seeking & creating : researching & discovering : applying & practicing

sustainability in design = changing mindsets + deeds

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Clothing of the Future: Predictions from the Past and Present

Gotta love Ecouterre articles that spur a research trip into Youtube. To think that 80 years ago, fashion experts' predictions were to be so spot-on!

Innovation is predictable, perhaps? We now think of technology as a daily essential and it seems perfectly alright to merge technology with next-to-body items we use and carry every day. It is also intriguing to think about the potential of wearable technology to enable user-experience to reach higher levels.

It's interesting to think about all these advancements in the context of 'costume' and not so much in terms of practical everyday applications, though perhaps a breakthrough is soon to come. And it always helps to have a sense of humour when wearable technology crosses the ludicrous line.

Now to incorporate sustainability and eco-design into the futuristic mix...

Monday, August 29, 2011

More Recycled Paper Furniture

Recycled Paper Furniture that is also truly inspirational modular design!

Beautifully described: 
"softseating uses honeycomb structure and fans open into stools, benches, and loungers. Each piece of softseating has magnetic end panels, allowing an element to connect to itself, forming a cylindrical stool or low table, or to connect to other elements of the same size in series, creating long winding benches and endless possibilities for seating topographies. The beauty of these pieces is that they are sculpturally abstract forms, each made from a single material, that can be used creatively and interchangeably as seating or low tables."

The idea of playing with furniture and space simultaneously seems like infinite fun!

DIY Magazine Stool & Recycled Paper Furniture

...wondering if it would also work with Yellow Pages with the sides painted, and straps made from elastic or discarded bag straps...the base is probably more tricky to source and perhaps needs some carpentry skills...

With all the paper waste that life generates, be it at work or at home, it seems a good/sustainable idea to find new and innovative ways to create raw material through recycling waste paper, use it for furnishing, thus effectively creating new product life-cycles without using up more virgin wood resources...

Perhaps the challenge is in durability and long-term functionality in view of daily wear/tear. Paper is still seen as disposable and/or not as strong as conventional furnishing materials such as wood/plastic/leather/etc. We have to rethink the concept of sustainability in our furnishings when considering waste paper as a new raw material.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Yarn maker opens facility in Yadkinville

Winston-Salem Journal (North Carolina)
May 5, 2011

Unifi Inc. hopes that its new $8 million Repreve recycling center will not only help sustain the company's return to profitability, but also set the standard for the textile industry.

On Monday, the Greensboro-based yarn manufacturer began running two extrusion lines around-the-clock at the 50,000-square-foot facility on its Yadkinville complex.

"Sustainability is a conscious commitment, and this center is a perfect example of how research and development and reinvestment can work for this industry in this country," Bill Jasper, the chairman and chief executive of Unifi, said Wednesday at the grand opening of the center.

At full production, the center expects to convert about 42 million pounds of recycled products a year -- 31 million pounds of post-consumer plastic bottles and 11 million pounds of post-industrial fiber and fabric waste -- into chips for use in its Repreve polyester yarn.

Reaching that level would result in 900 million plastic bottles being recycled and the equivalent of 16 million gallons of gasoline not being required to make virgin polyester and nylon, the company said.

Read the rest of the article:

Persuasive Design + Branding vs. Conversion in Online Fashion Retail



Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Plastic = Doom


(Even the preview will totally set alarms bells off in your head.)

Are we doomed? What can be done? Can we ever be free of plastic?
HOW can Generation X and Y fix this disgusting legacy of the Baby Boomers and their elders?
Is it even possible?

Monday, May 9, 2011

“I’m inspired. Now what?” – A Beginner’s Guide to Social Change

Author: Charles Tsai 
Charles Tsai is a journalist, writer, speaker and consultant for social entrepreneurs. He's also the creator of SOCIAL Creatives, a new framework to understand and practice social entrepreneurship through six key best practices.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Where will you get your organic cotton from? | The Ethical Fashion Source

"Organic cotton production rises, but supply is still tight. Textile Exchange reports a 15% rise: India, Syria and Turkey lead.

