May 4, 2016

Q&A: Designer Kristin Stallings Looks to the Future of Carpet Fiber

Designer Kristin Stallings grew up with a passion for both art and textiles. “My father has owned an upholstery business all my life and my entire family is creative,” she says. “We, to this day, still make each other’s Christmas presents.” So when she joined the Antron® brand—the Georgia-based carpet fiber innovator—as a member of the design team in 2015, the fit just felt natural. Now, Stallings works alongside carpet mills to evolve its fiber offering, coming up with colors and processes that will keep the mills excited and engaged. Here, she discusses the future of carpet design.

Interior Design: How do you describe what you do?

Kristin Stallings: As the product designer for the Antron® brand, I am constantly working alongside our mills to evolve the Antron® branded solution dyed color palette and refining colors to strategically evolve with our customer mills. I also create samples that inspire and educate our customer mills on what our yarn can do, all while looking at new innovations that we can soon introduce into the marketplace under the Antron® brand.

Sometimes I think about how unique my job is. I usually tell people, “I design the color and texture of yarn.” Never in a million years would I have thought this would be my job. But when I compare my initial ambitions of wanting to be a print designer to what I’m doing now, I realize that I’m getting so much more out of my day-to-day passions. I’m closer to the core of textile fiber. And maybe, somehow, myself.

ID: How is designing for Antron different than designing for a carpet mill?

KS: Thanks to my past experience working as a designer at a carpet mill, I am able to communicate with our customer mill product development teams, connecting what we offer to what they do. I gained much appreciation for the extent of work it takes to develop carpet product. From rendering CADs to drawing 6ft wide patterns to tufting full scale productions, I am able to align what the Antron® brand has to offer and cater that to a carpet designer’s needs. With all the resources that the Antron® brand has to offer, I am able to connect with so many more pieces of the carpet world- from marketing agencies to planning groups to polymer scientists- just to name a few. We all have the same goal of creating a better textile product and driving our industry forward and it’s very exciting to be part of that.

ID: How do trends and market insights help drive the development of the Antron® palettes?

KS: We have a creative team of designers from every corner of the globe—Europe, Asia, Asia-Pacific and North America. It’s a team from different backgrounds, and we all drive color development and fiber innovation. Insight and inspiration can come from so many places: internal research, customer feedback, international trends, macro trends, or even something cool we saw on the way to work!

“While fixtures, accents, wall colors and even furniture may change over a short amount of time, the floor is an investment that will need to stay longer in most cases. So we look at color trends from the perspective of what neutrals they will pair best with.”

Todd van der Kruik, Bentley Mills, Antron® Mill Partner

ID: Tell us about the current fiber color palettes you’re working with as part of the Antron® brand.

KS: We currently offer two solution dyed Antron® Lumena color palettes in a 1245 denier and an 895 denier size. The 895 line is our most updated palette created in 2012 and has a fresh breadth of values and hues and high chromatic, saturated accents. We are currently working with our mills on revitalizing the 1245 line, as it continues to have a lasting history since 1987 but needs a bit of a facelift to progress with the marketplace. Aside from solution dyed yarn, we also have Antron® Legacy white dyable fiber, which has an array of denier sizes and luster levels. We also offer many “to the needle” yarn processing capabilities globally. We give our mills the whole toolbox which they can use to create carpet products.

ID: What is your take on how the carpet industry utilizes color and design trends?

KS: The challenge to all carpet designers is creating relevant yet timeless products. We use color and design trends to keep a fresh perspective, filter through year-to-year changes in trends, and to determine what elements of design are going to stick around. Carpets made of Antron® fiber tend to stick around for awhile, and no one wants a carpet that looked cool ten years ago but is out-of-style today.

In my previous career as a fashion designer, I was always interested in car colors. Fashion is always a year ahead because of the design cycle. But cars need a four-year development cycle. Today, my inspiration comes from mixing and blending colors. I never look at colors individually because most things I create do not stand alone.”

Jhane Barnes, Tarkett, Antron® Mill Partner

ID: How will color and design trends evolve in this industry over the next several years? What are you most excited about?

KS: Technology is moving forward in this industry by leaps and bounds. It’s really exciting to see what we are working on for the future. My team’s role in this is to provide the perfect colors as solution dyed products continue to grow. My personal goal is to create better tools to let designers continue to create courageously. That’s how we’ll draw customers’ attention to the art of textile design.

ID: Where do you look for inspiration?

KS: Everywhere. I guess I have a vivid perception of the world around me. I’m always picking up inspirations from things some people don’t even notice. Going through my camera, I’ve got pictures of everything from a color combination of rocks, to the pattern on the ceiling of the air bridge leading into an airplane.

“One of my favorite carpet designs was inspired by a piece of cardboard that I dug out of the trash. It had been used as a simple cutting board, creating a random, but beautiful pattern.”

—Diane Hahn, Atlas Carpet Mills®, Antron® Mill Partner

ID: Why is color so important in carpet development?

KS: Color has a big impact on our thoughts and emotions. So the colors of a space are incredibly important. This is why there are so many color studies in interior design specific to different market segments. You use different colors for senior living than you would for education, because the energy you want to get out of each space is much different. So for example, at the Antron® brand we’ve been introducing lots of tinted neutrals with natural colorations because they have a calming effect. These sorts of colors are best suited for mills that are developing products for healthcare.

ID: What is the greatest challenge you face when designing color for carpet?

KS: I have high expectations! For color, my rules include making sure it is a long lasting, market relevant, on trend color. We’re serving many different needs of many different mills that develop for many different market segments. So designing a color that meets all these demands is challenging.

ID: Why is performance important to carpet design?

KS: Legendary industrial designer Dieter Rams said, “Good design is making something intelligible and memorable. Great design is making something memorable and meaningful.” To me, performance and design go hand in hand. Of course I strive to provide attractive design. But if that design is replaced in a few years, it wasn’t a success. By bringing together art and science, I can help create products that will look good for a long time. I think that’s a big reason designers choose to use Antron® fiber—our thread makes carpets look newer longer, so they don’t have to be replaced as often. That’s great news for the designer’s budget, schedule, and reputation.

“The floor covers such a vast area of a project. Performance is imperative. Creating materials that don’t use an abundance of luster is key. Performance is necessary for securing long-term leases, or for airport and or heavily used facilities.”

—Suzanne Tick, Suzanne Tick Inc.

To learn more about Antron® fiber, design inspiration and carpet color trends, click here.

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