Once upon a time, bus upholstery was notorious for loud designs and bright, psychedelic colors. Passengers getting on a bus were visually assaulted by the seat fabric. In fact there’s even an Instagram hashtag devoted to #seatpatterns, and users seem to prefer to upload pics of the weirder and wilder designs.
These fabrics were so inspiring (or appalling) that a German artist once made tailored outfits from the same seat fabrics as on the buses she rode, otherwise known as “quirky camouflage” on public transit commutes.
According to one article about this project, artist Menja Stevenson wanted to “consider how perfectly ugly” the fabric of public transportation is by conducting social experiments to draw attention to the pattern. Interestingly, she found that riders didn’t seem to notice. But that didn’t mean there wasn’t room for evolution.
Bus seat fabrics past
The design aesthetic of transport interiors is moving away from the rainbow prints of the past toward a more sophisticated appearance—more limo look, less acid trip. Modern designs atop flat-woven fabric are becoming increasingly popular.
According to Brett Lowell, a product manager at Camira Group, Inc.: “We’re moving away from the plush stuff with hairs that stand up on the fabrics.” Instead, flat-woven fabric coupled with leather and vinyl on bolsters achieve a streamlined look.
Lantal designer Constance Hoots agrees. “Back in the day, velvet used to be really popular. But flat-wovens are really becoming trend. It’s seen as a higher-end option, more sleek and modern.”
But what about stains? Durability? Lowell says that although the plush stands up well to wear and tear and staining, switching to flat-woven doesn’t have much effect on durability. (It helps that Camira has a five-year warranty on everything they sell, no matter the type of fabric.) And manufacturers like Lantal provide value-added options such as moisture barriers and anti-stain treatments, which protect operators’ investments and provide for easier maintenance.
Custom designs and color schemes
Transit companies often want to incorporate their own brand colors and logos into the design, and that’s one notable trend.
“People really appreciate that we’re able to customize fabric. We do a lot of custom work with company logos or brand colors,” says Dana Ramirez, Lantal’s design director. “We’ve done university logos, including a series for the University of Maryland,” Ramirez says. “They were over the moon.”
Lantal also did a series of fabrics for Go Raleigh and Go Durham, which included triangles in their textile design scheme.
Neon is out. Neutrals are in.
The design team at Camira has been modernizing design through the use of neutral colors. So instead of hyper-colorful, abstract designs, they’re using subdued palettes including neutrals, grays and tans.
Similarly, designers at Lantal are creating fabrics for a more refined, automotive-inspired interior. Ramirez says that UMA Motorcoach EXPO attendees this year responded more to geometric, organic patterns with smaller-scale textures than to the more whimsical options kept “just in case.”
Overall, the new design trends are likely to change the way passengers look at bus travel, says Constance Hoot. “You want them to notice the bus, rather than the bus fabric,” says Hoot. “People used to like the big patterns because they covered up so much dirt and mess. But now we seem to be taking a more honest approach.”