kind of a traveling road show of textiles early on of things that we were looking at for the potential collection, and we got some really great feedback from different offices and designers, different points of view, so it was really a great process that helped us filter and helped finalize the final product line,” Pasteris said.
Carnegie was the ideal partner, in part because of its resources and longstanding history of collaboration with designers outside of its internal 14-person design team, but also because of its willingness to take risks and deliver something a bit disruptive to the market.
“We believed Carnegie had the resources and the appetite to be able to develop something that was a little bit out of the box,” Pasteris explained. “A good example of that is in some of the knit wear [within the collection]; one of them is actually a sneaker shoe fabric that we have developed into an upholstery. So it was really finding someone that had that open mindset and that was willing to work from ground zero and build up a product line that potentially hadn’t been done before.”
Interestingly, Carnegie wasn’t necessarily considering the athletic market prior to working with Gensler, according to Holt, but the idea Pasteris pitched was in line with its corporate values and vision, so the company eagerly jumped onboard.
“We’re always open to discussion about collaboration, and it’s infrequent, but when we do find someone like Lee, who has an idea that actually mirrors the direction that we are going, it’s the perfect fit,” Holt observed. “That’s not to say that we were headed in the athletic direction—that’s not at all where we were going—but the Carnegie design studio is very solution-based, and we’re always looking to create products that offer more than just beauty and aesthetics.”
The PFRM collection translates the spirit of sports activities and clothing to an upholstery collection that feels fresh, youthful, and athletic. The designs are offered in colorways varying from energetic brights to soothing monochromes, with a tactile nature that invites end users to touch them. The
collection incorporates cutting-edge fiber, knit, and lamination technologies.
Throughout the design process, the teams set high performance goals for the new collection. All PFRM selections meet rigorous commercial standards for the office, hospitality, and healthcare markets, while maintaining Carnegie’s core values of quality, integrity, and responsibility.
With the focus of the collection being activity and movement, PFRM is on point with the current wellness trend and blurs the lines between market
segments that is also prevalent in commercial interiors today. Holt said Carnegie has been tracking the wellness movement (they’ve adopted the term “healthy is the new wealthy”) in which people have been placing a great deal of emphasis on health, which can be directly translated into our environments.
“A product like this that’s inspired by energy and movement and flexibility and athleticism, we really see that wouldn’t be just for one market because that would be the type of vibe or experience you would want to have in a
certain corporate office, but also in a healthcare facility, also in a hospitality setting,” she noted. “Because the performance is built in, it can cross those markets, and I think the aesthetic that Lee was able to create also crosses many markets, so that’s why we’re really trying not to pigeon-hole it.”
Indeed, the PFRM collection stands out from the crowd, and it reimagines not only what performance really means, but luxury as well.
“Part of our conversations were about defining luxury,” Pasteris recalled. “In the past, luxury meant silk and linen and all these natural luxurious fibers, and we feel that with health and wellness and performance, that this is the new luxury. We hope [the collection is] a little bit of a disruptor as far as how people look at products, and how it’s defined.”
Photography courtesy of Carnegie