Fabric developments and growing popularity advance market potential for freeform style tents.
Stretch or freeform style tents originated in the “trance” electronic dance music movement in the 1990s. Established in the South African and Australian rental markets, this style of tent is poised to expand worldwide.
“It’s taken about nine years to get to the point where we have a fabric that possesses all the qualities it needs as well as being able to last long enough to see the returns required for the rental market,” says Kyle Dods, director of sales and development for South African-based manufacturer Stretchtents International™. The company recently introduced a new generation of fabric, STI VO5 Stretch-Flex, to its tent line. This 1-ply fabric, lighter than previous iterations, meets all FR requirements, is UV stable and 100 percent waterproof, features welded rather than stitched seams and can be printed and branded, Dods says.
Rather than competing directly with other tent styles, stretch tents are well suited for locales that lack the space, geography or access for traditional installations: balconies, high rise buildings, over rivers, around obstacles and as extensions to homes or restaurants. In an extreme example, Dods describes an installation attached to a three-story house perched on a cliff.
“Our tent attached to the house, covered the entire top balcony, continued down the cliff face and covered the second balcony and we still managed to leave the side open so they could block off the wind coming in from the sea, but still see the ocean. It was a fantastic wedding, which in no way could be held there unless our tent was used.”
While Dods hopes to replicate the success of stretch tents worldwide, he notes that South Africa is an emerging market for all kinds of tents and events.
“The FIFA World Cup [in 2010] exposed the potential South Africa has and opened up the eyes of the world to disprove many of the misconceptions people once had of our country,” he says. “We will gladly invite clients from around the world to come see what we are doing here in South Africa, and we hope to be the worldwide leaders in taking stretch tents to countries across the globe.”