Before I go any further, I must put a graphic warning on the intro to this Q & A. What you’re about to read is, sadly, a true story. But it re-inforces the need for high-performance fabrics!
So we have a English lab, Archie, who you may have seen our socials. He’s so doggone cute and chonky and the office loves him! But he’s a larger guy and he doesn’t always realize it. When he was a pup, he made messes. Messes of all kinds! But definitely the most egregious kinds…
One time, he made one of those messes in my dining room. We have easy-to-clean floors so this wouldn’t have been such a big deal, except for the Roomba…
Now the Roomba was just doing its job. I’m not disappointed in that. But what was originally a tiny blob of a mess quickly became a gross spray of a mess in a matter of seconds.
Like I said, Archie’s a big boy.
He makes big messes!
So, we had to throw the Roomba away. There’s really no good way to clean that out. But what we didn’t have to throw out were any draperies and fabrics that came into contact with that mess. (To be honest, most of it was caught up in the Roomba…). Our dining room drapes are made from a stain-resistant Crypton fabric. Really, you could throw wine at them and the wine would collect in little droplets to the floor.
So you see, while I threw out the Roomba with the dirty fabric water, so to speak, I was able to easily restore my lovely dining room.
That brings me to Revolution Fabrics. I met their team at High Point Market last year. There are a lot of performance fabrics out there. But what drew me to Revolution was how they are creating their fabrics. Engineered from a petroleum by-product, Revolution’s process using a material that would otherwise be discarded and turns it into beautiful fabrics. Unlike cotton and bamboo, which yes, are sustainable, Revolution’s process uses very little water, having an even more positive impact on the environment.
LU: We met at last fall’s High Point Market and I got to test some of your fabrics. It was a lot of fun smearing lipstick everywhere! Do you test all of your fabrics like that?
RF: Funny enough, a lot of my job has become cleaning spills off fabric and filming the results. My first job at Revolution Fabrics was shooting our first cleaning video on my iPhone. We get asked a new spill question almost daily. Most of the time we shoot the video for the customer right on the spot. Being able to make videos quickly helps the customer and adds to our vast library of cleaning videos. Check them out on YouTube sometime.
We also test our performance fabrics with industry standard testing. The performance industry is little up in arms right now because the term “performance fabric” is very broad. We try our best to share content that proves that our fabrics are cleanable. Then we let the consumer decide if Revolution Fabrics is right for them.
LU: High performance fabrics are a must for us as many of our clients have young children and pets. And we even use Revolution at the studio. Tell us a little bit about what makes your fabrics so high-performing?
RF: Revolution Performance Fabrics are a highly engineered product. Our whole process starts with the yarn. Revolution Fabrics are made with 100% solution dyed polypropylene fibers. Polypropylene, or olefin, is the most stain resistant fiber on the market because it doesn’t have dye sites.
Think about it like a carrot and a radish. Revolution yarn is like a carrot. The color goes all the way through the fiber. Many other yarns are like a radish. The color is only on the top.
We start by making and sourcing all of our yarn within 300 miles of our plant in North Carolina. Each yarn goes through extreme lightfastness, strength, and durability testing before it’s woven into fabric. Once the yarn is woven, the fabrics are tested again for strength, durability, and lightfastness.
Don’t be fooled though. Not all solution-dyed fiber is the same. Solution-dyed acrylic, polyester, and nylon all have dyes sites and will stain if they aren’t treated in some kind of PFAS bath. These chemicals are not good for you and tend to wear off over time. At Revolution Fabrics, we take great pride in making a fabric that is stain resistant without the use of PFAS chemicals. We hold ourselves and our fabric to the strictest industry tests and standards.
Holding ourselves to these standards is more than pride. It’s our ethos. We learned that these chemicals were bad over 15 years ago and will never sell a product made with these chemicals. Stain resistance has become a synonym for performance in our industry. We believe that Revolution Fabrics is the most stain resistant fabric on the market without PFAS. You can test if for yourself with free swatches!
You can’t get spills like mustard out of many other performance fabrics. Mustard, even permanent market, can come out of Revolution Fabrics. You can even pour straight bleach on the fabric and it won’t hurt it!
