Q&A with Agua Fabrics, Supplier of the Year 2021

Agua Fabrics were deservedly awarded the Supplier of the Year Award at the Cruise Ship Interiors Expo 2021. Design Insider caught up with Josh Ralton, Commerical Director at Agua, about their work in the cruise sector and what it means to the Agua family to have been awarded Supplier of the Year. 

[Find Agua Fabrics on the BCFA Product Finder] 

Please could you introduce yourself and Agua?

I’m Josh Ralton, the commercial director here at Agua, and the fourth-generation of the family to manage the business. At Agua, we supply high-performance upholstery fabrics for the commercial interiors market. We specialise in balancing design with functionality across all our fabrics, and we work within the Cruise, Healthcare, Hospitality, Leisure and Workplace sectors – to name a few. The fabrics we’ve released over the past two years really testify to the variety we have on offer; from new corduroy, to two new velvets, to metallic finish faux leathers.

Congratulations on winning this prestigious award, what does this win mean to you?

It’s a huge honour to receive the Supplier of the Year Award and very much unexpected. We have been working hard to increase our presence in the cruise market for the last few years, and this award is a testament to all that hard work. COVID’s posed many challenges but I’m very proud of how our entire team has coped and adapted to the pandemic. Regular clients of ours will know that we do our very best to go above and beyond when it comes to customer service, so to have this recognised by one of the industry’s key trade bodies means a lot to us.

What are the key specification standards needed for textiles being supplied into the cruise sector?

Handily, all our high-performance upholstery fabrics meet the cruise industry’s key requirements; including IMO fire retardancy certification, high Martindale abrasion ratings, waterproofing, stain resistance and anti-microbial protection. Then of course, we have our unique anti-microbial treatment, AguaGuard365, which is laboratory tested against COVID-19 and available on the vast majority of our fabrics as standard. This, in particular, comes into its own in sectors like Cruise, where infection control is now an everyday priority and requirement. Fabrics like our new Primeira velvet are treated with AguaGuard, and are ideally suited to getting the world cruising again in a safe, protected environment.

What further considerations are needed when creating textiles for this sector?

Cruise ship interiors need to balance a plush, high-end look-and-feel with practical, durable design, capable of holding up against high volumes of traffic and all manner of spills and thrills. These are our main considerations when we’re designing upholstery fabrics with the cruise sector in mind. Thankfully, having such a strong background in performance fabrics for the commercial sector we know just how a fabric needs to behave in environments like these.

Is there anything interior designers need to bear in mind when specifying textiles for the cruise sector?

Thankfully, there are great designers all over the world working on cruise interiors who have expert knowledge of the particular finishes that are required to perform well in a cruise environment. As with any project, I think it’s about simply balancing variety and choosing the appropriate fabric for the right space. A high traffic environment like a ship’s lounge or restaurant needs a completely different look and feel to that of a comfy chair in a suite or cabin. All our fabrics are robust but sometimes it’s necessary to go for a vinyl in a high-traffic space, particularly one that’s subject to rigorous cleaning or disinfection routines. Whereas in other more luxurious environments we can look to choose from some of our beautiful woven fabrics, which come with design ‘wow factor’ and depth of texture.

How is sustainability addressed with textiles for the cruise sector?

Perhaps unsurprisingly, this is the ‘buzzword’ in the cruise industry right now. At the Cruise Ship Interiors Expo in London a couple of weeks ago, sustainability was talked about a lot and rightly so. For us, it’s not just about using recycled content in fabrics but also having fabrics that are recyclable at the end of their lifespan – which is something we’re working on currently, and will have news on, soon. It’s about investing in long-term choices and materials; using fabrics that will last well and perform for a very long time. If a good quality fabric lasts for five or more years, this is much better for the environment than something that needs to be changed every year or so.

What should we look forward to from Agua in 2022?

The hard work doesn’t stop. January will see the launch of our new sustainable collection in 35 colours called VerdEco, a melange upholstery fabric made without water from recycled textiles. This is really exciting and something a bit different to the standard recycled polyesters on the market. We also have other collections in the pipeline for later in 2022, which we look forward to showcasing when ready. We hope to continue to come out of the COVID world and start travelling again, attending and exhibiting at shows including Cruise Interiors Expo in both Miami and London along with HIX Event. 2022 is looking like a busy and exciting year for us!

Contact Agua Fabrics through BCFA Product Finder.

The BCFA Product Finder is a unique search engine created especially for interior designers to source contract furnishing companies. Utilising this platform will support your findings for upcoming projects, with over 200 members profiles showcasing the latest product launches, new materials available, industry news and design trends.


About Phoebe Train

Phoebe is a Marketing and Events Executive, who joined the BCFA as an English graduate in 2021. Working closely with designers and BCFA members, Phoebe has published an array of content for Design Insider.
View all posts by Phoebe Train →