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Guilford of Maine's FR701, a timeless classic that is about to enter a new era!

Posted by Guilford of Maine on May 29, 2019

Iconic style. Legendary performance.

FR701®, Guilford of Maine's ever-popular panel and acoustic fabric, has garnered much acclaim—and adorned many work and public spaces for decades. To commemorate its 40th anniversary, FR701 is getting a strikingly revamped look.


We sat down with Lynne Willis, Creative Director at Guilford of Maine, to learn more about FR701's long-standing imprint in the world of interiors and her innovative approach to reinventing a perennial favorite.

Why do you think FR701 became so popular back so long ago?

FR701 was originally created in 1979 and named after the flame-resistance test back in the day, the NFPA 701. Rapidly from the very onset, it became a cult classic thanks to its, premium technical quality, manufacturability, durability and acoustic transparency. In addition, at the time, cubicles in office spaces were becoming the norm; panel fabrics were experiencing high demand.

FR701 has always featured a nice, basic matte wool look that has the appearance of natural fiber. It has been the go-to fabric for panel and acoustic applications because its performance is second to none.

What's more, its extensive palette has allowed clients to use it in a variety of interiors. It could be played up or played down, depending on the trends of any given moment. It is really amazing that it has stood the test of time—forty years to be exact!

Why did Guilford of Maine decide to renew FR701?

There are a few reasons why we decided to refresh FR701. We wanted to keep it relevant and have it evolve with the growing trend of making acoustic installations the centerpieces in rooms. Whereas in the past, the more acoustic solutions could be kept out of sight and out of mind, the better. Nowadays, designers and architects are using them as statement pieces.

How did you go about revitalizing FR701?

As with any new fabric, it's critical to perform a deep-dive analysis into the latest trends—in both our industry and in other areas of design as they are all interconnected. We needed to tap into what our clients and their end customers were asking for. We also worked closely with our mills to glean what they were seeing in the market in terms of look and performance requirements. Then, we needed to pinpoint where the gaps were in order to cater to needs that were unaddressed. 

What would you say is the overarching theme in rejuvenating FR701?

Our basic premise and priority was to not change the physical structure of the fabric; we were not going to compromise on performance. Also, we had to take into consideration how the fabric is applied onto structures maintaining just the right amount of flexibility. These were the foundations for our creative process.

Naturally, that meant that our goal was to update the colorline. Designers, architects and their customers want bolder interiors and, oftentimes, are looking to apply multiple colors in one installation. In a nutshell, color was our design language.

Describe the brand-new FR701.

We targeted saturated colors that had meaning—and added our quintessential heathered look. We eliminated dated colors to add a Gen-Z yellow, bright orange and red, deep sapphire blue, rich sky blue, glowing chartreuse, lime green and teal green. They are all rich, vivid colors that have the same fabulous acoustic performance—but with an extra dash of spice.

To me, a big part of the FR701's beauty is the variation in the yarn and the natural heathered look. It pays tribute to the more artisan, handcrafted characteristics of today's trends.

How did you achieve your design goal with the FR701?

I wanted to honor the heathered nature of the fabric, which is at the core of the FR701's DNA. Since the very beginning, FR701 has been made using a process called stock dyeing, which means we dye the fibers before they are spun into yarn. We put loose, unspun fibers into large heated cylinders that contain the dye bath. Stock dyeing allows us to make colors with the heathered, speckled appearance that people love. Fiber dyed black, for example, might be blended and spun with undyed (white) fiber to produce soft heather like shade of grey yarn. And just like the chocolate chips in a cookie – the white fiber doesn't completely blend with the black, so we create the complexity of a black yarn with white specks. We can choose from over 130 different fiber colors to blend together and develop unique yarn color formulas.

It was a fun, yet challenging task as we tried to figure out the formulas for all the new colors we wanted. There was a myriad of options to choose from and it took a lot of trial and error. As we made the sample yarns, the team and I examined the blends to determine how to tweak formulas to get them just right. We were like mad scientists, so to speak!

How do you foresee the future of FR701?

I see no signs of it slowing down in popularity. Designers who have been in the trade for a long time will appreciate the rejuvenation of colors and up-and-coming designers will welcome an acoustic fabric that doesn't compromise beauty for performance.  

Topics: Panel Fabric Color Acoustic Fabric