Textile design is a rich tradition within the Middle East, as it dates back centuries and is one of the most sought after art forms among collectors, aficionados and average consumers.
From carpentry to upholstery, the use of textile design is wide and varied. It can bring a room together through the use of colours, textures and patterns, and it can tell a story, for each design is always inspired by something in the past, present or future.
Rubelli, a leading Venetian fabric company, was founded in the late 19th century and is run by the fifth generation of the Rubelli family today. Its designs are known worldwide for their focus on luxurious fabrics.
Its brands include Rubelli Venezia, Donghia, Dominique Kieffer by Rubelli and Armani/Casa, and Exclusive Textiles by Rubelli.
According to Mark Verall, managing director from Rubelli, a key strength of the Venetian company is “the historical archive that houses 6,000 textile records, over half of these were produced by Rubelli, dating back to the company’s beginnings.
Around 2,000 original designs on paper and the same number of books are held in the textile and art history library. The archive is a particularly invaluable resource to the Rubelli Design Studio, providing inspiration for the patterns of each new collection.”
Rubelli’s access to designs that are centuries old allows it to be a massive player in the industry as it has documentation of the evolution of textile design. Knowing where an industry comes from and where it stood in previous decades is a massive leg up in the sector as it not only gives credibility to the brand, but evokes a sense of continuity with the art’s tradition.
According to Verall, the Middle East is one of the key markets for textile design. “The main difference between the Middle Eastern and European markets is the desired colour palette. The natural palette of this region is sand, taupe…and muted and bleached colours, so customers demand a strong contrast in their homes: bold and rich colours, smooth textures, and opulence [is preferred] over pared-back style.
“Middle Eastern interiors provide a strong contrast to the harsh desert environment in every detail, starting with vibrant colour. In contrast to the European market where the principal consideration is price, in the Middle East colour is the deciding factor, never the price.”
While Verall says that colour is a primary consideration among regional consumers, other companies like York insist that a major deciding factor is whether or not a textile can be used both indoors and outdoors. Established in 1988, York is one of the largest stockist of furnishing fabrics in the GCC region. Its products range from classical to contemporary and modern collections. It also produces high-resistance fabrics that can tolerate indoor and outdoor environments.
Avinash Kalwani, managing partner from York explains: “The current trends as we can see are an increased demand for fabrics that can be used both indoor and outdoor, such as our Sunbrella, Tempotest and Serge Ferrari. These trends are induced due to an increasing expat population and favourable weather conditions which make sitting outdoors more enjoyable.”
According to Kalwani, one its most popular products are the velvets. From Royal Dutch velvets to Raymakers, York houses an entire collection to please various furnishing tastes. The general preference for rich fabrics in the region is a common observance among companies who are new to the regional market.
Verall adds that in the Middle East, the most popular fabrics for the company are those that maintain the “Rubelli traditional design legacy but have been reinterpreted for the contemporary market with a modern colour palette. Colour is always the key, and the Rubelli Design Studio constantly works to develop bold, striking and innovative colours that reinvent a historic pattern. The merging of traditional designs and exotic contemporary colours creates bestselling and award-winning fabrics that are highly regarded and much loved in the Middle East market.”
While Rubelli continues to produce new ways of traditional designs, York and new brands like Ayka are exploring more experimental and unconventional styles. As Kalwani notes, the market is headed toward a more artistically-inclined direction, where every individual has their own distinct preferences.
Ayka, a nascent rug design brand started by previous HBA designer Karen Michelle Evans, is one of the up-and-coming brands that has firmly established a creative identity focused on progressive textile designs. Evans’ work centres on creating hand-knotted woven silk and wool rugs that display bold and modern designs as well as unusual textures.
Inspired by different forms of nature, Ayka’s rugs are vibrantly coloured with varied textures that evoke the sense of a natural composition. While Evans launched the company only two years ago, her creations have already received quite a lot of attention. Just recently her latest design collection which has travelled world wide, Textures, was launched this November in New York.
According to Evans the new collection was “inspired by nature, the object was to create a three-dimensional design in a two dimensional form that would also be functional for the end-user. Art, beauty and comfort were the creative forces behind the creation of this new texture. The structure of the design is in Tibetan weave with loop and hanging yarns creating a textile background which creates movement as you touch it by hand or walk across it by foot.”
While long-established companies like Rubelli and York continue to reaffirm their powerful presences in the global textile market, others like Ayka are creating new paths for the new modern consumers.
Verall notes: “Over the next 10 years the GCC countries will continue to develop, leading to an increased demand for fabrics, not just in the residential sector but also in the hotel and commercial market.
“Each large-scale project requires a signature style, and the use of textiles is the most versatile way of interpreting the brief for a unique space. The creation of specialist fabrics customised for both hospitality and residential clients is undoubtedly the required approach for the Middle East.”