Microcare Reports Growing Demand for 3-D Looks

January 17, 2003

Ijsselstein, Netherlands - For Ferdinand Visser, founder of Microcare, ''innovation'' is more than just a buzzword; it is a way of doing business. After winning awards for product innovation two consecutive years, the company is generating more interest from European markets and it is beginning to get attention from U.S. manufacturers.

Microcare creates contract upholstery fabrics, which are produced on an exclusivity basis by manufacturers in the U.K. Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium. Microcare targets the healthcare (rest and nursing homes, hospitals) and the hospitality and marine (yachts) markets.

Visser founded the company in 1993, after several years of selling contract furniture to nursing homes in the Netherlands. He became dissatisfied with only being able to offer vinyls on his chairs for the elderly, so he decided to develop an easy cleaning fabric (initially flock), with a new generation of breathable/urine-proof coating. Rather than using PVC, Visser employed some innovative thinking and used a new polyurethane instead.

Soon after, Microcare reengineered and switched from flock to microfiber polyester suede. The move helped Microcare become an important source for healthcare fabric in Europe.

In the fall of 2002, Microcare unveiled a new line called Action Fresh. The line combines the company's standard anti-bacterial and anti-fungal treatments with micro-encapsulation. When a person in contact with the fabric moves, microcapsules break and release a scent, which is designed to neutralize any odors. The Action Fresh system is designed to last up to three years, depending on the frequency of use. Scents include peppermint, lemon, fig, lavender and vanilla.

Such forward thinking has earned Microcare the Innovation Award at Deco Contract (Brussels) in 2001 and 2002. Winning the first time inspired Microcare to rethink the future of interior textiles, Visser said. He worked with Dutch designer Aleksandra Gaca to produce two three-dimensional patterns, called Galaxy and Velocity. These fabrics feature metallic effects, are reversible and are available in five metallic shades. Velocity earned Visser and Gaca the 2002 Innovation Award at Deco Contract.

''The time has arrived when technical textiles are going to be far more important to the upholstery world,'' Visser said. ''For Europe anyway, in contract and residential furniture, 70-80 percent is microsuede. People are fed up with that. The future is three-dimensional fabrics with technical looks.

''People start coming to me and say, 'How come?' Sometimes I ask it too. You just have to have kooky ideas and work on them and take them seriously.''

The Hybrid + Fusion systems have already enjoyed success in three pilot markets - the United States, Germany and Benelux. Visser also said large American textile manufacturers are expressing interest in the products. In October, Visser visited the States to explore licensing, production and marketing opportunities with American companies. F&FI

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