Sunday, 29 December 2013


Agbogbloshie is a destination site for electronic waste. Migrants from rural areas inhabit the site, earning money from scavenging for metals in the waste. Many illegal cargo containers arrive in Ghana to unload waste from countries such as the UK and America. Unprotected workers, may of them children, sift through the waste for precious metals. Plastics are melted down, emitting toxic fumes and chemicals into the atmosphere and water. 

The area is known to be outside the control of the police, therefore crime is rife. Locals call Agbogbloshie 'Sodom and Gomarrah" after the two condemned Biblical cities.

Wikipedia. 2014. Agbogbloshie. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 13 January 14].

Monday, 23 December 2013

Swoon - The Swimming Cities.

TED's 10 - upcycling / recycling 

Possibly one of the most environmentally friendly ways of transportation would be by sail boat. The ocean makes up such a vast proportion of our earth, what better way to explore it than with the wind in your sails! 

Swoon is a American street artist who constructed a raft from New York City garbage and scrap material. 'The Swimming Cities' rafts were then sailed from Slovenia to Venice with the help of a team of anarchists. The rafts are built with reused materials symbolising the freedom that comes with self reliance. The boats are an embodiment of the philosophy of reusing found materials and waste.

However these boats do run on fuel. “We’re not perfect,” Swoon says. “How much jet fuel was used to fly all of us here? But we’re not going to let being imperfect stop us. If you are too rigid in your ethics, you undo positive action.”
The boats are aimed to be floating cabinets of wonders, with the crew stopping off a collecting curiosities along the way. The boats were then docked at the Venice Biennale for the public to enjoy and explore. 

NY Mag. 2014. Barging In to Venice. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 07 January 14].

Sunday, 22 December 2013


TEDS's 10 - Upcycling / Recycling 

Another design aim of TED is to create using recycling or upcycling. Lallitara is a great example of recycling saris from India into unique products. By saving what would have been thrown into landfill, recycling these saris also means less environmental damage is created in the manufacturing stages. 

“We pay these hardworking women and men fair wages for their labor and give new life to unique fabrics that would otherwise go to waste.”
All the material is sourced from recycling communities in India and then handmade in America sweatshop free.  5 - 10 % of profits are then feed back to charitable organisations. 
The technique of upcycling means that all the products created are totally unique, which gives a bespoke and personalised feeling to the garments. 

Lallitara. 2014. Lallitara. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 02 January 14].

Naturally Coloured Silk

TED's 10 - New Technologies 

One of the aims of "TED's Ten' is 'Design to Reduce Energy and Water Use.' The dyeing of textiles uses vast quantities of water and therefore is incredibly polluting. Scientists have created a way of minimising the water usage in the dying process. Silkworm larvae are fed on a diet of dyed mulberry leaves, which naturally coloured their usually white cocoons. Experimentations on this type of dyeing are far from finished, but scientists are well on their way to create intrinsically dyed silks.

Ecouterre. 2014. Silkworms Naturally Colored Silk. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 27 December 13]

The North Circular

TED's 10 - Long Life / Emotionally Durable Design

The North Circular is fashion brand that embraces the skills and talents of grandmothers across the country. The products are all either hand made or hand woven. The designing process ignores trends, rather choosing to focus on the consistency of skill. The brand encourages the long term use of their products. The garments are made using ethical wool from rescued Wensleydale sheep, housed at the sanctuary in North Yorkshire. Their mantra is, "Do what you can with what you've got where you are."
"We wanted to return value to the hand made product, personalise the process of production, rekindle the relationship between the producer and the purchaser."

"With us you're receiving a high quality item that is ethical, supporting high standards of animal welfare, it is eco/green with low mileage, minimal packaging, supporting UK industries, traditional arts and crafts."

The North Circular. 2014. The North Circular. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 26 December 13].

CRED Jewellery

CRED Jewellery was the first European fair trade jewellery company. There company works on the notion of giving back to the gold mining community. The money given back goes towards the communities education, sanitation and power.  'In the mining areas of San Filomena, Peru, we have been directly responsible for bringing improved health, sanitation and education to their isolated community high up in the Andes.'

CRED Jewellery . 2014. CRED Jewellery. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 25 December 13].

Honest By

'Honest By' is a 100% transparent fashion label. It shows the consumer every detail of information about the product they are buying. From where it was made to how much the designer is paid. The company even includes details like how much thread is used in the garments. 

"Something is 'luxury' because of the design, the process, the materials. Most consumers don't know where their clothes come from – regardless of the price range. If you're buying luxury goods at luxury prices, you assume automatically that it is good. It's not. And that's crazy."

"If you buy the same bag style for £50, you can often find that the materials to make it come from the same people and the same suppliers," Pieters says. "They sometimes use the same factories. Nothing is totally made in Europe anymore. Try to find a zip that isn't made in China." 

