Chilewich Achieves Sustainable Strides Across Products and Processes

TerraStrand Yarns. Photography Courtesy of Chilewich.

An established and enduring authority in the world of woven textiles, Chilewich offers a comprehensive collection of innovative designs distinguished by their durability, appealing minimalist aesthetic, and exceptional versatility. Founder and Creative Director Sandy Chilewich has been shepherding the design and production of woven textiles that are resourcefully equipped for an array of applications for two decades. “My passion has always been reimagining materials and product categories by pushing them beyond their familiar, expected, and limited boundaries,” says Sandy Chilewich, who works alongside her husband Joe Sultan, CEO of Chilewich Sultan LLC. An architect by training, Sultan spearheads the company’s contract division, which has continuously advanced over the years to afford designers the freedom to use Chilewich products in unexpected combinations and applications. Operating out of a New York–based studio, the Chilewich design team demonstrates a commitment to environmental advancements and continuous material innovation—concepts that are conveyed through two groundbreaking introductions: TerraStrand and BioFelt.

Phthalate-Free Yarns

While plasticizers made from petroleum-based compounds are conventionally used to soften extruded yarns, Chilewich’s custom yarns—called TerraStrand—are composed of phthalate-free vinyl extruded over a core of either fiberglass or polyester. Made with renewable vegetable compounds, TerraStrand uses a unique plasticizer that is derived from soybeans rather than petroleum. Sandy Chilewich discovered the potential of these innovative extruded yarns while pursuing material possibilities for a different design. “During my search for a material with very specific properties to incorporate into a product called the RayBowl that I had recently designed, I stumbled upon a woven vinyl that was used for outdoor furniture upholstery,” says Chilewich. “Ultimately it didn’t work for my product, but I fell in love with the design potential of this woven textile that had so many benefits. It is durable, water resistant, and easy to clean.”

Photography Courtesy of Chilewich

Made in the United States, TerraStrand was developed with Chilewich’s weaving mill in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. “This initiative was spurred by our commitment to continually improve the environmental impact of our material, which was already extremely durable and easy to clean,” adds Chilewich. TerraStrand yarns contain a minimum of 18-percent renewable vegetable content and represent a 40-percent reduction in greenhouse gases when compared to other plasticizers. Moreover, the yarns are also free of heavy metals such as lead and cadmium. Maximizing performance and minimizing environmental impact, Chilewich’s custom TerraStrand yarns yield sustainable textile solutions.

Recycled Felt Flooring System

Adding to their assortment of pioneering products and processes, BioFelt is an innovative composite flooring system that features Chilewich’s signature woven textiles, which are bonded to a recycled felt backing with an integrated moisture barrier that prevents spill absorption while inhibiting the growth of mold and mildew. BioFelt emerged out of need for a more sustainable approach to producing backings for tile flooring applications. “Necessity is the mother of invention,” says Joe Sultan. “When we introduced tile in 2004, it was backed for us by another flooring company. They only made solid vinyl backing for their carpet tile, so that’s what we got from them, solid-vinyl-backed tile. The process was imperfect, and we absorbed a high level of wastage” Chilewich chose a different approach, ultimately bringing the manufacturing process in-house. “We built our own lamination line, which gave us the ability to back our fabrics with the most innovative backing systems we could find or invent,” adds Sultan. “Our goal was to offer a low-VOC, cushioned, backed tile with a waterproof layer and that passed all ASTM requirements for the US and Class 33 requirements in the EU. The result was the invention of BioFelt, a thin layer of waterproof, low-VOC vinyl with a polyester felt layer made from recycled water bottles.”

Photography Courtesy of Chilewich

Available in tiles and rolls, BioFelt boasts a soft and resilient layer of cushioning underfoot and is comprised of more than 27-percent post-consumer content. “The advantages of BioFelt roll and tile flooring are its sound impact absorption, its softness underfoot, and the waterproof layer that makes it easy to clean,” says Sultan. “BioFelt offers a minimal flat-weave aesthetic with a soft, sound-absorbing backing. It’s the perfect middle ground between carpeting and concrete.” As a result of its consumer recycled and renewable content, BioFelt flooring can qualify for LEED points. Made from recycled and renewable content, BioFelt ensures an environmentally conscious approach to flooring.

Chilewich reinterprets underutilized manufacturing practices while offering eco-friendly materials made of recycled content to ensure environmental advantages across an array of interior and exterior applications.