Designers wishing to align their work with increasing consumer demand for the quality and luxury feel of organic cotton have to re-think their buying strategy – supplies of organic cotton are getting tight, and the leading sustainable textile organization is urging designers, brands and retailers to get closer to the growers. Textile Exchange says that working direct is the best way to ensure continued supplies with an ethical, organic growing and production chain..."

Continue reading: Where will you get your organic cotton from? | The Ethical Fashion Source

Gorgeous Jacinta

Jacinta wears the upcycled electric violet tunic made from a second-hand 100% polyester tank top and ombre-dyed Thai silk scarf (also second-hand), trimmed with finger-knitted acrylic yarn cording...

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Greed is Not a Virtue by David Korten | Common Dreams

"We humans are living out an epic morality play. For millennia humanity’s most celebrated spiritual teachers have taught that society works best and we all enjoy our greatest joy and fulfillment when we share, cooperate, and are honest in our dealings with one another.

But for the past few decades, this truth has been aggressively challenged by a faith called market fundamentalism - an immoral and counter-factual economic ideology that has assumed the status of a modern state religion. Its believers worship the God of money. Stock exchanges and global banks are their temples. They proclaim that everyone does best when we each seek to maximize our individual financial gain without regard to the consequences for others.

In the eyes of a market fundamentalist, to sacrifice profit for some presumed social or environmental good is immoral. The result is a public culture that proclaims greed is a virtue and sharing is a sin..."

Continue reading...

Sunday, April 3, 2011

New Life for the Art of Lace-Making -

New Life for the Art of Lace-Making -

Lace is certainly a specialty fabrication where perhaps the less mass-produced, the more precious it is. In this case, handcrafting in the production process has not yet been adequately replicated/replaced by the machine.

There is also a marked difference between the authentic French/Swiss-produced versions and the stuff produced elsewhere, but perhaps only fabrication nuts would spot this? Perhaps one day Chinese manufacturers will catch up?

When such intricacies are designed into product, do potential consumers realise, or even want to know, about the painstaking labour that has produced this object (be it a garment or accessory) that they have purchased?

Is there a degradation of authenticity and therefore perceived value, when something so trendy/trend-driven explodes into the mass market, or trickles down-market?

How can sustainable fashion designers deal with this barrier of perception and create genuine understanding of the products' value?

As a consumer, would you choose to chase after the real stuff, and pay more? Or just be content with the cheaper and less beautifully-made copy/substitute?

From a design perspective, would you incorporate lace into your product? Is it a sustainable fabrication, and does it have longevity? Or is it simply too difficult to work with/care for? How could we possibly innovate and use newer technologies to produce an alternative that fulfills more sustainability criteria? Laser-cutting, or 3D printing, perhaps?

I have been chasing after vintage Victorian hand-made lace blouses for a while doubt, inspired by the current explosion of lace in fashion, and wanting to acquire for myself, something truly vintage/authentically  handmade, so as to see the difference between the old and the new...

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Making and Re-making: a somewhat Photo-fanatical post

Pin-cushion with built-in pockets for bobbins, bobbin-cases, and feet, made from a shrunken beanie

Yes. Lots and lots of pictures. And an embarrassing confession: I keep my trusty little Panasonic camera on hand at all times, but am probably not as trigger-happy as an "aspiring blogger" should be.

And processing/editing/uploading/actual blogging takes a while too (held up by procrastination, of course).

Anyway, a little history of what went down not too long ago...

We did attempt to hold crafting/making sessions at the Richmond Library meeting/function room several times in February 2011, but sadly, the turn-out was rather low. Let's imagine a little tear rolling slowly down my cheek...was it bad timing, short notice, or Facebook being not quite the best way to organise events?

Ms. Bell the beading maestro in action

Even so, many thanks to Allison and Jackie (and Charani, for those few short moments) for coming by to keep me company while some of these projects were underway...perhaps one day Restructors will be able to hold crafting/upcycling/making jam sessions in real style...we can only hope!!!

