Roberto Verganti Design-driven Innovation Workshop


Just before the Christmas break Aalto Arts hosted a workshop with the renowned Design Innovation Professor at Politecnico di Milano, Roberto Verganti.  The workshop looked at how ‘innovation of meaning’ is used by designers to create products that people really want, such as the Nintendo Wii or the iPhone, bringing huge commercial success.

This subject area is particularly relevant to the T2C project as Design-Driven Materials Innovation (DDMI) is at the heart of the research methodology.  Design academics from Aalto and UAL as well as materials scientists from VTT attended this workshop with the aim of feeding the ongoing discussion of how design and science can come together in the development of new materials.

A key message from the two-day event was that the real value designers can bring to the process of innovation is their ability to “understand what can be meaningful to people”; designers can change the meanings of products in line with how peoples’ lives and experiences are changing.  The role of new technology in this process is to enable a “radical innovation of meaning”; designers must know about technological capabilities in order to apply the new meanings in innovative products.  A big question from the event of particular importance to DDMI and T2C was: which comes first, the meaning or the technology?

Trash-2-Cash Workshop #02


Last week representatives from each of the partners travelled to Prato, Florence for Workshop #02 of the Trash-2-Cash project. Although the partners have met before, this was a particularly exciting moment in the project as the designers, materials scientists and manufacturers pooled their knowledge and capabilities to in an attempt to innovatively transform waste textiles into a cellulosic (CES) and a polymer (PES) fibre for the first time.

The workshop was generously hosted in style by Enrico Cozzoni (Grado Zero) and included a tour of the Textile Museum location, in Prato. The aim was to identify materials characteristics for the new fibres; for design and market insights to challenge materials R&D.

The workshop began with a materials showcase session which was energetically facilitated by Christian Tubito of Materials ConneXion Italia and supported by Becky Earley from University of the Arts London, Kirsi Niinimäki and Sari Berglund from Aalto Arts, Finland. Each partner brought with them a material sample to begin the discussion around potentialities both of the partner engagements and of the materials research. Large posters enabled the participants to begin to build a picture of the key benefits and limitations of existing CES and PES materials in knitted, woven and non-woven forms. A ‘wish list’ of fibre/material characteristics as well as potential applications were identified.

The real triumph of Workshop #02 was that we caught a glimpses of future scenarios for these new ‘super-fibres’; a picture emerged of how these new materials might ‘look’ in the context of peoples’ lives and lifestyles… the most exciting part is that this was materials- AND design- led, and couldn’t have happened without all of the expertise present at Prato.

TED on Instagram

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We have a new Instagram account – @TEDtextiles. After posting our second hand styles for TRAID’s #secondhandfirst week we are now starting to post images from our archive.  Come and follow us!


The Peoples Climate March


TED PhD researcher Bridget Harvey was at the Peoples Climate March, London, on Sunday 28th November.  She was marching as part of a Mending Bloc with TRAID and The Restart Project, carrying her Mend More Jumper.  An estimated 40,000 people joined the London march, marking the start of the climate talks in Paris.

‪The Restart Project is a London-based social enterprise that encourages and empowers people to use their electronics longer, by sharing repair and maintenance skills.  TRAID turn clothes waste into funds and resources to reduce the environmental and social impacts of our clothes, taking a circular and sustainable approach to the problems of clothes waste tackling disposal, production and consumption by increasing textile reuse and funding projects to improve working conditions in the clothing industry.

‪Last week was #secondhandfirst which Bridget began by helping facilitate a textile mending workshop at The Big Fix, organised by Hackney Fixers and The Restart Project.  On Thursday night she helped at another textile repair workshop, this time a community event at Fabrications, Broadway Market.

‪The Mend More Jumper is part of her practice based AHRC PhD project positing repair as a pathway to sustainability and resilience.



