Why we like to do one thing well

Our director, Josh Ralton, reflects on some of the things that set Agua apart, from our focus on performance fabrics, to our colour palettes, to our DNA as a family business

“I think there’s a lot to be said for doing one thing well. At Agua, we’ve always stuck to our guns. We focus on high performance upholstery fabrics, and that’s it.

Occasionally I’m asked why we don’t expand into other parts of the interiors sector, or offer other kinds of fabrics, but this just isn’t something we’ve ever felt the need to do. Focusing on upholstery has allowed us to become true specialists. We know precisely what clients need from commercial upholstery fabrics, we know what it means to create a high performing fabric, and we have unparalleled technical knowledge in our field. None of our direct competitors have the same singular focus.

You can see this in some of our newest fabric collections. In recent months we’ve released several collections, the newest of which, Bouclé and Eden, are soft fabric ranges with sophisticated, fashion-forward textures. Even so, both are highly durable (rated for contract use on the Martindale abrasion scale), fire retardant, waterproof, stain resistant and treated with anti-microbial technology. Of course, all this enhanced functionality comes without compromising on a truly luxurious finish too.

In the same breath, we’ve also released a sustainable fabric called VerdEco, which is woven from recycled waste textiles and utilises innovative new water-free dying technology – so no water is used in its manufacture at all. I doubt we’d have been able to bring any of these new fabrics together without the specialist knowledge we’ve accrued from simply playing to our strengths for 20-plus years.

Colour is hugely important to us too. We’ve worked very hard on our colour palates over the past decade, to ensure that all our collections carry a distinct Agua identity in terms of colour. When I came into the business, we were very strong on neutrals and classic colours, but we’ve since made a name for ourselves in offering jewel tones, contemporary brights and distinctive melanges. In fact, we’ll seldom release a new range with less than 20-or-so different colour options to choose from. We work closely with a colourist too, who ensures that all our collections balance current interiors trends with a wide variety of shades to suit every project.

Quite apart from our focus on design innovation, I’ve learned that you have to be agile, nimble and stay on top of things. Running a business is an exercise in constantly fielding curve balls, and if you drop one you’ll struggle to overcome the challenges that come your way. We are very proud of our family business and our heritage and it’s important for us to keep that family feeling within the business. Likewise, I’ve learned that it’s crucial we keep this family atmosphere and make everyone involved in the business feel like a part of the family.

I’m also proud of how we were able to handle the Covid-19 pandemic. Despite being the most challenging period Agua has faced in the last 20 years, the business continued to grow throughout each lockdown and beyond. We launched new collections, improved our infrastructure and redesigned our website – to name just a few of the things that kept us busy and moving forward. We even created a new protective technology for our soft fabrics, AguaGuard365, in partnership with a leading Swiss lab. It’s the only fabric treatment of its kind that offers certified protection against both bacteria and viruses, including Covid-19. We launched the treatment just five months after the start of the first UK lockdown.

Pandemic-aside, I’m equally proud of just how far we’ve taken the Agua brand over the past 12 years I’ve been working in the business, and beyond. We’ve transitioned from primarily being a supplier to the healthcare sector, to working in hospitality, workplace, residential, cruise and leisure. We have also transformed our communication, marketing and branding, which I like to think I’ve really pushed and driven during my years in the business.

The industry continues to be challenging. We’re all still feeling the effects of the pandemic several years later. Nevertheless, I’m confident that we’re in the strongest position we could be. We’ve continued to invest, evolve and experiment; whether that’s with new collections, materials, or with new ways of working. I’m excited about what the next 12 years – and more – will bring.”

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