Year after year, Frankfurt’s Heimtextil continues to assert itself as the world’s leading textiles fair. Paul Farley – editor of Hospitality Interiors’ sister magazine, Furniture News – attended this year’s event to discover the show’s appeal for himself …

“Over 67,000 visitors from 133 countries made their way to Frankfurt to see the latest products and innovations being shown by 2718 exhibitors,” declared Detlef Braun, from event organiser Messe Frankfurt’s executive board. “With growth on both the visitor and exhibitor sides, Heimtextil 2014 has been a complete success.”

For a first-timer like myself, the show’s appeal was immediately evident. The huge Messe Frankfurt showground seemed to run like a well-oiled – and typically German – machine, the pleasing hubbub of international business filling every hall.

A trend-setting occasion by default and design, Heimtextil begins the exhibition year in style. It’s little wonder that an increasing number of British businesses (almost 80 this year) are choosing to utilise the platform to reach international markets, supported by the show organiser’s extensive marketing reach – and subsidies for new exhibitors, delivered in collaboration with the UK Fashion and Textile Association (UKFT) and UKTI.

Heimtextil veteran Tony Caldeira, founder and group CEO of Caldeira, one of Liverpool’s – and, indeed, the country’s – most successful international brands, reported ongoing satisfaction with the event and its organisation. So too did Elaine Stringfellow, export manager for – the also Merseyside-based – Ena Shaw, who cited the simple logistical approach to exhibiting at this “truly international show”.

Indeed, just over 66% of visitors and 88% of exhibitors – similar figures to last year – attended the 2014 event from outside Germany, with particular growth noted from Scandinavia, Eastern Europe, South America and South Korea.

Many visitors arrived to find evidence of the rapidly-developing trend towards digital textile printing. “Today, there is hardly a manufacturer who is not interested in digital printing,” says Oliver Luedtke, marketing manager of Israel’s Kornit Digital Europe. “Hence, we see ourselves at the beginning of a major development in this segment, a development that will also be reflected at Heimtextil in the future.”

Hewlett-Packard (HP) unveiled a collaboration with architect and designer Markus Benesch, in the form of booth decorations that demonstrated the potential of HP’s digital printing solutions for wallcovering manufacturers and designers. The HP stand also featured the company’s latest latex printing machinery.

Caroline Till and Kate Franklin, the curators of this year’s special Heimtextil Trend feature, presented an installation within the sizable Forum area, divided into four distinct zones, each devoted to one of the project’s four trends. From a mock science lab to a maze of rustic weaves, the installation was a truly engaging feature, bolstered by the presence of several design students with expertise in each particular area. One minute, visitors were enjoying a contemplative Chinese flowering tea, the next watching spoons being carved by hand, or having their own bag painted by personally-determined algorithm.

Elsewhere in the fair, more than 180 fresh textile designers presented their original creative directions in the ‘design live’ hall, while the Young Creations Award, this year based on the concept of upcycling, provided inspiring examples of the furniture and furnishings potential of recycled fabrics and other materials.

Although principally a domestic furnishings event, contract solutions featured heavily, presented beneath the Contract Creations banner. The show also presented a series of lectures entitled ‘Hotel IT – digital trends in the hotel world’, a co-operative venture with the German Hotel Association (IHA), which covered topics such as live hacking, electronic sales channels and in-room entertainment.

With added solutions for those on a budget or eco-sensibilities, Heimtextil delivered a professional and inspiring prospect for the world’s buyers – and seeing the UK represented in such strength, both in terms of exhibitors and designers, reinforced our significant place in the bigger picture.

Next year’s Heimtextil – which will incorporate an expanded flooring section – will take place between 14-17th January. In the meantime, I urge every interested reader to visit the fair’s website for further information.