Complete: little girl's multi-functional reversible pinafore/skirt with strap/sash options, made from remnents & scraps

Incomplete: reversible and dual-direction convertible hooded shrug-jacket with adjustable cuffs, turns into a scarf, also made from remnents and scraps

On a side note, documentation can be such a tiring process, isn't it? The creative working process needs to be evidenced in order to be exhibited, and the creation of evidence is another layer of labour unto itself. Thank goodness for this tree-saving online channel which renders the need for hard-copy printing unnecessary.

What is crucial about this documentation of processes is being able to show in a tangible form all the labour, diligence and thought that contribute to end-product creation.

Second-hand bright purple polyester tank top, approx. size 16, before destruction

Especially in the case of upcycling old/second-hand/discarded garments, where personally I feel a strong need to justify the act of destruction (cutting it up) and reconstruction, through the evidence. And this evidence must not only show experimentation and exploration, but also project a thoughtful and considered process which effectively involves eco-design and sustainability concerns.

Reconstruction stage: ombre-dyed second-hand Thai Silk scarf attached to tank, followed by attachment of finger-knitted acrylic yarn cording as trim, sewn on by hand...

I have to stress that by no means is this a perfect or flawless process, and honestly there is a huge amount of stress to produce an end-result with certain levels of wearability and aesthetic quality. Already, considering cradle-to-cradle fabrication standards, attaching silk to polyester/acrylic could be a big mistake. However, the deterioration of the silk fabric with wear and tear, contrasting in texture and sheen against the polyester over time, would be an intriguing process in itself...

Jackie models the reconstructed but incomplete tunic

The result is an asymmetrical garment that appears to have a different weight on the left and right side, resulting in one sleeve seeming longer than the other. Not having a discernible front or back (which was the intention) could make for an interesting, albeit disorienting, experience for the wearer...and the drape effect was a pleasant surprise.

Does it work? Is it too bulky? Is it ugly? Should more be done?

Another question: was this truly zero-waste? Not exactly. More like "minimal waste"; as in the process of unpicking the side seams and sewing on the silk scarf, some bits had to get trimmed off.

The doubts (one of many) lingering with this garment at present is when to stop; whether or not to insert drawstrings into both the sleeves so as to be able to adjust their length and the overall proportions of the garment itself.

What do you think?

Another line of exploration I have been trying out is arguably a process of "re-fabrication", which is essentially geometrically organised collaging of cut-up fabric scraps from sample books and remnents to form a whole new piece of material to work from, largely inspired by quilting, which was one of my late paternal grandmother's greatest skills.

Good collage or bad collage?

The issues here, outside of colour coordination headaches: combining synthetics with naturals (potential care/maintenance problems galore), construction (lots of bulky seams), and TIME. This process is experimental, excruciatingly slow/tedious and gets increasingly difficult as the size of the composite expands.

I am not even sure this is the best possible configuration of shapes, and probably never will be. The possibilities at this stage are already endless. And then, after these 2D shapes are sewn together, what 3D garment can be sculpted from this quilted piece? More possibilities...

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Sustinability and Business Strategy

Sustainability is not mutually exclusive with profitable business strategy and productive industry, yes, but the examples raised in this video of huge multi-national companies joining the sustainability movement (well, the interviewee is an ad-man speaking of his clients' "success stories", after all) are certainly worth more objective study. Hmmmmm.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Red Onion Solar Dyeing

Last year I was very interested in exploring solar dyeing techniques using natural dyes. Solar dyeing, as you can probably guess from the name, uses the sun to assist in the dye process, instead of energy wasting techniques that involve boiling the dye. One of the down sides however, is that it takes many months and therefore patience.

I had actually forgotten about this project, hence why I left it for so long with out looking at it. The jar had been sitting outside for 6 months before I came across it while doing some gardening. It contained red onion and a silk scarf I was wishing to colour. Over the six months the onionskins had dissolved completely, making the water a soft ruby colour. This is what the scarf looked like when I took it out:

I have rewrapped the scarf so that other areas of it are exposed and can absorb some of the dye. I may need to add some more onionskins for a stronger colour. I will leave it until I stumble across it again in a few months. As you can see this is a long process, but I think it will be totally worth it.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Greentailing: the books of change

By Justin Doak
October 12, 2010
From DDIOnline

If you’re like me, when fall comes around, it’s back to the books.  Ever since Rachel Carson’s classic release of “Silent Spring” in 1962, the environmental movement has continued to build momentum—birthing new thought leaders and innovations in 
sustainability. With this movement comes some provocative books, many of which have been the root of change for many of the sustainability icons in the industry today.  

