Upholstery Fabric 101.2: Performance Fabrics
.If you read our post Upholstery Fabric 101.1: Durability, then you already know the upholstery fabrics we use already come with a stain protection that slows down the time it takes for a stain to set. Is there something better? Now there is: Performance fabrics! Performance is a broad term for fabrics that have the same basic stain protection as "regular" fabrics, but it's put on in such a way that they perform much, much better.
So what's difference? A traditional stain protection is sprayed onto the fabric after it's been woven into an actual piece of fabric. The protective coating is on the "face" - or front - side of the fabric only - the side you actually touch if it was applied to a chair. A performance fabric is sprayed with the same coating, only it's sprayed onto the thread itself, before it's woven into a piece of fabric. This gives you the same stain protection as a regular fabric only you get 360 degrees of coverage! The same rules apply in that it doesn't stop the liquid from penetrating the fabric - it only buys you time by slowing the penetration down - but with a performance fabric it happens so much more slowly that liquids actually bead up before they penetrate. Take a look:
This is a photo of an actual sofa in our showroom that we poured some water on. You can see it actually beaded up.
Will it eventually saturate the fabric and then dry and set? Yes. But with a traditional fabric it would already be going in within seconds, so much so that it wouldn't bead up. Getting a beaded-up stain out is so much easier than one that's saturated is such a no-brainer that given a choice, performance fabrics are the way to go.
In fact, you've probably seen a performance fabric at some point as they've been around for decades. Performance fabrics were originally developed for cushions on outdoor furniture. One well-known name in outdoor furniture fabrics is Sunbrella. Another well-known name is Kryptonite - which was developed for the commercial and hospitality markets.
Eventually these companies realized the potential for the indoor residential market - especially for people with kids - and started marketing to them. While we were aware of these fabrics, we rarely ever showed them to our clients. Why on earth would we keep them from you? For the simple reason that until recently, you could easily tell the difference. Put one hand on a performance fabric and one hand on a regular fabric and you could spot the performance one with your eyes closed. As you may have noticed in your outdoor pillows and cushions, they tended to be harder and "scratchier" than traditional fabrics. When we talk about how a fabric "feels" we refer to the fabrics "hand". A fabric that has a good hand literally feels great when you touch it with your hand. The hand on most performance fabrics was such that nobody wanted them - performance or not - on their living room sofa.
Thankfully that has changed completely! We can even remember when it happened. New fabrics are introduced twice a year and are chosen by the furniture manufacturers to be offered on their pieces - which are also introduced to us twice a year at the High Point Furniture Market. At the April 2017 market we discovered quite a few fabrics that were marked
performance. We felt them and thought they had been miss-labeled! They were every bit as luxurious and wonderful as a non-performance fabric. And they've just been coming out more and more since then. And they're at the same range of pricing as traditional ones (and originally performance fabrics were always more!).
While we can't have every single fabric in performance today (we haven't come across many velvets as of now) the technology is getting better and we're getting better options every day. Which is why we're now enthusiastically steering our clients to performance fabrics.
Here's couple of pics of some of the beautiful performance we offer on our upholstered pieces. You can't "feel" them in a picture, but if you come by our showroom you'll be able to feel for yourself just how amazing these fabrics are.