LU: Wow! That’s really high performing! It’s not like any of us are pouring bleach on our sofas. But you just never know with children in the house, especially when science fair time comes. When I visited your showroom at High Point, you talked a lot about sustainability. Your process makes Revolution Fabrics more sustainable than cotton and even silk. Can you tell more about how your process is “greener”?
RF: Everything starts with the yarn. Polypropylene is a byproduct of refining natural gas and was thrown away until the 1960s. Then scientists learned how to use it to make yarn and won a Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their discovery. Polypropylene is an up-cycled fiber that can even be recycled into sound proofing and other things. No land and very little water is used to produce it.
Our industry uses the Higg Index to measure sustainability of a fiber. It was originally created by apparel companies like Nike, NorthFace, and Patagonia. This index explains why polypropylene is more sustainable than cotton and silk. Cotton and silk require a lot of water, land, and chemicals in the growing and yarn spinning and dying process.
LU: How do you obtain polypropylene? And is it used to make other things?
RF: Polypropylene is a synthetic fiber much like polyester or acrylic. It comes to us from refiners in Texas, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. We take the pellets and extrude the fibers from what would look like the shower head in your bathroom. These base yarns are then put together and textured to make yarns. They look and feel like cotton, but have the performance properties of polypropylene. Polypropylene is used a lot in home decor products, including upholstery fabric and rugs.
It’s also used in geotextiles because it’s highly resistant to the sun. Our Revolution outdoor fabric for example, exceeds 3000 hours lightfastness. The normal indoor lightfastness standard is around 50 hours of lightfastness.
LU: The oil and gas industry is vital for us in Houston! It’s nice to hear there are some beautiful benefits to what is essentially the lifeblood of our city. I think there is always the concern that anything having to deal with oil and gas is bad. No redemption. What do you tell people who say they prefer a more “natural” fabric?
RF: Honesty, we tell them our story and point them to the Higg Index for more information. We know our limitations and are fully aware that our fabrics are not right for everyone. Some people only want cotton fabrics. All we can do is tell our story, promote our brand, and hope that the consumer sees the value Revolution Fabrics provide.
What’s really interesting is that we have a lot of people call us wanting cotton fabrics. Once we point them to third party information, they usually thank us for sharing that information with them. As consumers, we’ve been told that cotton is somehow better for the environment because it’s “plant based” or comes from the ground. It’s not. It requires a lot of chemicals, land, and water to make.
LU: The interior design industry – it’s all about dispelling myths! So let’s go into something more fun. What’s going on in the world of Revolution Fabrics these days? What do we have to look forward to?
RF: We’re very excited this year about what’s happening at Revolution Performance Fabrics! Although we’ve been making fabric since 1964, we’re celebrating our 4th birthday this year as Revolution Fabrics. We’re also excited to launch our outdoor fabric collection at High Point Market in June. These fabrics are stain-resistant, easy to clean, bleach cleanable, and have a 5-year warranty. We see the indoor/outdoor fabric industry as a battle of two fibers – solution-dyed acrylic vs solution-dyed polypropylene. We believe we have the better yarn system, but only time will tell.
We’re also increasing the selection of fabrics that we offer to the the trade. This business started two years ago and currently offers around 500 fabrics. These fabrics are stocked and ship to clients in 3 – 5 business days. We hope to double the selection this year and continue to grow this program.
LU: OK, let’s end on a really high note! Rapid fire, 5 Questions. Let’s go! We’ll start easy, what is your favorite Revolution Fabric?
RF: Sugarshack and Hailey! These fabrics where some of the first fabrics we made. To this day, they continue to be every designer’s staple fabric.
LU: Do you collect anything?
RF: I collect dogs. I swear I get a new dog every week and my girlfriend gets mad any me, but she loves me right? I currently have 4 dogs, and they make it on the Revolution Instagram every once in a while. We have a family farm, so they get to run and play all day, everyday.
LU: That’s fun. I’m sticking to one, Archie, if I can help it. If you owned a boat, what would you name it?
RF: I like Lazy Daze or On the Rocks. You can’t have too much humor in your life.
LU: Are you a dog person or a cat person?
RF: Dog person for sure! Sorry cat people, I just don’t get them.
LU: And finally, you have the night all to yourself, what are binge watching on Netflix?
RF: I’m currently binge watching Game of Thrones! It’s not on Netflix, but you can get it on Amazon. I also love to watch documentaries, especially if it’s about food or travel. Chef’s Table or Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown are a must.