If you are looking to enhance your sustainability knowledge or are ready to take a dive into some books that might change the way you think, just as they did for me, I’m here to make your search easy.  

I’ve created a list of the sustainability classics, as well as some of the more recent titles that are retail-focused, capturing best practices in our industry over the past few years.

As you travel home this fall, bear the cold or watch the first snow, hunker down with one of these in book, nook or iPad form. Enjoy!

Classic books that have shaped the sustainability movement:

“Silent Spring” by Rachel Carson, 1962 (Read online)
(Amazon link)

“The Ecology of Commerce: A Declaration of Sustainability” by Paul Hawken, 1994

“Mid-Course Correction - Toward a Sustainable Enterprise: The Interface Model” by Ray C. Anderson, 1999

“Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature” by Janine M. Benyus, 2002

“Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things” by William McDonough and Michael Braungart, 2002

“Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution” by Paul Hawken, Amory Lovins, L. Hunter Lovins, 2008

“Confessions of a Radical Industrialist: Profits, People, Purpose—Doing Business by Respecting the Earth” by Ray C. Anderson, 2009

Retail- and business-focused sustainability books:

“The Next Sustainability Wave: Building Boardroom Buy-in” by Bob Willard, 2005

“The Retail Green Agenda: Sustainable Practices for Retailers and Shopping Centers” by Rudolph E. Milian, 2008

“Sustainable Retail Development: New Success Strategies” by Jerry Yudelson, 2009


Justin Doak
Founder, Ecoxera – Green Business Strategy for Retail
Send green retail questions to

Friday, January 28, 2011

The Uniform Project's Sheena Matheiken speaks at TEDxDubai

TEDxDubai 2010| Sheena Matheiken from Giorgio Ungania on Vimeo.

Always an inspiration, it is intriguing to see how The Uniform Project develops beyond this "showcasing personal styling for a cause/charity" model. Also incredibly heartening is the viability of crowd-sourced funding for entrepreneurial creatives, e.g. Kickstarter.

And well worth a peep is the work of Eliza Starbuck, the designer of the very first/original classic LBD for the The Uniform Project, who has since has started her own eco-fashion label, Bright Young Things, which seems destined for greatness at the moment!

So...Is there a sustainable, socially/culturally responsible business operations model out there which independent fashion creatives can apply?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Donna Karan Speaks at Parsons The New School for Design

Lots of valid and valuable ideas, opinions, and a great sense of holistic thoughfulness from this fashion industry power player...

Sustainable Fashion Report - London

First episode of “Sustainable Fashion Report” presents key people, brands and organisations shaping the UK capital’s ethical fashion industry.

Sustainable Fashion Report - London from Lima Charlie on Vimeo.

Interesting insight into the consumer consciousness maturation cycle in the sustainable fashion movement; this takes into consideration how far ahead the movement has come in Europe versus the rest of the world...

Monday, January 24, 2011

Challenges and Solutions in Sustainable Fashion: Guest Lectures @ The New School NY

Click "Watch Full Program" to view the lecture (it is over 2 hours long) in its entirety.

Speakers' profiles:

Alice Demirjian

Alice Demirjian received her Bachelors Degree in Apparel Marketing from The University of Massachusetts. Her Masters of Science Degree in Fashion Studies with a Marketing Concentration from Philadelphia College of Textiles and Science.
She has published a research study for apparel manufacturers and retailers on how to target young adults termed 'Gen Y'. Ms Demirjian is a Visual Specialist at Reebok International, coordinating and executing a visual merchandising and marketing program. She directed large-scale nationwide event; 'The Reebok Product Experience'.
While completing her graduate degree, she worked in merchandising at Urban Outfitters in Philadelphia for the women's buying team. Director of Marketing at DPI, 2000, an event and advertising agency. Worked on creative campaigns and focused on developing marketing opportunities while cultivating new channels for business. Ms Demirjian currently teaches full time at Parsons while working on freelance marketing projects, consulting and visual merchandising.

