Material gains

When it comes to decor, both on deck and for interiors, fabrics make the mood. Bill McDaniel, Marine Market Manager at Sunbrella, explains how important textiles are to exceptional design, comfort and living.

Written by Jeni Bone

10 May 2023


Pioneers in marine textiles, Sunbrella recently introduced the engineered synthetic leather range called Horizon, which aims to provide best-inclass performance for marine and outdoor upholstery, along with remarkable features and a choice of colours, styles and patterns.

“People are spending more time on the water and seeking new ways to customise their boat to reflect their preferences and lifestyle,” says Bill McDaniel, Sunbrella’s Marine Market Manager, who has spent close to three decades immersed in the minutiae of marine textiles.

“Sunbrella fabrics are engineered to last and all feature proprietary Color to the Core technology – they are stain-resistant, easy to clean, and maintain the same look and feel year after year, even after continual usage and exposure to the elements.”

Here, McDaniel shares his insight into how specially manufactured marine-grade fabrics can achieve your desired aesthetic on board.


How does upholstery contribute to the ambience of a vessel?

Comfort is key. Boat owners are seeking textiles that make their boats feel as welcoming as their living rooms. The plush fabrics you see on sofas are being applied to places like sunpads and cockpit seating, and soft and stylish options – such as Sunbrella Horizon or our highly textured marine upholstery fabrics – bring a cosy and inviting atmosphere to any boating environment.

Sunbrella has an extensive portfolio of fabrics that make it easy to coordinate any craft in style without compromising on look, feel or performance. Moreover, the colours in our marine portfolio are consistent across all Sunbrella collections, meaning the Capriccio Navy colourway of Sunbrella Horizon marine vinyl fabric is the same hue as the Canvas Navy pattern in our Sunbrella Upholstery Collection. This provides a variety of coordinating design possibilities for boaters, fabricators and manufacturers to achieve any desired aesthetic.


How are Sunbrella marine fabrics engineered to tolerate UV, salt and extremes of temperature?

When it comes to the marine market, fabrics must deliver in several key areas, including durability, fade resistance, stain resistance, cleanability and, of course, resistance to water, weather and everything associated with marine environments, from mould to mildew and salt residue. Sunbrella fabrics feature our proprietary Color to the Core technology that saturates every fibre of each yarn to the core with UV-stable pigments for long-lasting, fade-proof beauty.

Our entire portfolio is designed to provide designers and consumers, including boaters, with peace of mind no matter the circumstances.

We ensure our marine fabrics stand up to typical boating activities such as fishing, sunbathing and entertaining – all while remaining comfortable and stylish.

It has always been a priority for us to develop fabrics with meaningful benefits that work harder and smarter for boaters. For example, our marine canvas fabrics block out 98 percent of UV light. Sunbrella shade fabrics are recommended by the Skin Cancer Foundation as part of a complete sun protection regimen (alongside regular use of sunscreen), to aid in preventing sun-induced skin damage.

Our latest introduction, Sunbrella Horizon, features optimal protection against both mould and mildew. Horizon offers revolutionary resistance against microbial pinking, and has a knit-backed construction that provides four-way stretch and recovery for cushiony, ultra-soft seating.

The fabric is resistant to cold cracking and features highly UV-stable pigments for optimal colour retention over time with strong protection against fading from sunlight.

Crafted to meet the Sunbrella brand quality standard, Horizon is the only product in the marine industry with a three-year warranty against microbial pinking and with the industry’s most comprehensive five-year limited product warranty. This includes replacement fabric and labour costs in the rare instances it’s needed, which ensures beautiful and lasting seating for years to come.


What are some of the innovations in materials that Sunbrella has pioneered and adopted over the past 50 years?

When Glen Raven introduced Sunbrella marine canvas, the fabric was the first of its kind.

At the time, other marine fabrics were primarily made of cotton and used heavy metal dyes to introduce colour. When these dyes were regulated out of use by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the products no longer provided dependable or sustainable UV protection.

Therefore, a major focus initially was to educate customers about the benefits of Sunbrella solution-dyed acrylic fabric, such as its superior performance, durability and comfort.

Sunbrella first gained real traction in the sailing community and, with the help of that loyal audience as well as dedicated marine fabricators and craftspeople, we were able to show the marine community a smarter, longer-lasting solution for fabric.