TED PhD student to present at International Conference


Emmeline Child will be presenting at the 90th Textile Institute World Conference hosted by the Institute of Natural Fibres and Medicinal Plants (INF&MP) in Poznan, Poland, in April 2016. The aim of the conference will be to establish international interdisciplinary cooperation in various fields of science, research and economy that are linked by textile technology in its broadest sense.

Emmeline will be presenting ‘An auto ethnographic review of 48 pieces from the Emmeline 4 Re collections: Defining barriers and gains leading to successful upcycling’. Using pieces from upcycled collections between 2004 and 2009, the review was carried out at product level and sought to understand and reflect on strengths and weaknesses of the collections. Working through pieces chronologically, Emmeline made observations based on material selection, design, manufacture and ease of sortation, in order to draw insights into potential successful models and methods for upcycling in the future.

This is part of Emmeline’s wider TED PhD research titled, Scaling-Up Upcycling: Designing Creative Models for Increasing the Rates of the Commercial Reuse of Post Consumer Textile Waste.


Do Better Things: Do Things Better

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16th November 2015, Fashion Foundry, WASPS Studios in Glasgow


Dr Jen Ballie and Mark Shayler were invited by Zero Waste Scotland (ZWS) and the Scottish Textile and Leather Association (STLA) to design an interactive session within an event titled ‘Do Better Things: Do Things Better’.

As designers and consumers alike, we can invest our energy, efforts and expertise into designing and doing good things. But will these actions have a true and meaningful impact within a world already proliferated with too much stuff? A recent BBC documentary titled ‘Hugh’s War on Waste’ highlighted that in the UK alone, we are disposing of seven tonnes of textile waste, every five minutes.

Within many design disciplines there has over the last few decades been a lot of discussion about dematerialised consumption patterns; about shifting the focus in design from material possessions to accessibility and services. But why are there so few examples of organised service systems within fashion or textiles?

Mark and Jen were challenged to deliver a hands-on, interactive workshop to re-imagine sustainability for textile and fashion businesses.

Mark Shayler from This is Ape drew upon his notable expertise of working with big brands to share insights into how we might go about doing more, with less, to develop sustainable brand stories. He talked about the value of truly believing in what you do and mindfully shaped the morning session to provoke new thinking.

During the afternoon, Jen expanded upon her PhD research to introduce service design as an approach for fashion and textiles. Within service design, touch points are used to craft a customer journey. The group explored what fashion and textile touch points could be and how they might be tailored to design alternative fashion experiences. The session concluded with everyone sharing a recipe card, a how-to guide for crafting a touch point, and these will be combined to curate the first chapter of an interactive toolkit.

As designers, every decision we make has a profound impact on people and the environment and we need to better understand how garments live their lives with people.

Written by Dr Jen Ballie
Image Credit: Zero Waste Scotland 2015

TED writes for the Huffington Post

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A wee while ago Kay Politowicz was asked to respond to a question for the Huff. We thought it would be nice to share the piece with you on our TED blog.

Has global warming shifted the direction of textile research and development and how are retailers and manufacturers responding?

These huge questions are complex and interesting – so I am pleased to be able to think about them for a moment before answering!

Essentially – the research falls into the categories of: broadly academic and theoretical, institutionally funded OR industry based, technical or scientific and profit driven. Nothing wrong with either – both necessary, but largely separate in their focus and in their audiences. What is needed is some connection – especially through media communication. Fashion is entirely presented as ‘desirable image’ in popular media. The agenda- what it looks like, who is wearing it, where to get it and what’s coming next – are all promoting the consumption without reference to consequences – environmental or social. It would be interesting if some air and print time were devoted to the realities of existing production and the possibilities of alternative ideas – not just to publicise models of quality, longevity, locality, new technology and authenticity – but to explore what is really happening culturally in association with this contemporary phenomenon and what alternative activities/forms of creative engagement could become attractive to consumers.

