by Talib Choudhry, The Daily Telegraph, October 21, 2016
The catwalks were awash with velvet this season. Stella McCartney, Valentino and Saint Laurent all showed this luscious fabric in myriad forms, from slick Le Smoking tuxedos to gloriously feminine crushed-velvet gowns. The cult label of the moment, Vetements, experimented with that questionable 70s icon – the velvet suit – and rendered it cool with over-sized proportions. Whether spliced with punkish plaids or incorporated into sharp tailored jackets, any princessy connotations of velvet were banished to the past.
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Similarly, the Italian heritage house Brioni did away with decades of impeccable tailoring and debuted a collection of plush velvet men’s suiting that exuded a certain retro pizzazz and now it’s time for velvet to sashay off the catwalk and into our homes too, giving traditional furnishings a colourful new spin.
“We’ve seen a huge increase in the popularity of velvet over recent months,” says Megan Holloway, marketing manager of Sofa Workshop, “Customers are more confident in making bold purchases and the richness of colour you can achieve through velvet enables them to find something that feels unique and personal. Pink velvet sofas have had a sudden spike in popularity.”
The vogue for Velvet is also being felt at Multiyork and the number of customers choosing it as an upholstery option has risen dramatically over the past year.
“There has been an influx of orders for bold velvet sofas coming through our factory,” says Kate Tansley, creative director of the Norfolk-based company. “We’ve added more velvets across our fabric ranges to meet demand, including new printed designs in our range with the fashion brand Monsoon. It has rapidly become one of our most requested collections.”
Tansley attributes the sofa-buying public’s new found love-affair with velvet to the fad for combining traditional styles, such as chesterfields, with contemporary colour palettes and the wider trend for fashion-led homewares. The interior designer Amy Sommerville, who has just launched a new collection of glamorous velvet sofas and armchairs, however, suspects that something deeper than transient trends is at play.
“There is a great amount of uncertainty in the world at the moment and traditional velvets hark back to a bygone era, evoking warmth and comfort,” says Somerville, “The fabulous thing about velvets is that their nap and depth causes the light to react differently on curves creating a dramatic Chiaroscuro effect.”
While Somerville favours 100% cotton or 100% mohair velvets and similarly high-end furniture maker Beaumont & Fletcher uses only silk velvets on its upholstered pieces and embroidered cushions, the advent of hard-wearing man-made velvets such as poly-cotton blends have made the fabric accessible to a wider audience too.
“It’s no longer just the stuff of accent chairs in posh country houses,’ says Holloway, “Velvet has been embraced as part of a more of an eclectic, contemporary look. Cotton velvet is notorious for 'bruising’ and can be hard to live with unless you know how to treat it so being able to offer other options that achieve a similar look is great.”
Rebecca Malyan, head of product at Neptune, favours cotton velvet with 10% polyester for '’strength, durability and bounce’ but counsels that choosing a fabric with much more polyester in the mix as 'it becomes kind of squeaky and it can give you a static shock. No-one wants that as they’re sinking into an armchair to relax.”
Malyan also brushes-off talk of bruising, insisting that flattened areas add to the charm and character of the fabric over time, which is preferable to a shiny, new look. She suggests using velvet sparingly as an accent in a room – 'it does a lot of talking’ – and often combines it with other materials for a cosy, layered look.
“We like to use contrasting textures in our interiors – wood, heavy-weight linen and velvet, for example – to create interest and depth,” says Malyan, “We also pay a lot of attention to the effect of lighting in design schemes. Velvet is perfect for rooms that are predominantly used in the evenings, such a living and bedrooms because it catches the light beautifully. Soft bulbs can make it look magical.”
While the current Neptune collection features mustards and burnt golds, design duo Barneby Gates have combined their signature palm and trellis prints with velvet upholstery fabrics in a darkly glamorous seating collection for sofa.com . “The trend for dark, inky walls provides the perfect backdrop for velvet and adds to the decadent feel,” says Alice Gates, of the decision to showcase the deep-blue Fingal against charcoal grey walls.
The interior designer Simone Suss often revamps traditional Chesterfield sofas in jewel-toned velvet with contrast button-back detailing and uses statement velvet headboards to add impact to bedrooms. The latter look is now easy to replicate at pocket-friendly prices; Button & Sprung has recently increased the range of velvet fabric options for its bedframes.
“Upholstered beds are becoming more popular and we have noticed that customers are responding well to rich textiles,” says Adam Black, founder of Button & Sprung, “Vibrant shades teamed with an oversized button back or curved headboard can instantly inject a feeling of luxury and drama into a room.”
To ensure longevity, however, Malyan advises sticking with splashes of velvet on timeless silhouettes: “If you use it elegantly and sparingly it won’t date. We design everything in our collection to be there forever and if we hit on a trend it’s generally by accident. Velvet won’t ever go out of fashion. Its timeless.”
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This article was written by Talib Choudhry from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.