Sticky and Stranded in Copenhagen: Reporting from Trash-2-Cash WS05

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Copenhagen was strangely sultry for mid-September.  Each morning as we walked/metro-ed/uber-ed our way to Copenhagen Business School the sun was warm and uplifting.  But then as the day progressed it became uncomfortably sticky until the cool relief of the late summer evenings. This unseasonal weather seemed to set the tone for the meeting.

 

We greeted each other with the broad smiles and genuine embraces which only come with the familiarity of a year’s worth of working together.  Although there was an anticipation about the difficult questions we had to answer over the two-day workshop, the atmosphere was warm and optimistic (something that the Skype calls has rarely managed to achieve).

 

In the morning we proceeded with the planned talks and activities, sharing knowledge about T2C materials on a tour of R&D islands.  In the heat of the afternoon, we started to explore our design islands.  Navigating from materials R&D to new design concepts was tricky at first, it took a while for people to adjust to the unfamiliarity of design applications – the journey could have been smoother.  At the end of Day 1 it wasn’t clear if we had achieved everything we had intended; had the two areas of materials knowledge from science and design cross-pollinated or simply passed each other by?  And some difficult questions about project direction remained unresolved.

 

By contrast Day 2 was a dramatic voyage.  We started by raising again the project direction issues in an open discussion.  There was an uncomfortable uncertainty as partners discussed their contribution to solving the problems.  Through some brilliant tools and mediation from our lead facilitator from Material Connexion and the generous collaboration of all of the partners, gradually the indecision turned into commitments and the sticky discomfort changed to excited optimism.

 

As we fed back the previous day’s Design and R&D Island work to the whole group, we began to see the project pulling together in a synchronicity that hadn’t been possible before.  The project materials lined up with the manufacturing capabilities and we began to see the types of products they could become.

 

The joy after a truly intense, sticky and rocky 2 Day journey was palpable: “This was the best workshop yet”.  Even if at times it felt like we might at any moment become stranded, the hard work of working together paid off.

 

My big takeaway from Copenhagen: “we need uncomfortable moments to progress”

 

And the result?  By workshop 06 in London we will have our first design concepts and our first Trash-2-Cash material samples.

‘Making… together’ by Dr Rosie Hornbuckle

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My background is product and industrial design with an interest in social innovation, so when I started working at TED on the Trash2Cash project last November, I wanted to explore how my world fits into Textile Design and the interests of TED researchers.

 

What I discovered were the many overlaps in methods and models between the two disciplines, but also the spaces in between.  In terms of making and materials there is still a difference in materials understanding; product design students are taught hard materials, fashion and textiles students are taught soft materials.  This is starting to change, for example in the ‘stitch’ option on the BA Textile Design course at Chelsea, students are putting all sorts of hard and soft materials together, and the MA Material Futures course at CSM continues to push at those traditional boundaries.

 

This intersection between hard and soft materials (and disciplines) appeared to me to be a bridge I could cross from my existing knowledge into the new (to me) world of Textiles.  At the same time, I was exploring experimental research methods that could be useful in TEDs current and future work.

 

Enter Vicky Cable, a forward-thinking upholsterer and an extraordinary person (more on that later!) who wanted to explore more sustainable methods in her work.  The ‘collaborative chairs’ idea was first suggested by Becky Earley whilst exploring ideas for the Circular Transitions conference exhibition, the seed was sewn, and so the ‘making…together’ project began.

 

The act of re-upholstery is in itself a good solution to the aging of a piece of furniture, repairing and updating the aesthetic.  Yet, as Vicky and I explored in our first meeting, it also exposes many unsustainable and worrying trends in the furniture industry, such as speed, cost and the use of inappropriate materials – all of which are currently being explored by TED researchers in relation to Textiles. In furniture, the contrast between the speeds of the materials is heightened, because hard materials are more durable and soft materials (padding as well as the fabric) degrade and wear relatively quickly.  The process of re-upholstery exposes this tension brilliantly and therefore offers a unique opportunity to understand not only how the materials used in re-upholstery could be reconsidered but also how the design and manufacture of upholstered furniture could be improved at the outset.

 

For me, sustainability is never just about materials, but also about people, so this project will also consider that angle, in terms of the designer’s activism and approach and the accessibility of more sustainable products and solutions.

T2C Weather Report: Preparations for Workshop 04 in Milan

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Workshop 04 (WS04) is almost upon us and Milan in May promises to be everything that Helsinki in March (WS03) was not: warm with a strong technical front moving in from the east.

