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You can’t beat the pleat – but you can sell the cell
Wednesday, 02 March 2016 00:00


Louvolite says it may be time to return to pleated blinds

It is a well recognised fact that the pleated shade only found a place in the blindmakers armoury when the new-fangled way of selling more glazing units (also called a conservatory) came back into fashion in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s.

Blind manufacturers were fully conversant with manufacturing and installing products that were to be fitted in windows that were positioned in the normal orientation, for example vertical. However angle them in a roof and you have a whole different ball game. The pleated blind had of course been around for some time with the first real volume pleated shades being of good quality, stiffened and printed paper believed to be manufactured by a Scandinavian company.

In 1990 Louvolite launched its first pleated fabric programme, in step with other Louvolite fabric collections this programme was extensive and presented in a fabulous presentation book.

At the same time Louvolite introduced a pleated system that would allow the manufacturers to cut fabric and manufacture made to measure blinds as effectively as they could with other products. When viewed against other products two things were significantly different with pleated shades; the primary function of pleated shades was to reduce solar gain in conservatories whilst also providing decoration and privacy. Gravity had a major negative effect on a pleated blind – the pleated blindmakers’ worse nightmare … pleat droop!

Ahead of the game in 1994/5 Louvolite created SPC that soon became the coating adopted on all Louvolite performance fabrics for pleated (and eventually other) products.

SPC significantly improved the performance of fabrics regarding their ability to reduce solar gain and in addition were much more user friendly than the metallised fabric available at that time. In tandem with this, Louvolite presentation material included all the performance data across all pleated shades to enable the blindmaker/consumer to select fabric that offered the appropriate level of protection. It is difficult to understand how a pleated shade product could ever be offered without the accompanying solar and optical performance information.

Louvolite then created Equipleat to eliminate ‘pleat droop’ forever. This concept anchored each pleat to the next and secured all of them to the headrail. This resulted in each pleat when extended remaining equidistant to the next, creating a much improved effect when the blind was deployed.

Perfect Fit was a programme that changed pleated blind sales forever. In the days of BPF (before Perfect Fit) blind manufacturing companies would have teams of installers taking literally days to fully install blinds within a conservatory. Totally capable blind manufacturing companies would subcontract conservatory roof installations to a few recognised experts. Perfect Fit changed all that, allowing blind manufacturers to operate a measuring and manufacturing system that would produce Perfect Fit blinds guaranteed to fit the window for which they were measured. Add to that the fact that there is no need for drilling and screw fixing with Perfect Fit, a conservatory could be fitted out with blinds in no time at all and its clear that Perfect Fit would change the way blinds were installed, forever, and it continues to do so.

The use of Pleated blinds with conservatories was enhanced due to the requirement to furnish shaped roof windows found in more complex roof systems, cutting and shaping Perfect Fit pleated shades was – and still is – easy. Fortunately double glazed units are prevalent in windows in the vast majority of homes today and of course, Perfect Fit allows expert, quick installation of a number of products including roller and venetian blinds. Blinds manufactured with Perfect Fit systems satisfy the child safety requirements of EN13120 by virtue of removing the need for cords and chains – Perfect!

The biggest company in our industry launched their cellular product back in the 1980’s with a programme that centred in the American market. It is reported that within the first couple of years, the Cellular or Honeycombe product had captured some 60% of North American pleated sales and it has continued to develop.

Notwithstanding some of the environmental benefits attached to cellular shades, thermal and solar efficiencies, the acceptance of this product in the UK market has been slower than in other markets. It is likely the fact that the UK industry adopted the pleated shade as the product of choice when furnishing “conservatories” that this restricted the offer for cellular shades. There are features and benefits for both products and as the blind industry develops to expand its offering to an eager public both pleated and cellular products should have no limits on their capabilities or use imposed.

The honeycombe structure of cellular blinds creates multiple benefits. The layer of air within the honeycombe has insulation benefits – both solar and thermal. The lift cords pass through the centre of the honeycombe and as such are not visible when the blind is deployed, resulting in a neater finish to the blind and where an opaque fabric is used – no holes.

The range of offerings with cellular fabrics continues to grow and Louvolite currently offers 16 cellular options with both light filtering and opaque fabrics available.

Perhaps the biggest change that industry faces with both products is to recognise that their offer should not be limited to enquiries for conservatories. Both of these products are sophisticated window furnishings that can offer an interesting slant to the more traditional options available. The products are as flexible as roller shades but introduce new design features as the pleats or cells are extended or contracted. In addition the additional insulation capability should not be overlooked and will be welcomed by households eager to reduce energy costs. If the consumer is given a free choice of product when selecting window furnishings, it will be interesting to see the impact this has on the continuing success of two great products.





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