Designing Smarter Textiles

Recently I was asked about the integration of electronics into carpets and textiles and what my ideas are to bring this inevitable merger together.

That got me thinking… Is it inevitable?

“Should we be designing smart textiles or should we be designing textiles smarter?”

Yes the Internet of things sees us all being ever more connected, phones are now wearable, your shoes can now talk to your smartphone. There will certainly be a continuation of miniaturisation, automation and personalisation that will make our digital lives seamless. But does it necessarily follow that everything will become smart?

Perhaps the true value of soft furnishings is comfort and style and a release from all things technological?

Anthropology cannot be separated from your future trend mapping. We have to plan textiles that will enrich people’s lives. Textiles need to respond to basic human needs before they can change the TV channel, and lets not forget that good health is a human need. Do we really want to plan a society that is full of lazy, gadget-dependent couch potatoes?

Textiles need to be pure, recyclable, ethically produced and beautiful. Once we master that we can soften the digital world by wrapping it in our woolly luxury.

I’m all for better homes and workplaces and better technology. Safety is a brilliant place to innovate new textiles that will monitor people and their habitats. Ultimately textiles are about comfort; from bearskins in our caves to sheepskin rugs by our curved screen TV’s.

Yes there is a trend to digitise life, but its one trend that responds to a sub-set of human needs. There are many trends that ignore digitisation. I’m not saying we shouldn’t develop smarter fabrics, I’m just saying we should always ask why.

The favourite chair in my house is in a room with no TV.  The furnishings in this space are about escape, switching off, comfort and colour.  Its a space for real human interaction.

Perhaps the smart way to design textiles is to keep them dumb?

 

Desso phillips carpet

Desso use transparent carpet which allows LED’s to shine through.

 

Measuring Goodness

We (Industry & Brands) have a habit of measuring goodness by highlighting the bad things we stopped doing.  We think we are sustainable as we are polluting less, wasting less energy, using fairer labour.   We are planning to do less bad and have a net zero effect on the planet.

This “less bad” attitude is just not good enough.   The true measure of sustainability has to be about what positive impact our value chains have on the people our products touch in their creation and their use and their re-use.

We use only renewable energy is a step, but if it meant putting C02 into the atmosphere for the 1000 tonne concrete base of a wind turbine then it is really just less bad than burning fossil fuel.  Planning to need less energy is better than finding slightly cleaner energy.   It can take 30 years for a wind turbine to become carbon neutral!

What kind of earth do we want our grandchildren to inherit? I vote for a clean one with 9 billion happy people.

We get to Utopia by imagining the ideal planet and by building smarter value chains.   We measure sustainability by what we do to reach Utopia, not by measuring the stupid activity we reduced.

We remember the athlete that wins the race, not the guy that went from last position to somewhere in the middle.   We can celebrate success when the rivers are clean and the people are fed, we should not celebrate that we still have landfill, just not as many as we might have done..

earth from apollo 8

Finite Earth from apollo 8

Future Materials.

Remember Crumbwool?

Crumbwool is a carpet underlay which is the result of a partnership between Wools of New Zealand and Anglo Recycling.   It’s made from 100% recycled content,  Wool carpet off-cuts and discarded car tyres.   The proceeds go towards the Woodland Trust.

Its a nice story that underpins the integrity of the world’s most sustainable wool (Laneve)

Actually that’s a bit modest,  Creating Crumbwool meant developing a dedicated machine and some quite remarkable logistics and industry arm twisting.  Anglo Recycling worked a minor miracle to make this possible.

We built the Crumbwool story for the right reasons.  We did not do this for fame, we did it for integrity and to build value.

Now Crumbwool has been listed by Future Materials magazine in its top 100 innovations!

So we are getting noticed, for the right reasons.  The website is www.crumbwool.com

crumbwool creation

Crumbwool is created

The Case for Sustainability.