Julie Gilhart

As fashion director of the most forward-thinking big store in the city, Julie Gilhart is responsible for feeding customers a constant diet of the new and lust-worthy. She does this by trekking to designers' studios and then championing those she thinks have the proper balance of real design skill and luxury. She's promoted Alber Elbaz (now a star at Lanvin after a rocky few years), Proenza Schouler, Olivier Theyskens, Goyard, and Project Alabama, to name a few. And with Barneys expanding across the country, Gilhart's effect is going national.

Scott Hahn

Scott Hahn is the Co-founding Partner of Loomstate, a cutting-edge fashion label offering organic denim jeans located in the United States.

Helen Job

Helen Job is currently the US Editor for, the leading global trend forecasting service providing online research, trend analysis and industry news to the fashion, design and style industries. As US Editor, Helen directs coverage of the influential youth/junior market ages 8-24. She also works with a firm network of style setters and taste-makers throughout the industry to predict future trends in fashion, music, sport, and entertainment.
In addition, Helen speaks with people behind the business of fashion. From CEOs to sales reps, Helen works with them all to better understand the market from all angles. Originally from the UK, Helen came to New York in 2004 with a background in consumer fashion magazines and four years of trend tracking at WGSN headquarters under her belt.
Her expertise is widely recognized and she has been featured as a trends expert in international publications including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Fashion Week daily, Star Girl, Bliss, and Shout magazines and has appeared on ABC and NBC news. Helen is also a professor on the Fashion Marketing AAS programme at Parsons School of Design.

Marci Zaroff

Marci Zaroff possesses a unique blend of commitment, compassion, business expertise, aggressive enthusiasm and timely experience. In addition to being the creative inspiration of Under the Canopy, Ms. Zaroff currently oversees and/or manages design, merchandising, strategic development, marketing, media and operations. She is an internationally respected expert and lecturer in the areas of organic food and fiber, a committed yoga practitioner, an artist, a devoted wife and the proud mother of two children.
Marci has been involved in the natural products industry for over 18 years. Having earned a finance and marketing degree from the University of California at Berkeley's Haas School of Business, she spent six years as a licensed financial manager while creating a natural/organic foods catering service. She then founded and ran Gulliver's Inc. in midtown Manhattan, a living and learning center with a retail store, an Aveda Concept Spa and salon and an organic foods cafe.
She was also the publisher and chief editor of Macrocosm Magazine, a 92-page national bi-monthly wellness publication, and the founder of Sierra Natural Resources, an international exporter of natural products and services. These entities supplied health and environmental education and awareness to hundreds of thousands of people.
As Ms. Zaroff's reputation in the natural products, organic and health industries grew and she received continuous inquiries about her products and services, she recognized the need and desire for modern, comfortable, stylish and sophisticated apparel, bedding and accessories made from sustainable materials. This led Marci to create an upscale lifestyle brand of those products.
Early in 1996, she coined and trademarked the term "ECOfashion®" and the concept of Under the Canopy® was born. Marci Zaroff has been recognized as a pioneer of organic fiber fashion, understanding and reflecting the ideal "new mainstream." Through Under the Canopy®'s national mail order catalog, web site, wholesale and private development channels of distribution, Ms. Zaroff has revolutionized organic fashion and has demonstrated that quality, great fit, style, comfort, purity, luxury and modern aesthetics need not be at the expense of social and environmental responsibility.
As a leading expert in the organic fiber fashion movement, Ms. Zaroff has taught countless courses on organic fibers. She is a member of the Organic Trade Association's Organic Fiber Council Steering Committee defining the standards for organic fiber certification.
Marci also is an active participant and spokesperson in the global Organic Exchange, a worldwide collaboration committed to propelling the organic fiber industry forward. Ms. Zaroff is a member of the Direct Marketing Association, Coop America, Businesses for Social Responsibility and the Organic Trade Association.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

BETWEEN THE FOLDS - Origami mania!

