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.

 

Making Circular Transitions by Professor Becky Earley

Being interviewed at the Awards ceremony wearing my 2012 Margiela for H&M dress with a beautiful beaded handmade butterfly necklace borrowed from Clara Francis Jewellery
Being interviewed at the Awards ceremony wearing my 2012 Margiela for H&M dress with a beautiful beaded handmade butterfly necklace borrowed from Clara Francis Jewellery

2016 began with a quiet January at home, thinking about fashion textiles and circles, cycles, loops and spirals. It’s all happening with the circular economy right now – and whilst this has been building for an awfully long time, it finally feels as if some real changes are about to take place. It also feels like a lot of different projects are finally coming together…

 

Towards Global Change

Since last summer I have been on the judging panel for the H&M Conscious Foundation Global Change Awards. Just before I went to India I submitted my final selection of five winners, and was so pleased to see that when I got back 4 out of the 5 right had made it into the final line up! The winners spanned new fibres – made from paper, textile and citrus fruit waste, as well as algae – and microbes that eat polyester enabling new yarn to be created. There was also a concept for an online platform that connected textile waste from industry to potential users. (This was my favourite – it’s too easy to forget that we need more systems designed to aid the flow of existing resources, as well as the invention of new materials).

The award ceremony was a two-day extravaganza in Stockholm, with event at KTH and the Town Hall. The stair case that the winners came down is the one that the Nobel Prize winners come down. They were a great group of entrepreneurs – it was so exciting to see their ideas get this attention and support.

The keynote speaker for the award ceremony was David Roberts, from Singularity University (also a decorated Special Agent). I have great reservations about the massive investment in technology that goes across around the world, when problems seem to be so much about people, politics and broken systems. But his talk was really enlightening – I was thrilled to hear about exponential growth and technologies coming online, especially the projections he showed around solar power. (He succinctly explained the dip we experience early on with new technologies, where after an initial excitement we begin to doubt them). He brings the talk to a conclusion by showing us two animal films from You Tube, which echo his points about human nature. By joining together in collective action we are strong enough to remove danger from our community. (Oh, and, cat’s are mean…) I am not how well he relates exponential growth and the power of the bystander – it seems to hang in the air at the end. But watch the talk here and decide for yourself.

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The judging panel in conversation on stage at Stockholm City Hall, from left: Ellis Rubenstein, CEO of New York Academy of Sciences; Amber Valetta, entrepreneur and activist; Professor Michael Braungart, co-author of Cradle-to-Cradle; Professor Johan Rockstrom, Stockholm Resilience Centre; and me…

Meeting the other judges and Jo Confino (ex Guardian now Huffington Post) was super interesting. I enjoyed the company and conversation of Ellis Rubenstein from NYAS very much. Also Michael Braungart (C2C) and Friederike von Wedel-Parlow (ESMOD), and the great dinner chat whilst seated next to Karl-Johan Persson. I nipped out between the seven vegetarian courses to record this little podcast… with Natalia. (I come in after 23 minutes.)

Can’t finish this report without highlighting the overall winners – by public vote – our Trash 2 Cash collaborators, VTT! Congratulations to them for putting their ideas out there to multiple funders and really pushing their material innovations.

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Watch the winners interviews here

 

Fast Talking, Hybrid Style

Before all the excitement with the awards kicked off I gave a short 8-minute pitch at Mode Hybrid, Hybrid Talks. Hosted by Mistra Future Fashion, Misum, and Stockholm School of Economics, these micro talks focus on the collaborative potential of ‘science fiction, to science fact to science fabulous‘! (To quote the dynamic founder of Hybrid, Annika Shelley!)

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Hybrid Talking with Martin Johnson (left), Eduardo Escobedo, Susy Paisley and Annika Shelley

As Hybrid drinks came to an end I did this TV interview. Fashionomics 2 was a conversation around sustainability hosted by Ulf Skarin, Creative Director at the Veckans Affärer and Elin Frendberg, CEO of the Swedish Fashion Council with Eduardo Escobedo, Founder of the RESP – an organisation that brings together luxury brands and sustainability, and Annika Shelly, Founder of Hybrid Talks.

 

Stockholm Shirts: Making Change

When not TALKING, I am happy to be quietly thinking, making and writing. Whilst I love to talk (I think you realise that after the above!) the pleasure of silently making is essential to thinking clearly. Without making things, and writing ideas down, the whole process just isn’t complete. Whilst I used to rely on making alone to research ideas, I am now fully signed up to the rich experience of being an academic who uses many forms of exploration. It’s not just making, writing and presenting/talking. It’s also exhibition curation and film/animation script writing. When these approaches all work together, I find myself more able to deal with the complexity of sustainability, and hold on to the pleasure of creativity, whilst also finding ways to build communities and audiences.

For this Stockholm trip, I took a day to work into some second hand H&M shirts I had collected from Sweden. I used an old lace dress I found in Anxi Clothing Market in Shanghai in 2013, to create a heat photogram image on the polyester shirts. The mix of Chinese clothing and H&M product enabled me to think more about the disconnect between fashion textile designers and consumers and the industrial manufacturing processes inherent in speedy clothing lines. I am not unaware of H&M production being amongst the fastest in the world – I have questioned them about this myself. They believe in working in emerging economies to contribute to growth there with their business, and to do that in the best ways possible. They argue if they weren’t producing there, things would be much worse for the local economies and lifestyles.

