Just a Drop

Wool makes beautiful fabrics.

In fact really good wool, with smart design can create stunningly attractive materials that perform brilliantly, as evidenced by Synergy, Camira Fabrics latest range of upholstery fabric.

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The Synergy range is made up of 75 shades, each constructed with a high content of pure New Zealand wool.  Some in combinations of subtle mélanges, others in piece dyes solids.

Textile manufacturing does use a lot of water for cleaning wool and colouring fabrics but luckily Wools of New Zealand and Camira Fabrics both have the luxury of being in parts of the world where water is in plentiful supply.

New Zealand wool factory

Wool growing in New Zealand

We know that not all parts of the world are so fortunate with an estimated 750 million people without safe water.   Camira has invited Wools of New Zealand to donate to international water aid charity Just a Drop, for every metre of fabric sold.

For a start, together and with the help of others in the Synergy supply chain we will build a water tank at Ikalaasa Primary School in Kenya to provide clean water to 460 pupils.

All the details about Synergy are here.

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Pupils at Ikalaasa primary school in Kenya

Synergy just feels nice doesn’t it!

Second Life SolidWool

SolidWool are a brilliant young company making beautiful items from Herdwick wool.   Hannah and Justin Floyd do an amazing job of designing, manufacturing and marketing their products made in England from British Wool.  Recently we have been working with SolidWool to help find a second life for wool carpets… Full story below.

The SolidWool story is at SolidWool

 

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SolidWool table and chair made from recycled wool carpet.

400,000,000kg of carpet fibre is disposed of each year in the UK! Carpet recycling UK have done a great job of diverting almost 1/3 of this into recycled products like Crumbwool carpet underfelt. But we still have a long way to go and we are not even touching post consumer wool carpets.

Recycling is good, but up-cycling is better. By creating added value, sought after products from rescued wool fibre we hope to inspire more investment in up-cycling.

We asked SolidWool to help us on our recycling challenge and they made us these amazing chairs and a coffe table from post-industrial rescued carpet fibre, seen here on the Wools of New Zealand stand at Domotex.

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Thanks to Carpet Recycling UK, Anglo Recycling and SolidWool for helping us ensure wool fibre has a second life.

more detail on this story on the Great Recovery website.

 

Forensic Integrity

It is the start of 2016 so I predict ever increasing scrutiny of supply chains to ensure that social and environmental values are not compromised in the supply of products and services to consumers, wherever they are and wherever stuff originates.

Starting with the luxury brands, as always, there is a growing demand for complete transparency. We are going to see more labels asking for trust and we are going to see more activist shooting down the tall poppies.

Several years ago we started Laneve, working with a few trusted partners to provide wool carpets and textiles from managed and transparent value chains. At the time we thought transparency was key, but really transparency is just a tool that proves integrity.

As we move beyond a few partners wanting to build trusted brands to a world that must have trust, thanks Volkswagen for making this point loud and clear, we now need to move beyond paper trails and use science to back up claims on origin, provenance and therfor integrity.

Wools of New Zealand have partnered with Oritain to scientifically verify that the products made from our wool have not been tampered with or dumbed down.

This video says it best..

Oritain with Wools of NZ – Fine Cut (1) from Mathew Bartlerr on Vimeo.

Travel New Zealand - Sheep Farm

Flock of sheep, New Zealand.

The Perils of Fast Fashion in Interiors

Interior fashion cycles are getting faster with the gap between the catwalk and interiors stores getting shorter all the time.  Associating interiors brands with celebrity and high fashion can be good if this lifts the perceived value of an item, which is then treasured for its aesthetic and its quality.  The manufacture of heirloom pieces is great for building long-term robust and sustainable value chains.  When true craftsmanship is rewarded and quality materials are sought after then the people that grow fibre, sew garments and weave carpets and fabrics all can share the rewards.

It all falls apart however if we follow the fast fashion business model. If textile mills and retail outlets focus on fast turn-around of low quality items from non-sustainable value chains we end up creating waste, using more energy than is required and supporting the throw-away society.

