Polyester as part of a healthy materials diet!


Perhaps controversially, Team TED started February by talking about the potential of polyester for making sustainable, high-quality products.

This was an internal interim workshop for the Trash-2-Cash (T2C) project which aims to create new high-quality polyester and cellulosic fibres from waste materials. The T2C project is in its infancy and the area of focus for materials R&D is yet to be defined. There is a real opportunity to change the way we perceive, value and use polyester, as part of a varied and considered approach to materials, but first we need to identify the future potential and the most effective and appropriate applications for this most underrated of fibres.

Drawing on TED’s sustainable textiles design expertise we spent the morning thinking proposing and adding detail to six ‘visions for polyester’ that had emerged from the consortium workshop in November, in preparation for the next stage of the collaboration with materials scientists, manufacturers and designers.

Prof Becky Earley and Dr Rosie Hornbuckle asked TED researchers to write three words that relate to the future potential of polyester, the results are a set of characteristics describing a material that many would not identify as polyester:

  1. Durable / longevity / hardwearing / robust
  2. High end / performance / super-luxury
  3. Forever recyclable / circular / low impact / transformative
  4. Popular
  5. Flexible / versatile
  6. Bio / fossil
  7. Bright colours / print / surface
  8. Biomimetic
  9. Replace cotton


Did we miss anything… is this the future you see for polyester?




Arts Foundation Awards 2016 – Materials Innovation Prize

On the evening of the 28th of January a very excited crowd assembled at the Twentieth Century Theatre, London, W11, for the 2016 Arts Foundation Awards, in six artistic categories. This year, guest of honour, Sebastian Faulks, opened the envelopes to announce six deserving winners of the Awards, each receiving £10,000 – and three runners-up in each category also received £1,000. The Awards are given to support the artists, with no strings attached, to spend on anything they need to enable them continue in their creative practice.

The brilliant Materials Innovation category is supported, annually, by the Clothworkers’ Foundation. Applicants can be involved in materials innovation at any stage of the lifecycle – including the development of a new material, new processes of finishing/manufacturing or reprocessing of an existing material, recycling, logistics, retail and distribution.


The winner this year is Carmen Hijosa, whose material innovation, Piñatex, is a revolutionary new product, developed from pineapple fibre waste streams. Once she had developed the first prototypes, she continued her research in a PhD at RCA, having completed a BA and MA in Textiles at the National College of Art & Design, Dublin years before.

Spanish-born Carmen explains ‘my previous work had been in the designing and manufacturing of leather goods, which gave me an insight into the ecological damage caused by the tanning of leather’. Through time spent in the Philippines working with weaving communities and researchers she started to understand the nature of the indigenous, natural fibres they were working with. Pineapple leaf fibres are the by-product of the pineapple harvest and therefore agricultural waste. While working with these fibres Carmen realized that their strength and flexible characteristics would make the fibres very appropriate to be developed into a non-woven mesh, not unlike leather.

Adhering to a strong social and ecological agenda, Carmen developed the full supply chain for the product from farm to finished product adopting the Cradle to Cradle ® ethos. During her PhD she collaborated with several brands such as Camper and Puma who made shoe prototypes and niche companies such as Ally Capellino as well as with RCA designers making bags and furniture. The idea was to show the versatility and potential of Piñatex through the making of accessories and home furnishings.

Finding a replacement for leather is now top of the agenda for many manufacturers including those in the car and aeronautical industries. The possibility of replacing leather with a textile developed from what is, otherwise, a waste product from agriculture is the primary goal of Piñatex, alongside the social aim to bring extra income to the farming communities.

With the money from this award Carmen intends to develop a 100% natural, bio-based coating for Piñatex and will continue to research a sustainable degumming process for the pineapple fibres. Through her proven creative and organisational talents, Carmen has provided an exciting new potential contribution to textile development and putting her at the forefront of 21st Century approaches to design.

In total, the Arts Foundation Award category winners for 2016 are:

Literary TranslationDeborah Smith
Jewellery Design Vann Kwok
Producers of Live MusicLaura Ducceschi
Children’s Theatre Gregory Sinclair
Art in Urban SpaceRuth Ewan
Materials InnovationCarmen Hijosa

Art Foundation Awards make a difference! Since the inception of its annual Fellowship Scheme, almost 25 years ago, the Trust has awarded over £1,650,000, supporting artists from the fields of Performing and Visual Arts, Crafts, Literature, New Media, Film and Design. Many of the recipients have gone on to become leaders in their art form.

Kay Politowicz


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?

Do Better Things: Do Things Better

Screen Shot 2015-11-23 at 16.21.19_400ppi

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