The Stockholm Shirts are about continuing to think about how big business can use textile design approaches to create sustainable social innovation production models.

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Making the print template for the Stockholm Shirts from a Chinese lace dress found in Shanghai

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Stockholm Shirts, February 2016

 

Circular Transitions Conference

Finally, for this first post of 2016, I want to flag up our our Mistra Future Fashion Circular Transitions conference in November 2016, at Tate Britain. It has been years in the planning, so we are excited to have the chance to get the world’s design researchers together for two days to fully explore fashion textile design and the emerging circular economy. Abstracts are due in to us by 25th March 2016, so get your ideas together and come and join us for what promises to be a really valuable experience for a wide range of stakeholders – you, the trustees of the future of design and circular fashion textiles…

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www.circulartransitions.org

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.

Polyester as part of a healthy materials diet!

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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?

 

 

 

Circular Transitions Conference 23th-24th of November 2016

 

Circular Transitions Conference

We are excited to announce that TED is currently organising a Mistra Future Fashion Conference on textile design and the circular economy this autumn. The event is being hosted by Dr Kate Goldsworthy and Professor Rebecca Earley at University of the Arts London. The conference is part of a research project for the Mistra Future Fashion consortium – a cross-disciplinary program with the vision of closing the loop in fashion and creating systemic change in Swedish industry and culture.

The aim of the conference is to create the vision of designing for a circular future where materials are designed, produced, used and disposed of in radical new ways. Circular Transitions will be the first global event to bring together academic and industry research concerned with designing fashion textiles for the circular economy. The themes will explore the design of new materials for fashion with approaches ranging from emerging technology and social innovation to systems design and tools.

 

The call for abstracts is now live, and will remain open until 25 March 2016. The call themes are:

 

Materials
Design which responds to technology, science, material developments.

  1. Challenges and benefits of new modes of production
  2. Opportunities for cleaner processes in the textile materials value chain
  3. Innovation in textile recycling technology
  4. Potential for digital tools and processes to enable a circular economy
  5. Tracking and tracing solutions in a complex material recovery industry


Models
Design for systems, services, models, business, networks and communities.

  1. New modes of consumption; disruptive business models
  2. Speed of product and material cycles; appropriate design
  3. Design of products for the technical and/or biological cycle
  4. Projects that explore successful industry / academic collaboration and also tensions between our traditional modes of competition and collaboration
  5. Design creating more social equity within the circular supply chain


Mindsets
Design of behaviours; tools, frameworks and experiences to enable and support collaboration, mindset change and improve decision making.

  1. Physical tools for facilitating collaboration across disciplines
  2. Pioneering and enabling the changing role of the designer in a circular economy
  3. Tools for designers to support the mindset and behaviour change of consumers
  4. Design approaches towards well being that develop circular cultures
  5. Opportunities for designers to bridge understanding of scientific tools (such as LCA)

Visit the event website for more information.

Design Thinking for Materials Postdoctoral Research Assistant, Trash-2-Cash

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We are excited to announce that University of the Arts is advertising for a second full-time, postdoctoral research assistant to undertake collaborative research in the field of design thinking and facilitation. The researcher will join the team for the EU-funded Horizon 2020 innovation project ‘Trash-2-Cash: Utilising zero-value waste textiles and fibres with design-driven technologies to create high quality products’. The project aims to solve the growing problems with paper fibre waste that originates from the continuously increasing textile consumption through design-driven innovation. This will be performed by using the waste to regenerate fibres that will be included into fashion, interior and other high-value products.

The successful candidate will have a doctoral qualification in a relevant field, such as design thinking (preferable with experience in materials), product design, co-design or sustainability as well as an established and active research profile and a proven record of published research in the relevant field.

Visit the official UAL website for more information.

Roberto Verganti Design-driven Innovation Workshop

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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

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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.

Welcome our new TED team members!

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9th November 2015

TED would like take this opportunity to introduce three new members to the team; Rosie Hornbuckle, Alison Taylor, and Gabrielle Miller.

Rosie has joined TED to work as a Post-Doctoral Researcher on the TED Trash-2-Cash project. She brings to the team expertise in open, collaborative information exchange between partners from different industries and knowledge areas. Much of her early career was spent at Kingston University where she undertook a PhD, and worked at Rematerialise on a collection of sustainable materials. Her role as researcher and educator focuses on the interesting place where design, materials and sustainability overlap.

Alison Taylor is the Communications Officer for the Trash-2-Cash project. Alison currently works as both an interdisciplinary designer and communications specialist. She has a chemistry degree and recently graduated from the MA Material Futures course at Central Saint Martins in 2015 with a speculative project exploring sustainable alternatives for jewellery design in a post-mining world. (image)

Gabrielle Miller is a Research Assistant at TED (maternity cover). Gabrielle is a textile designer and researcher, and has been working as a Research Assistant on numerous projects over the past couple of years; FIRE, based at the London College of Fashion, UAL, and a research and design-led project that interrogated intelligent material solutions for future ways of living, at Northumbria University. She has a background of working in textile, print and embroidery design for companies such as Alexander McQueen, Jonathan Saunders, Burberry, and Givenchy.

They are all excited to be joining the TED team!