The global warning awareness has changed the priority for research in design generally – if, by that, you link to environmental, economic and social issues. I would suggest that the most enlightened and engaged research is actually proposing a change to the role of the designer – to one who can facilitate change as well as come up with new reasons to make products.

Some 15 or so years ago – when Higher Education in the UK began seriously to fund research in art and design subjects, we set up a Research Group at Chelsea College of Arts, London, called ‘Textiles Environment Design’. The ‘we’ were a group of teachers, who were also textile designers…. in both roles, we needed to educate ourselves about the suspected environmental damage of textile production – to see whether there was any way that we could ‘design out’ some of the effects of our decisions down the production chain. It became the basis of a design practice-led research approach to our work and to the curriculum.

In many ways the distance between that moment – from THEN when our concerns were entirely about material and chemical pollution in production to the suspected waste in landfill – a ‘cradle to grave’ concern – to NOW, when it is clear that the only way to consider the impact of a design decision is to trace the journey through the ‘lifecycle’ of the material into its intended life as a product, which has a ‘cradle to cradle’ perspective in a circle of continuous use. An Internet community of researchers with this commitment is now able to propose initiatives, discuss ideas and make alliances.

Published design research over the last 10 years has raised awareness of the implications of ‘lifecycle thinking’ for designers (many), educators (some) and manufacturers (a few but increasing) – with a global map of interest in the ideas, where design thinkers and social anthropolgists have had an impact on the work of textile designers. In the UK: Jonathan Chapman, John Thackera, Daniel Miller; in USA – Michael Braungart, William McDonough; in Australia: Tony Fry; in Italy Ezio Manzini and many others. When we began our group in 1996, textile research was seen as a separate activity because of its particular technical materials development focus. It is now much more influenced by social sciences and anthropology – we believe the consumer has to be considered almost part of the ‘supply chain’ as we become aware of the global warming impact of laundry and disposal of clothing.

The increasing consumption of textiles for clothing is causing the biggest textiles impact on the environment – and gathering speed. It depends on oil and gas, consumes enormous amounts of water and contributes to vast mountains of waste. Fashion is seen by many, therefore, as the damaging industry – and must be stopped! But fashion is so much more than a problem product – it represents success, variety, entertainment, identity, ingenuity – and provides a source of economic prosperity. This fact is often overlooked by evangelistic, consumption-reducers. Practice-led design research, therefore, is being done into the production of textiles and garments that take their lead from theories of sustainability. But there is a huge gap at the moment between theoretical research and manufactured production.

In our research, we have devised a ‘TEN Strategies’ checklist for designers, by breaking down the ‘wicked’ problem into smaller elements to enable the development of a personal design brief. For example, we have been working as part of a research consortium with Swedish Government funding (MISTRA) and H&M, for the last 4 years, to make Swedish fashion greener and more profitable. They have a far-sighted approach to the problem, which has the buy-in of the giant fashion retailer H&M, one of the industrial players already committed to changing their supply chain to be more sustainable. The key to the effectiveness of this consortium of research groups is the range of expertise. Designers, political scientists, social scientist, fiber technologists, retail analysts and recycling experts are collaborating to propose systemic change for Swedish fashion. One of the most important features of the research is that it mixes funding from institutions and industrial partners. It therefore enables a bridge across the theory and practice ‘knowing-doing’ gap, to propose practical and profitable change – the only kind likely to succeed.

As for research and development within the brands – the significant players are investing in technical developments to make changes in their existing production chain. The US brand of Patagonia is an inspiration to production and development worldwide – aligning integrity with desirability in their product range. The active promotion of their values has attracted admiration worldwide. From this lead many other producers are listening for the first time to the possibility of change driven by a different set of imperatives from short-term financial profit. Puma are leading with investment into biodegradable, recyclable footwear, Levi with waste-less recycled polyester and water-less production. Considerable interest in ‘closed-loop recycling’ and Co2 waterless dyeing are providing credible developments in the production chain. Huge UK players M&S and Swedish H&M are retail leads in the link to ‘responsible’ consumer awareness.