The business case for sustainability has been won, but somebody forgot to tell the generals and the troops.

Sustainability is not just about being green,  it is the difference between success and failure.

There are people with their eyes and ears open and their mouths shut. People who stopped trying to be alpha male and who started listening.  These people have figured out where the market is going.   The market, all markets are driven by consumer sentiment and by legislation.

The trend for ethics, responsibility, trust and perceived value is one way. It is only getting stronger and we are never going back to rubbish products made who knows where using who knows what by who knows who.

If you cannot see the future, if predicting trend and shaping the future is a mystery to you, then well, you stumbled into the wrong blog.

In the future we only buy from brands we trust, manufacturers compete on quality, ethics, transparency and price. Price is driven through efficiency not through cutting corners.

The race to the bottom that killed western textile mills is in the past. In the future we are not just clever, we are wise.   The mills are coming back, but they will never be the same, they will be awesome, efficient, quality organisations with highly motivated and educated teams.

 The future is now. Tell your boss, your CEO and your Chairman, your customer is already there.

New Zealand wool factory

Wool growing in New Zealand

 

Wool Reputable

“Integrity trust and transparency are the core values that create long lasting partnerships.” That’s part of a tweet paying tribute to our very valuable relationship we have with the Society of British International Design or SBID.

It was a reply to a quote by Prince William “One thing that I think we all value about New Zealand is the integrity of its institutions”

You cannot under-value integrity, and it is getting more valuable. The interior designers that we are working with are curious about where things come from and who made them. The story of the product is almost as important as form and function.

Trust comes from acting with integrity, consistently over time.   Once word gets out you have a reputation and that leads to new business opportunities.

Earn your reputation by being reputable; build a product with a real story.

Einstein and Spherical Sheep in a Vacuum

Today is Albert Einstein’s birthday, and weirdly there is no Goggle Doodle celebrating the great man?

Albert Einstein

Albert Eintein

With no Einstein we would not understand the curvature of space and time, we would not know how to bend light and we could not colour wool to be purple using surface Plasmon Resonance, What a dull place the world would be.

Its 135 years since Albert Einstein was born,  at that time the light bulb, which has become a symbol for new ideas, was about to be demonstrated.  Science was about to take us from the industrial revolution into an incredible period of human enlightenment.

Science can now do anything with wool.  Providing we use a spherical sheep inside a vacuum. (Science joke there)

We are however at the start of the next great period in human history when we take the enormous accomplishments made by science and use that knowledge to create a world that is a better place for all of its inhabitants.

The next revolution is about finding ways to deliver luxury without burning through the world’s resources.  We are exploring how we can use science to turn the clock back to 1879 before the world became dependent on oil and to re-invent technologies using rapidly renewable materials, like wool.

Integrity and happy sheep

Happy SheepNew Zealand has a reputation for producing clean white soft lovely wool.  Recently via Facebook someone asked “Yeah that’s all OK but how do you treat the sheep?”

I think this was a fair question, although it did get some social media responses as it was read as a little insightful by some.

The short answer of course is “Really well” Our farmers want their animals to be healthy and happy.  They sign up to a wool growing integrity programme with important rules on the environment, social responsibility and Animal Welfare.

Our animal health and welfare manual has firm objectives to ensure that our wooly friends are provided with five basic freedoms.

1. Proper and sufficient food and water.

2. Adequate shelter.

3. The opportunity to display normal patterns of behavior.

4. Physical handling in a way, which minimizes pain or distress to the animal.

5. Protection from and rapid response to any significant injury or disease.

Our wool growers are very aware that if carpet buying people have uninformed views on animal treatment it can put them off purchasing animal fibres.

The growers’ practices are externally verified through an audit process, which they gladly do in order to qualify for our Integrity programme.

Farmers tend to be animal lovers, they don’t want to see any animal suffer and they know that healthy happy sheep grow better wool.

Happy Sheep in New Zealand

Happy Sheep