It is better to create beautiful textiles from sustainable materials and to build them well so they last a long time, rather than to manufacture oil based products with the promise to recycle them one day.

The fast fashion culture encourages corners to be cut and lives to be endangered, think Rana Plaza.   This is not just an apparel issue.  There are carpet schemes that guarantee no child labour, but do not take care of the children that are banished from the rug mills.  Those children sometimes move to more dangerous factories.  No we don’t want six year olds making our carpets, we want them in schools paid for by the sale of carpets.

There are rug retailers that push so hard on price that the weavers are forced to use extremely low quality materials and pay very poor wages.  Eliminating unnecessary waste and reproduction is the best thing we can do for the planet and for the people that live here.  Buying something cheap with the aim of throwing it away is the worst legacy we can leave behind.

Children removed from rug factories are often just moved on to other industries.

Children removed from rug factories are often just moved on to other industries.

The Dark Age of Carpet Design

Dark Age of Design

260 Years of Machine Made Carpets

Two hundred and sixty years on from the invention of machine made carpets the carpet industry has largely forgotten how to construct textile floor coverings from renewable materials.

For 192 years machine made carpets were made from wool. These carpets were made to last for decades, and they did.

In the middle of last century nylon was invented which meant that cheaper carpets could be created that used lower quality materials. In the worst examples carpets lost their ability to biodegrade, to absorb moisture and create healthy breathing zones and even became flammable.

Several generations of carpet designers and carpet sellers have been operating under the belief that wool carpets are improved by substituting 20% of the pile content with synthetic fibre. This is not correct, we have entered the Dark Age, and the wisdom of the past has almost been lost.

Nylon is added to wool carpet to meet a price point. The addition of cheap oil-based fibre allows yarn strength to be maintained with lower quality, cheaper fibre.   The nylon adds no benefit to the product, it only increases the visual appearance of wear as nylon is shiny and wool is dull.

A carpet correctly made from 100% good quality wool is going to keep looking good for years and years.  A carpet that is a blend of materials is not a smart or responsible thing to design, sell or buy.

The challenge for carpet designers is to think about the user experience, and the full life cycle of the products they bring to life. Carrying on with poor information is lazy design.

Good design considers form and function. The experience of a product should not just be about price point and a quick sale but it should consider the total experience a consumer will have.

 The ultimate carpet would be:

Visually attractive.

Constructed from rapidly renewable resources.

Be either fully biological or fully mechanical (either 100% natural or 100% synthetic)

Enhance the habitat of people in the home and office by filtering noise and pollution, insulating against heat, absorbing volatile chemicals, trapping dust from the breathing zone and reducing the rick of fire.

Long lasting in looks and performance.

Have a pre-determined plan for the end of its life as a carpet.

Consider both the environmental and social benefits of its supply chain

The world keeps pumping out 80/20 carpets under the impression that this is the best way to make a carpet and that is simply not true. 80/20 is better than plastic carpet and it still going to perform well and look good. But it is not as good as a 100% wool carpet and it is certainly ignoring the fact that nylon requires oil to manufacture and it takes 40 times longer to biodegrade than wool.

We should not keep making lazy design choices based on the fact that its always been done that way, especially as for more almost 200 years of the 260 years of machine made carpets it wasn’t done that way.

Below is a 100% natural carpet the way it is supposed to be done.

100% Natural Carpet

A 100% Natural Carpet in Buckingham Palace.

I used to be a…

This pencil used to be a CD case.

This pencil used to be a CD case

Pencil from the Royal Society of Arts “This pencil is made from UK recycled CD cases”

The pencil is a brilliant piece of marketing. It allows the Royal Society of Arts (from whom I stole it) to gently remind its visitors about the need to be responsible in designing products.

There is no hard sell, no advertising, no interruptions, just for those observant enough, a though provoking piece of plastic that talks to the integrity of the organisation and asks the questions; Do you know where your materials are coming from? Do you know where they go?

If your product cannot be turned into something new, you have a design flaw.  What can we do with wool and textiles?

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.