 

In Helsinki we were treated to a plethora of design approaches to collaboratively add colour and context to our visions for the Trash-2-Cash (T2C) fibres.  We also saw, bubbling up on the horizon, a desire for the science and technology results and challenges to be more openly discussed, shared and addressed.  WS04 will therefore allow the technical partners the time and space necessary to get into the nitty gritty of issues like garment sourcing, fibre elongation and pretreatments… and for the designers this will be an opportunity to find out how ‘garment sourcing, fibre elongation and pretreatments’ actually affect the senso-aesthetic and performance potentials of the new T2C fibres.

 

I shudder at the thought of describing Design as the ‘weakening front’ in this weather analogy but a partial withdrawal is a necessary part of a balanced system, allowing the atmosphere to evolve before pushing back to challenge the technical direction.  In this way the role of Design in Milan will be to support the technical exchange and, perhaps for the first time, scientific and technological challenges can benefit from designerly approaches to problem solving.  The methodology team have designed activities to enable communication within disciplinary groups as well as between partners.  We will take workshop tools to help facilitate discussion, interpret ideas between disciplines, and identify the opportunities in seemingly impossible challenges.

 

WS04 is also a milestone in the T2C project as we bring together official internal insight reports (‘deliverables’ in EU speak) from four different disciplinary areas: marketing; science & technology; design and materials.  This ‘coming together’ of the different areas of project knowledge in a documentary form marks an important stage in the collaboration, taking it out of the messy brainstorm discursion of the workshop into something more considered and tangible.  Together these reports will help each person sitting in their own (disciplinary and geographical) climate to build a more complete picture of the kinds of fibres we plan to develop.  Not all of it will make sense to everyone.  And that’s the other agenda for WS04; to make it make sense, to elucidate the picture that has begun to be pieced together individually and make it vivid in collaboration; a forecast map taking into account all of the different perspectives.

 

When we return on May 27th, back in our own offices, studios and labs, we will all have a clearer picture of the design and technical ‘outlook’ for T2C fibres, and be able to begin work on developing new prototypes in earnest.

Join in and listen to H&M’s Circular Lab Livestream Debate

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April 14th, 10.00am – approx. 12.00

 

TED’s researchers Becky Earley and Kate Goldsworthy will be part of the H&M Circular Lab event this week in London. Reader of Circular Design Dr. Kate Goldsworthy will lead a break out session on A holistic approach to circularity and the need for circular design during H&M’s Circular Lab Livestream Debate this week.

 

The event will discuss the transition from a linear to a circular business model, which is one of the key challenges for the fashion industry. H&M will be sharing some of their experiences so far and release first new ambitions. H&M started their journey a few years ago with setting up a worldwide garment collecting system. Since then, they launched the first collection made of recycled material created from such collected clothes. However, much more innovation will be needed to create full circularity. H&M has invited inspiring and industry leading key note speakers and an insightful panel to discuss the next steps towards a circular future, not only for H&M but the entire fashion industry.

 

Join the debate on the 14th April at 10am via the H&M 100% Circular Lab livestream link, and bring your questions into the panel debate via twitter #HMlab

 

Key note speakers:

  • Karl-Johan Persson, CEO, H&M
  • Anna Gedda, Head of Sustainability, H&M
  • Ellen MacArthur, World record sailor and founder of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation

 

Panel:

  • Ellen MacArthur, World record sailor and founder of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation
  • Akshay Sethi, Inventor of the “Polyester Digester”, Ambercycle
  • Michael Arnör, Co-Founder and CEO of Sellpy
  • Anna Gedda, Head of Sustainability at H&M

A day in the life of the Trash-2-Cash suitcase: reflections on WS03 Helsinki

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Most suitcases are destined for a life of seclusion, at the back of wardrobes, on luggage stands in hotel rooms, in the bellies of buses and planes… the conveyer in baggage reclaim must be liberating by comparison.

But not our suitcase; he has a very special vocation.

Last Wednesday he set out with an important cargo, a suite of T2C things carefully curated to build our sense of community, bring us closer together through our common behaviours, understandings and appreciations, and support us as we continue to create a common language, communicating both with each other and our wider audiences.

Collectively I guess you would call these things ‘design tools’.

These were not the only ‘tools’ making a journey to Helsinki that day.  In a brilliantly orchestrated schedule we were treated to 15 tools and methods from six partners, all with a specific purpose in helping us to revise future scenarios for T2C fibres and give direction to the fibre development.  Some were established methods and some experimental but many were unfamiliar to the majority and all were new for materials R&D.  Many of these tools were brought by design partners, but there were also some prepared by scientists.