"I Started Honest By because I wanted to be proud of my work. Total transparency is easy. The only reason it doesn't happen is because consumers don't understand that they can demand it. If people asked for it, it can happen tomorrow." - Bruno Pieters.

An example of the material information of a garment on the Honest By website. 

Honest by. 2013. Honest by. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 18 December 13]

In Search Of Hope - Stuart Matthews

The photojournalist Stuart Matthews travelled to Bangladesh on what ended up to be a three year trip to investigate a meet the people that the countries cyclones have affected. Due to the flooding, mass migration from the countryside to the countries capital is growing to be a big problem in Bangladesh. Shantytowns are growing rapidly, by 2025 the predicted population of the capital, Dhaka, will be 20 million people. 

Dwellers in these shanty towns are forced to take out unregulated loans to pay for rent, water and electricity. The water is polluted, causing illness throughout these towns. To pay their way, these people are forced to work low income jobs for relentless hours in places like garment factories. This situation is almost impossible to escape, until they find employment that will pay them a fair wage for an appropriate amount of work. 

Matthews states, "The Bangladeshi people are very strong, they seem to adapt a lot, something that really affected me and inspired me to keep going back.”

"BERI BAD, DHAKA, BANGLADESH – August 2011. Workers separate scraps of cotton in a recycling store on the outskirts of Dhaka. This type of employment is an essential to the people of the city as it provides a meagre income to support their families."

Stuart Matthews. 2013. In Search of Hope. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 07 November 13]

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Fashion and Sustainable Design

Fashion is in a state of constant flux. What is popular in fashion changes continually. Thus the fashion industry causes strain on natural resources. Typically, Fashion and sustainability do not coincide. However, they need not conflict. Change is something that should be celebrated and not condemned. Changes encourages creativity and new solutions, its what keeps our design world alive. The continually changing fashion industry creates a constant flow of money and employment. Change allows us to adapt to our environment, instead of using out of date ideas and opinions. A design industry without change would not only be dull, but damaging to both the environment and mankind.
However a continuously changing fashion industry can create shallow values. We expect newness and easily bore of garments after just a few months. ‘Clothing sales have increased by 60% in the last ten years.’ (Oakdene Hollins, 2006) One of TED’s 10 strategies is to ‘Design to Replace the Need to Consume.’  The value of garments are usually based on their aesthesis. By taking small evolutionary steps we can shift this value to the quality and ethical construction of products. The idea of sustainable design is much like the fashion industry. Our tries at sustainability will not be perfect initially; instead constant change will perfect our ideas. Sustainability needs constant refinement and therefore needs constant change, much like the fashion industry. 

S. Walker. Sustainable By Design. Earthscan. 2006.

Nothing Design Group

TED's 10 - Social Innovation 

Nothing Design Group explores the relationship between people are their environment. Their work is inspired by the oriental philosophy of ‘nothing’ and how this can be designed into something. The collection of transparent wind fishes are simplistic yet beautiful.  Hung on large poles around a riverfront, the piece plays with the idea of perspective; the viewer questions the sky to be the sea.  Smaller fishes were given out for people to hang on their bicycles, giving the design an interactive feel. This idea of playing with the rigidity of urban space coincides the ideas previously stated, of how playfulness is an integral part of the design process when wanting to create new and interesting outcomes. 

Nothing Design Group. 2013. Nothing Design Group. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 05 November]

Reconsidering Design

Sustainable design is about the exploration of alternative possibilities of the products and systems of our current material culture. We need to take a fresh look on how we understand materials and products. Most products on the market today are wholly judged on their aesthetic value. Behind their attractiveness they are usually damaging to the environment and people. New design solutions need to be generated that deal with both the aesthetics and the sustainability of products.
The Droog designers are a good example of a collective that defy existing classifications of design and reconsider boundaries. Their manifesto reads, ‘Beauty and experience with minimal means, always with a twist. Not so much less is more, as less and more.’
A Droog classic is its chest of draws design. The designer, Tejo Remy, piled together found draws into a chest like pile. The piece encourages us to reconsider the idea of value, and the histories and lives of objects.  Remy gives revalue to what would usually have been disregarded. This way of thinking is integral to sustainable design. 

Droog. 2014. Droog. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 02 January 14].

Why Design Sustainably?

It can be argued that the main motivations of human life are to create, to produce and to consume. The idea of consumption has become an integral part of our daily lives, the idea of humans not consuming, in my view, is an overly optimistic one.  Instead, for a more sustainable future, we should steer our consumption tendencies to more sustainable alternatives, instead of most of the products that are on the market today. Sustainable progress can be achieved step by step through the exploration and experiment of design. Currently the appeal of most products on the market to consumers is their aesthetic value.  The role of sustainable designers is to divert the consumers desires away from aesthetic appeal and towards the appeals of ethical production and sustainable resources.
By redirecting consumer activity towards sustainable design, a considerable amount of progress will be made.

Reference : J. Chapman / N. Gant. Designers, Visionaries + Other Stories.