The Agua Design Process
Our managing director, Suzanne Ralton, loves nothing better than getting stuck into R&D. Here, she talks you through the Agua design process – from idea to finished fabric
“At Agua, every collection starts with an idea; a solution to a problem that needs solving, or a lightbulb moment that’s come about in conversation with one of our clients. We try to think clearly in terms of innovating and problem solving in our space; there’s always a reason behind a new fabric range.
One of our newest collections, Agua Cord, is a good example. Often, we find that interiors trends follow fashion trends, and we actively set out to develop a cord collection last year because an interior designer we work with closely had suggested it, having seen cord creeping onto the catwalk over the past couple of autumn/winter seasons.
We also devote a huge amount of energy to fine-tuning the colours we offer in our collections. We work with an independent colourist, who offers an external, expert point-of-view on the colour palettes for all our fabrics, with one eye always kept on the sectors we have in mind for the range and current colour trends. Our colourist also helps to keep all our ranges up to date; we’re always tweaking and adding shades to established collections, and we review all our ranges on a rolling basis.
As we push forward into 2021, we’re also working hard to lead the market in developing more sustainable materials too. There are huge barriers to developing sustainable contract fabrics at present, including the availability of colour-fast natural dyes, sourcing stable natural materials and the use of water. Nevertheless, we’re testing what could be our first entirely sustainable collection at the moment, and hope to make some meaningful progress in this direction over the course of the year.
At Agua we also have to think in terms of balancing aesthetics with contract fabric grade practicality. On average, a collection will take between 12 and 18 months to develop from initial idea to full stock availability, but as well as focusing on colours, textures and finishes, each design is consistently tested against all our high-performing criteria; including Martindale abrasion, stain resistance, fire-retardancy, water resistance and anti-microbial protection. I always say that at Agua we ‘test, test and test again’, and I’m pleased to report that we have a spotless record when it comes to meeting and even exceeding the required performance standards.
We also pride ourselves on being nimble, and while 12 to 18 months may sound like a long timeframe to produce new product, we are often considerably quicker to develop ranges than our competitors. We’re a family business and we trust our gut instincts. If someone on the team comes up with a good idea, we tend not to hang about. In the same breath, we also use our relationships with key clients to ensure a fabric’s development goes smoothly. Often, a few sample lengths and shade cards will trickle out to our longest standing clients, to get their feedback on a new material while it’s still in development.
All these things add up to a design process that we’re both proud of and confident in. While we try and think creatively, we also aim for longevity in all our designs. We don’t discontinue many fabrics, and we make sure to get our development right. Many of our collections have been around for well over 10 or 15 years, and we plan to stick to this formula for many years still to come.”
To browse Agua’s entire fabric collection, click here