About 15 years ago, Sunbrella recognised an opportunity in the market for a vinyl product that could deliver exceptional quality and add to our legacy in marine fabrics. It took years of innovation to bring the idea to life. The result, Sunbrella Horizon, is an unparalleled marine vinyl upholstery fabric that’s being used by a growing number of boat manufacturers. Horizon is available in 30 styles, 25 colours and two embossing patterns.


Where can Sunbrella fabrics be used on a vessel?

Sunbrella fabrics can be used throughout the boat, from captain’s chairs to bench seating, sunpads, shade sails, bimini tops, enclosers, dodgers, boat covers and much more. Sunbrella Horizon is particularly suitable for captain’s chairs, bench seating, headliners and sun pads.

How often do you add to the range?

Our dedicated design and product development teams constantly research and identify what’s new and next in the marine industry to develop fabrics that are ahead of the trends and provide exceptional performance on the water.

For example, our Sunbrella Upholstery Collection, which is suitable for a variety of applications and environments, including interior saloons on boats and beyond, is frequently updated with new colours, patterns and textures. We also recently launched our updated Sunbrella Shade Collection – a versatile portfolio of nearly 250 curated fabrics. The refreshed collection now includes 17 additions that are designed to appeal to various aesthetics.


When it comes to refits, what should owners consider when choosing fabrics for upholstery, soft furnishings, shades, awnings, blinds or curtains?

Our ever-evolving portfolio of marine fabrics provides boaters and fabricators with endless possibilities for custom projects.

Every project is different, and the most important thing boat owners need to consider is selecting the most effective materials for their intended use.

High-quality marine fabrics should be designed to resist all the elements that come with life on the water, but they should also deliver a luxurious experience.

Start by identifying the most important performance attributes for you and your boat. Is protection from the sun a priority? What about colourfastness? Does the fabric on your boat need to be easy to clean? Does it need to be flexible to fit its intended shape and size?

Selecting the right fabric from the start is crucial to reducing maintenance and is an investment in the longevity of your boat, allowing you to spend more time on the water and less on maintenance, care or repairs, season after season. Finally, it’s a good idea to research fabric warranties before selecting the option that’s right for you. Sunbrella stands behind our textiles with industry-leading warranties.


What’s the process for working with the experts on a refit project?

You will first need to identify a local fabricator. I recommend asking local boating organisations or your marina to provide recommendations. You can also check with your boat manufacturer or dealer. Ask potential fabricators questions about their process and experience, including whether they’ve worked with a craft like yours before and can help with design decisions if needed.

Once you’ve identified a fabricator you trust, it’s important to brief them on the goals of your project and the desired look for your boat. Discuss the entire look of your boat, including whether you want coordinating materials to be used. Inspirational photos can be especially helpful to help communicate the ideal look and feel for your refit project, along with examples of how you commonly use your boat, such as fishing or entertaining.

From there, you can work together to fine-tune the design before work begins. Completion timing will vary based on the project; your fabricator should be able to provide an estimate based on other comparable projects. Australia presents a particularly hostile climate with great extremes.


How can owners combat wear and tear on upholstery and ensure its longevity?

It’s important to select fabrics inherently designed to combat marine-specific phenomena like harsh sunlight, salt residue and environments prone to extreme heat and humidity.

Sunbrella fabrics must pass an extensive combination of 33 rigorous in-house and third-party-certified tests to ensure they provide exceptional quality and durability to perform in the harshest environments.

In addition to offering the best protection against microbial pinking, Sunbrella Horizon resists cold cracking, is mould- and mildew-resistant, provides superior resistance to UV fading and features a knit-back construction that prevents puddling.


What are the latest innovations in fabrics that will enhance marine applications?

Consumers expect today’s performance fabrics to last longer and endure more wear and tear. We continue to expand on our legacy in marine textiles by introducing new products with the proprietary performance that is woven into all Sunbrella fabrics, allowing them to maintain their colour in the harshest environments and reducing the need for frequent replacement.

At Sunbrella, sustainability is not a buzzword but rather a central value in our commitment to producing durable, comfortable and long-lasting fabrics. Beyond our products, we’ve invested in sustainable operations for decades.

For more information on Sunbrella’s global sustainability practices, goals and achievements, visit glenraven.com/ sustainability. Sunbrella marine fabrics are available across Australia from furniture outlets such as King Living, Dune Outdoor Luxuries, Elegance Furniture, Lavita Furniture and Cosh Living, as well as marine trimmers and upholsterers.



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