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At Milliken, a Focus on Sustainability

The Specialty Interiors business of Milliken & Company has seen the growth of its popular eco-elegant performance upholstery fabric collection, Breathe by Milliken. For Spring High Point Market, Breathe by Milliken will be featured in the new King Hickory Showroom.

InspireDesign sat down with Jennifer K. Harmon, VP of Milliken Specialty Interiors, to learn more about her inspiration behind the collection.

What was your inspiration behind the product?

The result of Milliken’s years of expertise in creating innovative, sustainably-focused solutions, Breathe by Milliken is a brand of unique, eco-elegant performance fabrics designed to reflect today’s lifestyles and our common values of protecting our global and home environments. This collection addresses increasing consumer and facility concern about product content and materiality and demand for better and more natural performance options. Breathe fabrics were designed to reflect today’s lifestyles and the values of the consumer, our customers and Milliken. We share this planet and one common belief—little things can make a big difference, so choose wisely.

The collection consists of both recycled polyester and natural fibers options. The recycled polyester fabrics in the Breathe by Milliken collection will be the best option to stand up to the tough and repeated use of hotel settings. Our natural fiber fabrics will be ideal in lower traffic areas that require a luxurious look and feel. These upholstery fabrics are not only soft and beautiful, but durable, water and stain repellent, and easily cleanable, allowing consumers to relax and enjoy the spaces they occupy, while helping facility operators deliver more fully on their environmental goals and brand promises.

What were some of the challenges when designing the product? How did you overcome them?

Our research team conducted studies to determine the true market need for such a product, while our research and development team spent countless hours formulating, testing and refining the formulations needed to create our Breathe cleanable cotton, cotton-linen blends and recycled polyester fabrics. Our design teams then set about designing and curating palettes and textures that featured modern spins on timeless and classic colors in tones to ensure appeal and extend facility service life. While we knew there was pent up demand for more sustainable and luxurious options, one of our biggest challenges lay in educating the market about how this fabric collection is different from others claiming to be environmentally-friendly and that they no longer needed to choose between sustainability and performance nor between luxury and performance.

How was this completely unique compared to other products you’ve made?

Breathe by Milliken is indicative of Milliken’s long-standing and profound commitment to sustainability, including responsible manufacturing and sourcing practices, use of minimal chemistry, focus on materiality, and reducing the carbon footprint. The Breathe upholstery fabric collection takes this a step forward by being not only environmentally-friendly but incorporating a more natural performance element with a water and stain repellent that is fluorine-free and plant-based.

Breathe fabrics are the industry’s first fluorine-free performance fabrics compatible with both natural and manmade fibers. The polyester fabrics also contain recycled content that is currently verified by Unifi’s U Trust certification program. This program verifies the recycled fibers are transparent, traceable, and FiberPrint certified. Each fabric has a bottle count, so we can tell you how many bottles are diverted from landfill for each yard consumed.

Finally, the products have all achieved Greenguard Gold certification, giving consumers the peace of mind that the fabrics are scientifically proven to meet the world’s most rigorous environmental standards, thus improving indoor air quality.