A recent development is the interest from huge industrial partners in voluntary assessment tools to evaluate the environmental effect of decisions in the supply chain. The Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC) is a trade association of brands, retailers, NGOs and academics represent more than one third of the global apparel and footwear markets. In July 2012 they launched an assessment tool, based on established evaluation tools – including the Outdoor Industry Association’s Eco Index and Nike’s Environmental Apparel Design Tool – to better measure the comprehensive environmental and social impacts of apparel and footwear products. Named the Higg Index, the tool is a transparent and open-source tool currently being examined by EU politicians for its usefulness as a basis for legislation so that companies could be required to identify opportunities to reduce impacts and improve long-term sustainability throughout their supply chain. Retailers such as Primark have recently joined the SAC, entering sustainability data into an online assessment tool to generate performance scores and benchmarks. It is, of course, focused on improvements to the existing system albeit connecting sustainable improvements with profit, which is hopeful – but it does not really address system change and it is a far cry from compliance to innovation in this field. That is just beginning to emerge via a new breed of designer-producers, who see creative opportunities in new models of production for the future, where products are combined with services and waste streams are identified as raw material for production. Currently operating at a small scale on average, the hope is that the ‘scalable’ ideas being explored will become competitive with large industrial producers especially if consumers are serious about their preference for sustainable production.

The Textile Environment Design ‘TEN’ design strategy cards, referred to earlier, is one of the first design tools for textile/fashion designers to make their sample collections become demonstration models of the change they want to see in production. The message can be either explicit or implicit in their work – and a new generation of design students is being encouraged to think of positive action in this respect, as a business strategy for their professional progress.

The change from reactive to proactive developments in production can be effected with far-sighted design change to the current system. The question remains: in the face of no credible oil/gas replacement fuel, rising populations and old fashioned acquisitive aspiration in social groups worldwide – will the changes come soon enough to be still relevant?

Kay Politowicz

Denim innovation

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Eva Tong, BA Textile Design 2015

Miriam Ribul lead a client denim innovation project with students from the BA Textile Design course at Chelsea College of Arts between July and October this year. The students were selected based on strength of their submitted proposal and were mentored throughout summer to develop innovative concepts for the future of this material.

The project started in July with an inspiration lecture covering aspects of sustainability, technology, social science, material innovation and trends. The selected finalists participating over the summer included recent graduates from 2015 and students entering the third year from the weave, knit and print specialism. The development stage of the project included three master classes with leading designers, and the selected group had unique access to the textile workshops to develop their work.

The final entries were evaluated by leading textile researchers Professor Becky Earley, senior lecturer Melanie Bowles and the client’s innovation team. The winning project and honourable mentions demonstrated innovative thinking for the future of denim and strong concepts based on key trend developments. The winners also stood out for the great quality of work and ideas that are both future-facing and commercially viable.

1st Prize:
Boram Chin – 3rd year BA Textile Design student

Honourable mentions:
Eva Tong – BA Textile Design graduate 2015
Megan Sharples – BA Textile Design graduate 2015
Jo Saich – 3rd year BA Textile Design student

One year without new clothes



Throughout 2015 Professor Becky Earley has been writing a reflective blog about her pledge not to buy any new clothes. It’s full of ideas about how to avoid consuming ‘new’ resources, and instead make the most of what we already have. The process began with developing a five bag system for sorting through wardrobes and putting old clothes into different reuse streams.