The effect was manifold, enabling social cohesion within the group, confidence building, co-learning, aiding communication and trust, furthering individual and collective understanding of the project and tasks, presenting and co-creating knowledge for specific project outcomes.

Moreover, we were able to locate our regenerated fibres within the future worlds they might inhabit, connect our materials development to real and emerging issues and begin to share our hopes for how our fibres could positively influence people rather than just replacing ‘bad’ materials with better ones.  From all of these different angles we viewed the potential for our work.  Our discussions progressed collectively (and not without debate) and by the end of day 2 we were able to come to more of a consensus on the direction for fibre development than we could have imagined or hoped for three months ago.

There was a great deal of positive feedback on this process from all participants, but there was also a desire (among designers and scientists) to discuss in more detail the very real technical challenges, and to have the opportunity to share early results.  Design is after all sabotaging a very familiar – and in many ways successful – materials R&D process which has a much clearer route from action to results.  We are all learning.

The spirit with which the T2C materials researchers have embraced these new methods has been inspiring and as we near the end of the messy ideation phase of the project the technical partners can perhaps look forward to more familiar processes in the near future.  Will this mean that the role of our designers will change within the workshop setting?  How will design methods and tools enhance or disrupt this most logical and linear of processes?

And what of the Trash-2-Cash case?  He is back at UAL awaiting WS04; but in April he is off to Barcelona to be part of an industry innovation event. In May he will be restocked with useful tools and resources and accompany us to Milan… where else but in Material ConneXion Italia HQ.

 

Defining fibre concepts: preparations for Workshop 03 (WS03) in Helsinki

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Workshop planning is an adaptive learning process, both in the period between workshops where the methodology team can apply lessons learnt from the previous workshop, and within the workshop itself; the design must be flexible and able to respond to the situation as it unfolds.

The previous workshop in Prato, Florence (WS02, Nov 2015) launched several key work packages, so the intervening three months have been an intense period of research activity across the design, science, manufacturing and marketing disciplines.  Partners have been working hard both independently and in smaller groups to discuss specific tasks.

All of that work will come together in Helsinki with key presentations and interactive knowledge sharing from design, science and marketing partners.  This injection of new knowledge will help the consortium in their next important task of defining ‘primary scenarios’ for the new cellulose and polyester fibres, new fibre concepts, from which the design team can create design briefs and the materials scientists can focus their fibre research.

The methodology team comprising Material ConneXion, University of the Arts London (UAL), Aalto Arts and SP, have been working hard on the plans for this workshop to ensure that all of the knowledge presented can feed into the definition of fibre scenarios, and that all partners’ perspectives are well represented throughout the workshop… and of course it must be an engaging and inspirational experience where partners can strengthen their connections within the collaboration and share ideas.  In short these workshops are crucial for the success of the collaboration.

The methodological approach is to design workshop tools (for example in Helsinki a communal sample case and workshop pack will be introduced with the beginnings of a project glossary) and tailored activities (such as a postcard Q&A, and a materials science tabletop session in this instance) and then observe and analyse the effectiveness and success of those interventions.

What is becoming really interesting, is how each partner is bringing new methods and approaches to presenting and creating new knowledge, from which others are also able to learn.  The methodology team’s role then becomes that of a conductor, creating the framework within which each brilliant solo performance can contribute to the ensemble; the meta-project.

Trash-2-Cash Workshop #02

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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.

Trash-2-Cash: Utilising zero-value waste textiles and fibres with design-driven technologies to create high quality products


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TED have been busy over the summer kicking off Trash-2-Cash, our new EU funded research project. Professor Rebecca Earley and Dr Kate Goldsworthy are collaborating with eighteen partners from nine European countries, and together they aim to design high-quality products from zero-value waste textiles and fibres via design driven technologies. In other words, turn textile and paper waste into desirable luxury products.

Designing for cyclability is the TED ethos, manifested in the belief that design-driven innovation can support better waste utilisation and contribute to reduction of landfill area needs. There are growing problems with paper fibre waste from the paper industry and textile fibre waste, originating from continuously increasing textile consumption. Trash-2-Cash recognises the critical need to address this problem head-on by working with a unique multidisciplinary team of designers, scientists, researchers, manufacturers and SMEs (small/medium enterprises).

Designers will drive this recycling initiative, defining the material properties and working with a range of scientists to develop eco-efficient cotton fibre regeneration and polyester recycling techniques.

This is a three-year initiative that aims to lead the future of design for recycled materials and significantly contribute to the overall vision of closing the material loop.

Follow the Trash-2-Cash developments on our Facebook page, Twitter, Instagram, and our website is coming soon!

Written by Gabrielle Miller