Camira Fabrics are the design and manufacturing business behind some of the most familiar things in our public spaces, such as schools, trains, tubes, buses and hospitals. Their range of Healthcare fabrics are designed with real thought and care. Importantly, they address our human aspiration for things that work well and look good — an aspiration that is rarely addressed in healthcare. The fabrics are beautiful and functional and you can see the real benefits to people in healthcare environments, normally fitted out with depressing and functional products which only perpetuate the sense of decline and illness. We spoke to Designer at Camira Fabrics, Hayley Barrett, to pick her brain about her personal approach to ageing but also her views on terms of designing ageless products.

Do you think your age is relevant to how you see the world? Describe this world and how age impacts it.

Yes and no! If you've been on the planet longer than others, you have the benefit of hindsight. It's perhaps assumed that you may have had more life experience and with that comes confidence, wisdom etc. You can make generalisations, but it's more down to the individual and what experiences they have had. I'm in my mid-40s, but I live, work and have friends of generations older and younger than myself. Some whom are younger, have a confidence, responsibility and maturity that you'd assume of someone older, but paradoxically, those that are older sometimes appear or behave younger!

There are stark differences that you see from generation to generation, but equally some things remain the same. Age is the one thing that unifies us. We will all get old, albeit at different rates, but we are also all living longer and have to work out how we manage this and share the planet.

From a designer’s view point, what do you think are the biggest challenges the world shares across all ages?

"There are stark differences that you see from generation to generation, but equally some things remain the same. Age is the one thing that unifies us. We will all get old, albeit at different rates, but we are also all living longer and have to work out how we manage this and share the planet."

Hayley Barrett.

Fabrics by Camira. Honeycomb Hive & Honeycomb Anther, Honey and Bee.

We're living longer as we're better educated in keeping ourselves healthy, generally better welfare, and we're better at treating illness...but someone forgot to ‘cc’ in evolution! There are developments such as Yves Behars Aura Power clothing, that is like a garment which almost acts as external muscles and helps protect the body. That's all well and good but what about the mind? The brain is not designed to live 120+ years. I think the focus has to shift onto the quality of life and wellbeing. Mental health is the biggest challenge and one which goes across all age boundaries. 

As a textile designer I can't solve these problems but I can keep them in the forefront of my mind when I'm designing. Choosing colours and patterns carefully to induce wellbeing. Fabrics which have a softness and a tactility that one would normally associate with ‘home’ rather than ‘a home’. Designing with sustainability and performance in mind.

As designers what can we learn from people who are older and how do you feel this knowledge can inform our decision making?

Probably their approach to design. Rather than being bombarded with trend and colour information, searching or having to be aware of ‘the next big thing’, they were perhaps more inclined to ‘get on with it’ and had power in their conviction. There's also an element of patience. With the pace of the world and technology moving so fast, we expect instant solutions and gratification and are less inclined to experiment, evolve and observe more thoroughly to hone a craft.

"The media has generally acknowledged that ‘old is the new black’ and there are many more ‘grey’ role models. This needs to continue in order to change the mindsets of big corporations and advertising agencies to bridge the generation gap further."

Hayley Barrett.

Fabric by Camira. Vita.

I'm reading, ‘Hegarty on Creativity: There are no rules’, in it is an extract from an interview with the sculptor Henry Moore. He said when he left the Royal College of Art there were about thirty other great sculptors. After forty years there were just ten and after sixty years just three. His point, rather than him being a genius was more his determination to keep going. Getting better and better as time went on; persistence pays off.

As designers what can we learn from people who are younger and how do you feel this knowledge can inform our decision making?

Don't be afraid of technology, embrace it and harness it. See it as an excuse to play around with something new. We need to guide and mentor while allowing some element of risk taking to encourage confidence.

What benefits and opportunities does an ‘ageless’ society provide us with?

Fabric by Camira. The Halcyon Collection.

A more inclusive and holistic view of the world. We'd be communicating on a more level playing field.

How do you think we should change how we view and think about age when we are designing?

To design with no age: ageless. Our design team is familiar with the phrase ‘cathedral style thinking’, which is inspired by people such as Gaudi, who knew when he took the Sagrada Família project on he would never see it completed in his lifetime, but he was designing for longevity and for future generations.

83% of people of all ages in our study want age-neutral and inclusive products and services. Why do you feel demographic-segmentation still plays such a significant role within the design process?

Fabric by Camira. Track and Trail.

It probably comes down to pound and pence. In order to make sense of the world and where we fit in, it's human nature to try and generalise and stereotype to create target markets. It's completely possible to design a ‘no age’ product that would appeal aesthetically across generations, but when it comes down to cost there may be differences as to who would have the more expendable income. Also practicalities, designing for healthcare for example, visually you may have a fabric that would be liked across the board but for it to be appropriate in a healthcare environment it requires a backing which is anti-microbial, water repellent etc. and the cost increases.

Years ago the ‘Tick-Tock’ trend was about the positive perception of age. The media has generally acknowledged that ‘old is the new black’ and there are many more ‘grey’ role models. This needs to continue in order to change the mindsets of big corporations and advertising agencies to bridge the generation gap further. 

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