Possibly the most inspiring film I have ever seen...something to add to the DVD library, for sure. Plus it's multiple-award-winning, and one can see why. Now to hunt it down...

THIS was what began my papercraft craze.

And then, as if this inspiration tsunami is not enough...we see the return of Issey Miyake himself! 
What a marvellous revival of handmade artforms, now turbo-boosted by technology to morph a relatively simple idea into an amazing object of beauty.

(Sidenote: Miyake could be considered the original master of modern and completely functional 2D-to-3D-to-2D origami garments. As an example, PLEATS PLEASE products are still cult and coveted, even considered timeless classics now. And that was...2 decades ago!  Now was he also a true eco-futurist, considering his preference for infinitely recyclable, mouldable, sculptable polyester? Anti-synthetic fibre advocates will disagree, and, despite its potential for cradle to cradle manufacturing, polyester is still perceived as uncomfortable and unsafe. Food for thought, and for further research and development.)

Issey Miyake's new 132 5 collection, developed with Reality Lab, is created from 1 piece of cloth and transforms from 3D to 2D, and can be worn various ways (I am guessing...5?). How many boxes have been ticked off here? A zero-waste approach, utilising recycled PET polyester, which is also recyclable, multifunctional transformer-garments with an incredible heritage and story, therefore greatly desirable...a lot of eco-design ground seems to have been covered here!
The Google Translate version of the exhibition review, which isn't perfect English, but you'll get the gist of it.

So here's a success formula already out-to-market, now all we have to look into is labour, ethics, garment care, water-use, carbon footprint, social and cultural responsibility, supply chain, and of course, the cost...*grunt* let me just fold this bit of paper for now...

Friday, January 21, 2011

PODCAST with Holly McQuillan & Timo Rissanen

From the Center for Pattern Design's (or CFPD) excellent January 2011 newsletter "the Cutting Edge"

CFPD is an incredibly all-rounded resource, also offering rare extremely vintage out-of-print pattern-making books from as early as the late 1800s, the 1920s, and so forth; catering to to perhaps the more hard-core pattern-making peeps among us!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Family Reunion

Finally all the Mutant Baby Doilies are together again.
It's a totally wicked family reunion party!

They are "the Evil Eleven"...
We had fun giving each of them quirky names. (Allison's good at spontaneous naming ceremonies.)

The How-to Recipe can be found in a previous post: be continued...

Excellent Excerpts from Cradle to Cradle; Part 1

Yes, I have finally finished the book! Check out these selected brain-pinching bits particularly relevant to fashion people. The key lies in your inclination for change, methinks, and whether or not you believe this kind of deep-seated foundational change is worth the preliminary sacrifices of time, effort, and resources.

Also, as a designer, what sort of world do you want to leave to your children and other descendants of the human race (and other living things), and do you really care enough to commit to and undertake this depth of seriousness and responsibility in your fashion design and business practice?

Food for thought indeed.

From Chapter 4: "Waste Equals Food", pg 105 - 108

In the early 1990s the two of us were asked by DesignTex, a division of Steelcase, to conceive and create a compostable upholstery fabric, working with the Swiss textile mill Rohner. We were asked to focus on creating an aesthetically unique fabric that was also environmentally intelligent. DesignTex first proposed that we consider cotton combined with PET (polyethylene terephthalate) fibers from recycled soda bottles. What could be better for the environment, they thought, than a product that combined a "natural" material with a "recycled" one? Such hybrid material had the additional apparent advantages of being readily available, market-tested, durable, and cheap.

But when we looked carefully at the potential long-term design legacy, we discovered some disturbing facts. First, as we have mentioned, upholstery abrades during normal use, and so our design had to allow for the possibility that particles might be inhaled or swallowed. PET is covered with synthetic dyes and chemicals and contains other questionable substances - not exactly what you would breathe or eat. Furthermore, the fabric would not be able to continue after its useful life as either a technical or biological nutrient. The PET would not go back into the soil safely, and the cotton could not be circulated in industrial cycles. The combination would be yet another monstrous hybrid, adding junk to a landfill, and it might also be dangerous. This was not a product worth making.