Some other key insights from the blog include:

  • Great pleasures and treasures are to be found in well sorted second hand stores and eclectic vintage shops and markets, especially in cities other than ones own, where styles and traditions may offer something unique and unexpected
  • Making days out for kids which include second hand shopping for their own clothes can be great fun, educational, and economically savvy
  • Mending and updating can keep worn items going for longer and the ‘chore’ factor of this is sometimes ameliorated if you can do it with a friend, or for a friend. If you can develop a personal mending culture based on ‘giftivism’, generosity, and co-creation, this out-of-fashion practice could find a new place in our lives
  • Creating a styling wall in the bedroom to arrange wardrobe ‘finds’ to inspire ‘new’ outfits has also been a cheap and quick way to stay feeling stylish; creating unexpected combinations of colours, patterns and accessories that are hard to anticipate when the items are on the hangers or in the drawers
  • Look, touch, but don’t buy – indulge in the visual pleasures of fashion magazine and stores, but go to get inspired, not spend. This will feed your fashion flow and help you keep creating looks in alternative ways. If you fall in love with something, then being prepared to wait months for it will reveal your true feelings and desires – helping you work out what is a wardrobe whim, or a wardrobe winner
  • Receiving gifts for birthdays, anniversaries, and Christmas never felt so good. Partners, friends and relatives now know what to get you, and receiving a brand new garment or accessory which is beautifully tagged and wrapped feels so special. The new new, as opposed to the old new, should be for special occasions


Follow Becky on the link bellow to read in full about the year of #nonewclothes2015



FastSlow MA Textiles Day II


5th November 2015

After a wonderful day of Slow talks by Kay Politowicz and Slow making workshops from Katherine May and Emmeline Child yesterday, today was all about speeding up.

We began by reflecting on yesterday’s experiences of Slow through words. A word which stood out, resonating from the first day into the second was ‘UNPICK’. Working with mono-materials and limited processing students had been cutting and fraying, weaving, sewing and binding parts from one piece of fabric to fasten, construct or embellish the original piece, resulting in some fascinating samples.

Changing speed further, we played a fast game with slow words, enjoying the abstract and overarching meaning of slow; ranging from slow moods to slow musicians. We also asked students to consider their own clothing, was it Fast or Slow, or both? Where was it made? How long had they owned it? Embedded meaning (gifting) was a prominent feature in garments owned longer than a year, and we considered that the design intention of a garment could be Fast while the owner’s attitude towards it was Slow.

Rosie’s talk in the afternoon introducted the concepts of biological and technological metabolisms, exploring material characteristics that lend themselves to Slow or Fast cycles; functional and emotional durability, authenticity and luxury, compostability and cyclability. 100% compostable sheets as soft as brushed cotton (sourced by Kay from a high street store) were passed between the students, demonstrating the potential performance of Fast textiles. This marked an important moment in the students’ awakening to the opportunity of Fast, to be explored in the afternoon workshop. Gabrielle also presented some useful resources for the students to explore.

The afternoon workshops completed the two day’s activities, and took a more focused and conventional design-project approach to Fast Textiles. Group A, (Kay) took TED’s ‘The Ten’ as inspiration, Group B (Rosie) looked at durability and cyclability as a starting point and Group C (Miriam) looked at different material types.

After familiarising themselves with eachother’s projects, each group chose one project to progress into a Fast product proposal, taking into account the different stages of the lifecycle.

There were some brilliant responses. One group’s proposal “Burn Me!” looked at the potential lifecycle of a candle holding a memento within, while another “Paper Stories” took the vast costume warehouses of London as a starting point. This concept involved pure white paper ‘blank’ costumes which could be decorated according to the production needs using light projections. The paper could then be either composted or recycled into new costume blanks or other paper products for the production. Another project considered the cyclability of wool, prompting a discussion about the potential processing possibilities as the fibres shorten through multiple cycles; felting, needle bonding, moulding, adding longer fibres… then to the question of colour!

These final discussions on Day 2 showed our collective learning and shared understanding emerging through our varied activities. The two-day event had itself been a collection of Slow and Fast elements constantly responding to understanding as it emerged and to changes in the feeling and atmosphere within the studio… the interplay between Fast & Slow is a human phenomenon as much as it is an industrial necessity in our sustainable future.

We look forward to welcoming the students back with their Fast/Slow reflective samples and stories at the next workshops in the next few weeks.