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CLAIR Q&A with Marybeth Shaw

September 29, 2020

To learn more about the inspiration behind Wolf-Gordon's latest collection, CLAIR, we spoke with Marybeth Shaw, Chief Creative Officer, Marketing & Design.

Can you elaborate on the impetus for this collection?

Going back to April 2019 at the Salone in Milan, there were many exhibitions throughout the city that addressed climate change, sustainable design, and working with nature, that is to say, coopting natural processes into product design. Our understanding and depiction of nature has changed historically. There was a magnificent exhibition of the 17th century “Ciclo di Orfeo” at the Palazzo Reale, in which a painted mural of over 200 animals surrounds a large drawing room’s occupants, complemented by over 160 taxidermied specimens. The four walls speak to the magnificent scope and diversity of the earth’s flora and fauna. Fast forwarding to the present, at the Triennale in Parco Sempione, MoMA Senior Curator of Design Paola Antonelli assembled diverse design projects that bore witness to “Broken Nature: Design Takes on Human Survival”. And, back in New York, the Wolf-Gordon Design Studio toured “Nature” at the Cooper Hewitt, our country’s national design museum.

The experience of these impactful exhibitions led us to seek ways in which our 2020 product line could manifest nature’s influence. We had been searching for a viable PVC-free wallcovering—with type II performance and that printed and embossed well—for several years. Serendipitously, at around the same time that we were being inspired by the Milan and New York exhibitions, one of our partner mills invited us to work with them on a high performing PVC-free substrate, and Project: CLAIR™ was launched. Of course, we wanted the designs to reflect the resurgence in pattern and color influences from nature.

How do the patterns reflect the influence of both nature and sustainability?

Aesthetically, CLAIR patterns have clear ties to nature:

  • In the category of classic designs, Ardley, Castine, Luana and Surin are patterns that replicate natural cotton canvas, burlap and silk.
  • For more contemporary character, Ardley Cove and Zura project the exquisite geometric order of natural structures, while Denali is a larger scale aquarelle design that resembles the effects of weathering on stone.
  • Taiga and Pando are patterns that are quite literally derived from tree grain and bark; and, Sonora is an abstract depiction of geological strata.

Needless to say, the color lines for CLAIR were also inspired by natural pigments, flora and earthtones.

Sustainability—and CLAIR’s relevance for designers seeking interior finishes for wellness—was our priority. CLAIR is compliant with:

  • The Living Building Challenge/Red List;
  • Mindful Materials
  • Cal 01350 low emission requirements
  • Kaiser Permanente
  • The Healthier Hospitals Initiative
  • And, has a Health Product Declaration, ensuring transparent reporting.
What attributes make CLAIR unique as a PVC-free option? Is this Wolf-Gordon's first PVC-free collection?

CLAIR is a proprietary olefin composite, manufactured in the USA with evo™ PVC-free technology. It is made with 20% recycled content, printed with low-VOC, waterbased inks, and is free of all Red List chemicals, including conflict minerals, heavy metals, perfluorinated compounds, phthalates, and solvents.

CLAIR’s high performing attributes make it the best PVC-free option that Wolf-Gordon has ever introduced. Previously, we offered thermoplastic olefin (TPO) wallcoverings that, while PVC-free, did not have CLAIR’s print and emboss capabilities, ease of installation, or durability. Wolf-Gordon had also, beginning in 2009, offered the Organics Collection, made of kenaf, polylactic acid (PLA) and recycled newspapers. It was great from the perspective of sustainability, including being recyclable, but fell short of type II commercial wallcovering performance and could not achieve the print and color qualities required by our market.

Where do you envision CLAIR being used?

CLAIR is designed and engineered for all commercial interiors—corporate, hospitality, healthcare, institutional—and has met or exceeded all Fed Spec CCC-W-408 performance requirements for type II. We are so certain that specifiers are going to appreciate this product that we sent samples of CLAIR to 10,000 interior designers across the US. We know they’re going to want to experience CLAIR’s tear and tensile strength for themselves and, examine the print and emboss quality.

Finally, I want to mention that, given the recent resurgence in specifications of easily cleaned and disinfected interior materials, CLAIR is bleach cleanable at a 1:10 ratio. It can be cleaned with 70% isopropyl alcohol, 4.5% hydrogen peroxide, quaternary compounds and other agents on the EPA’s List N.

CLAIR is truly an elegant and ideal solution for today’s sustainable interiors.