...The team decided to design a fabric that would be safe enough to eat: it would not harm people who breathed it in, and it would not harm natural systems after its would nourish nature.

The textile mill that was chosen to produce the fabric was quite clean by accepted environmental standards, one of the best in Europe, yet it had an interesting dilemma. Although the mill's director, Albin Kaelin, had been diligent about reducing levels of dangerous emissions, government regulators had recently defined the mill's fabric trimmings as hazardous waste. The director had been told that he could no longer bury or burn these trimmings in hazardous waste incinerators in Switzerland but had to export them to Spain for disposal. (Note the paradoxes here: the trimmings of a fabric are not to be buried or disposed of without expensive precaution, or must be exported "safely" to another location, but the material itself can still be sold as safe for installation in an office or home.) We hoped for a different fate for our trimmings: to provide mulch for the local garden club, with the help of sun, water, and hungry microorganisms.

The mill interviewed people living in wheelchairs and discovered that their most important needs in seating fabric were that it be strong and that it "breathe". The team decided on a mixture of safe, pesticide-free plant and animal fibers for the fabric: wool, which provides insulation in winter and summer, and ramie, which wicks moisture away. Together these fibers would make for a strong and comfortable fabric. Then we began working on the most difficult aspect of the design: the finishes, dyes, and other process chemicals. Instead of filtering out mutagens, carcinogens, endocrine disrupters, persistent toxins, and bioaccumulative substances at the end of the process, we would filter them out at the beginning. In fact, we would go beyond designing a fabric that would do no harm; we would design one that was nutritious.

Sixty chemical companies declined the invitation to join the project, uncomfortable at the idea of exposing their chemistry to the kind of scrutiny it would require. Finally one European company agreed to join. With its help, we eliminated from consideration almost eight thousand chemicals that are commonly used in the textile industry; we also thereby eliminated the need for additives and corrective processes. Not using a given dye, for example, removed the need for additional toxic chemicals and processes to ensure ultraviolet-light stabilization (colourfastness)...We ended up selecting only thirty eight...(for) the entire fabric line. What might seem like an expensive and laborious research process turned out to solve multiple problems and to contribute to a higher-quality product that was ultimately more economical.

The fabric went into production...regulators came on their rounds and tested the water coming out of the factory...(and) could not identify any pollutants, not even elements they knew were in the water when it came into the factory...the water coming out of the factory was...even cleaner than the water going in...(Meaning that the water could then be cycled into use again in the factory.)

...The process had additional positive side effects. Employees began to use, for recreation and additional work space, rooms that were previously reserved for hazardous chemical storage. Regulatory paperwork was eliminated. Workers stopped wearing the gloves and masks that had given them a thin veil of protection against workplace toxins. The mill's products became so successful that it faced a new problem: financial success, just the kind of problem businesses want to have.

And the fabric product that resulted from this project can be found here:

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Construction Inspiration: Kirigami Papercraft

Papercraft has totally invaded my brain...not only inspirational, but also easy, simple, harkens back to childhood, and so much fun!
Cut-out chains of little horses for a store window backdrop-hanging (with a Spring Racing Theme) are transformed into a fascinating ornament with staples:

Recycle Republic - I work here.

Of course, there are heaps are resources online to inspire and guide you. The one site that got me going was Golics' channel on metacafe, which sort of makes one tempted to replace or cover all the ordinary lampshades in the house with kirigami structures. The moveable transforming 3D paper toys are amazing!

Experimentation with kirigami (beyond snowflakes and pop-up cards) can be a challenging exercise in mathematical precision and structural engineering, especially when attempting mobile, modular, 3D objects.

Of course, the art of kirigami easily lends inspiration to fantastic garment construction possibilities, which brings to mind the zero-waste cutting techniques of Mark Liu

Read more about this pioneer in Inhabitat's as well as Ecouterre's coverage of his impressive work

Even more exciting are the possibilities of combining origami and kirigami - folding, cutting and modular construction techniques, all based on simple geometrical shapes. Here are methods applicable towards the reduction of fabric waste, as well as utilising scrap/remnents/discarded pieces, all while you create animated new 3D structures from 2D materials and push the boundaries of convention in garment design...FUN.