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An interview with: Ciara Crossan

Our Transport Design Manager, Ciara Crossan, began her career in textiles studying at Central Saint Martin’s College of Art and Design before gaining an MA in Textiles from The Royal College of Art, London. Going on to become Brand Design Manager at the Haddow Group, Ciara set both the creative vision for the brand and acted as brand guardian to extend the Olivia Bard domestic interior fabric collections – before making the move to head up our transport design team in 2017.

What was it that drew you to designing fabrics for transport? 

I actually think designing for transport is quite similar to designing for the residential and contract markets - at its core, it’s all about creating an interior space that is somewhere people want to be - deserving the same aesthetic considerations you would give to, say, a lounge or commercial space. I love the challenge this poses: how do we make public transport a welcoming environment? Bring that homely, domestic quality to a bus or train that is typically devoid of personality? Fabrics can be so key in achieving this, they have the ability to transform a space, and it is amazing to have the opportunity to bring modern, appealing textiles to a sector that has, in the past, been quite traditional in its approach to design.

Designing is almost like a puzzle...

Are there any particular challenges when designing for bus, coach and rail?

Yes, lots! The transport sector has incredibly stringent technical tests (for good reason), and safety is paramount - so we are constantly working to achieve the balance of meeting these requirements and ensuring we create a beautiful textile. 

There’s also a number of limitations we have to work around in terms of color – whilst moquette (the classic plush wool fabric often used on bus, coach and rail seats) has a reputation for featuring busy, multicolored patterns, this type of textile is actually restricted to just four colors in each vertical line due to the setup of the looms. This makes designing almost like a puzzle! You have to work within the parameters, creating patterns which give the illusion of a wider color palette.
 How do you research trends? Decide which fabrics to launch?

The way in which we live has a massive impact on the way we want to travel, so our inspiration is incredibly varied; we look at everything from lifestyle to fashion to culture and economics. All these different areas feed into the type of spaces people want to be in, the colors they want to be surrounded by, and the textures they want to feel, so we take these influences and work to identify what it is that customers want - and when they want it. 

For example, more and more operators and design houses are now tapping into the traveler’s desire for their commute to be a luxury experience, rather than a chore. They don’t want to spend an hour on a cramped, uncomfortable seat, they want to relish the hour or two that they have to themselves, whether that’s to switch off and relax or to focus on something they otherwise wouldn’t have a moment to get to. This end user demand really plays into the way in which a cabin or bus interior is designed. We are seeing chairs become sleeker, considered color schemes replace garish patterns, and furnishings are now a focus, not an afterthought. 

All of this creates a desire in the market to see more trend-led tones, lighter fabrics, and appealing textures – and this is something that is certainly at the forefront of our current developments. 

How do you see transport interiors changing in the future?

The customer will be placed at the heart of the journey - each trip will be an experience to be enjoyed rather than endured. In fact, as part of our exploration into what this could look like we collaborated with Deutsche Bahn on the “Ideas Train”, which is a conceptual idea of future train travel and really pushes the boundaries of what could be possible – creating modules which give customers space to sleep, be quiet, work out, or play with their children. This shows just how appealing public transport could be, and I really think it’s where the future will be.

We’re also seeing the rise of the conscious consumer – people are much more aware of what goes into the products they use, and the harm they cause to the environment, desiring traceability, product responsibility and transparency of product - and this will begin to influence suppliers’ choice of materials. 

What is the most exciting part of your job?

The freedom. The team and I are continuously working to create bold new fabrics, using color, texture, pattern and construction and it’s so exciting to be able to bring these innovative products to the market. For example, for the past 18 months we have been working to create a fabric that offers the durability and high performance of moquette, whilst providing the contemporary aesthetic appeal of a flat woven textile, and we can't wait to launch it later this year!