Milliken Opens Showtime Showroom After Nearly 30 Year Hiatus
May 25, 2018
Milliken Specialty Interiors is set to stage a grand opening of its new showroom at the June Showtime to mark its re-entry to the semi-annual upholstery fabric exhibition as well as to make its statement about the benefits of manufacturing responsibly with respect to the environment. Marketing Manager LeAnne Flack said the company’s decision to return to Showtime was impacted by its recent development and success of Breathe™ by Milliken, a plant-based environmentally friendly chemical that yields Milliken’s liquid-repellent, stain-resistant fabrics when combined with either natural or synthetic fibers.
LeAnne FlackBreathe caught the attention of officials last year at Pottery Barn, which became Milliken’s first customer for the new product. Four Seasons, a Seagrove, NC, manufacturer of upholstered furniture and slipcovers, also joined the customer list with plans to launch at least one product featuring Breathe at High Point’s recent spring International Home Furnishings Market. There are other factors that aligned the planets for Milliken’s return to Showtime, Flack said. The company left Showtime during the 1990s, when significant numbers of manufacturers outsourced upholstery operations to China. By the time business conditions became favorable for production to return to the United States, outdoor furniture performance fabrics had gained a share of indoor furniture sales, and customers wanted more control over fabric selection for new furniture. “We were just in the residential market during the 1980s and 1990s when a lot of production began moving overseas,” Flack said. “Since then, interest in performance fabrics has spread to the commercial, hospitality and office markets, and increasing numbers of customers in all of these markets want to be able to pick out fabric for their chairs and sofas.” A manufacturer of diverse products ranging from chemicals, floor coverings and textiles to flame-retardant curtains and noise-absorbing accoustic panels for theaters and restaurants, Milliken has long been focused on conserving and recycling resources, and their efforts have led to the company’s membership in Unifi’s Sustainable Furnishings Council and being honored as a REPREVE® Champion of Sustainability. Unifi is a leading producer of multi-filament polyester, nylon textured yarns and related raw materials, and its REPREVE brand includes polyester fabric manufactured from plastic bottles. The company reportedly has produced fabric from more than 11 billion recycled plastic bottles. Company officials point to this recognition as a reflection of Milliken’s vision to manufacture at little or no expense to the environment since 1900. “Milliken’s focus on natural, recycled and easily recyclable materials is part of our overall sustainability journey to improve product design, manufacturing and sourcing practices,” said Jennifer K. Harmon, Milliken Specialty Interiors vice president. “We look forward to working closely with the Sustainable Furnishings Council and other concerned parties to build on our proud legacy of environmental stewardship and leadership.” Paul Pruitt, Milliken’s senior director of Environmental, Health, Safety and Engineering, said the Milliken company’s “sustainability policy has its roots in protecting the land” and the Milliken family “has always been passionate about the outdoors” and purchased large tracts of virgin land in several states. He recalls a story he said he was told by a recently deceased family member who had a long history with the company. “In the early 1900s, a family member clear-cut a large section of forested property, leaving a mess,” Pruitt said. “His relatives and business officials recognized the short-sightedness of his action and planted trees to replenish those that had been harvested. “The family immediately realized that this action was not a long-term sustainable solution,” Prutt said. “It was not called sustainability back then but leaving resources in good shape for future generations is the essence of sustainability. “The same type of thinking went into the manufacturing mills. A lot of work and cost went into raising cotton and getting it to a plant. None of the resources -- cotton, energy, water, money, human capital -- are limitless. To make the company successful for future generations, it makes good sense to utilize all of the value that can be extracted from each resource. “Eliminating waste and recycling is a long-term view. From a business sense, less waste, lower cost, advantage over competition is a recipe for longevity.” A century later, this viewpoint has been adopted for ecological reasons. “Think globally; act locally” is a catchphrase for citizens who advocate conservation and preservation of the environment. “A yard of polyester fabric can divert six to 10 products from a landfill,” Flack said. “It really starts to add up when you’re talking about a sofa, which consists of about 30 yards of fabric. At six to 10 bottles per yard, we’re talking up to 300 bottles. Customers who really care about the environment very well might choose to purchase from companies focused on sustainability.” Milliken’s return to Showtime comes with a commitment to exhibit there indefinitely, according to Jennifer Harmon, vice president of Milliken Specialty Interiors. “Establishing a permanent presence at High Point is further evidence of our commitment not only to expanding our presence in this important market, but to driving innovation and educating key audiences about the unique capabilities and solutions Milliken can provide,” Harmon said.