The Association for Contract Textiles (ACT) has been part of my professional life almost from its inception in 1985. When I arrived at Knoll Textiles in 1987 my employers were actively engaged in charting a course for this fledgling trade organization. Originally created to increase visibility for contract textiles, over the years ACT has taken on the mission of educating the interior design community, its goal to become the ultimate resource for solid, reliable information and advice on specifying fabrics for contract installations, which include hospitality, health care, institutional and corporate interiors. Arguably ACT’s crowning achievement has been the creation of the Voluntary Performance Guidelines, a system by which fabrics are qualified for contract use by means of standardized testing, giving designers a convenient shorthand for assessing many of the properties essential to successful installations. The trademarked symbols, the flame, star, sun, palette and little and big A, are after so many years ubiquitous in their use, and designers have come to take for granted that they can trust textiles with these marks to meet general contract requirements. Of course some installations require more than baseline performance; 24/7 call centers, healthcare facilities, some restaurant installations, are just a few examples of conditions which might require fabrics to perform well beyond the standard in some aspects. It is difficult to remember a world where the ACT icons did not exist. Designers were once at the mercy of every salesperson who came along claiming their fabrics would outperform all others, though offering no substantial proof of these claims, leading to great confusion and some bad installations. The tests used in the ACT Voluntary Performance Standards have been thoroughly researched and are constantly being fine tuned to insure they provide the most relevant indication of eventual field performance. That said, a laboratory test will never take into account all the variables a textile will encounter in an installation, real world use and abuse, so specifiers will always need to be on their toes.
As well known as the ACT icons may be, the organization itself is less visible. This is something ACT wants to change. Major initiatives have been launched this year to give the organization a higher profile. These include introducing a phone app which incorporates some of the most useful components of their website, putting the Voluntary Performance Guidelines, a glossary of textile terms, and ACT’s new sustainability standard Facts at the fingertips of designers with either iPhones or Android phones. ACT is also rolling out regional presentations throughout the country to introduce themselves to designers by offering free CEU courses on textile specification and the Facts sustainability standard. In fact, one is coming soon to Seattle. Yours truly will be presenting “Specifying Textiles for Success”, an IDCEC approved CEU, in conjunction with seven ACT sponsor companies at the Seattle Art Museum on Thursday, October 16. If you are in the area and would like to attend please let me know through the contact section, or call your Seattle Designtex, Geiger Textiles, Knoll Textiles, Lebatex, Luna Textiles, Robert Allen Contract, or CF Stinson rep to request an invitation. We’d love to see you there.