The Renewable Colour Challenge for 7 Billion People.

7 Billion Cups of Coffee and no Sheep but its OK we can recycle the fishing nets…

Perhaps its time to step back and look at what we are doing?

Before man stared making synthetic fibre and dyes from oil there were far fewer people on the planet.  With only 1 billion people and very few of them in developed economies the world could easily produce enough natural fibre and pigment to satisfy demand.

Well not quite; Rich people had colour and poor people wore beige. The invention of synthetics dyes in 1856 by Perkins and then fibre almost 100 years later meant everyone could afford mass produced textiles. Luxury was affordable and become the norm.

perkins mauve

Perkins Mauve Oil Based Dye.

That was then, in the late 1800’s we though oil was going to last forever. It turns out that mass-producing synthetics was cheaper, but not sustainable.

It has been argued that we cannot go back to natural products, as there are now 7 billion people all wanting modern western lifestyles.

There is simply not enough planet earth to provide natural fibre and colour for 7 billion worthy citizens.

Apparently It is OK to use vast areas of countryside and cheap labour to grow luxury drinks like coffee, but it is not OK to use vast land areas to grow pigments or cotton from plants.   Food takes priority, even if its coffee, tea and cocoa.

This to me sounds like an argument to prolong our addiction to man-made fibre.

Oil based industries need to drive demand so they tell us they are saving the world, giving us a lifestyle that we otherwise could not afford. Unfortunately they have a point.

The challenge in 1856 was to create colour for the masses, which Perkins accidentally solved while trying to make a vaccine.   The challenge now is to create a circular economy and create textiles and colour from rapidly renewable materials.

 The challenge is 7 times greater and 7 times more urgent than it was in 1857.

Where do we begin?   We begin small, niche and high-end.  Perhaps natural fibre and natural colour can only be produced in small quantities, for wealthy people who want something real.   Coffee and chocolate started niche too, but now millions of people around the world earn their livelihood by producing a luxury product that nobody actually needs.

We don’t save the world by using a recycled cup.  We save the world by not using the cup in the 1st place.  Use a ceramic cup and use it 1000 times,  not an oil based cup that’s used once and might be recycled.   Same goes for textiles and carpets,  Wool carpets last longer and are 100% renewable.  Where did your plastic carpet come from?  Is the synthetic fibre company going to plant a new dinosaur for every litre of oil they use?  Maybe they will make it from a plastic fishing net which also never should have existed in the 1st place.   Make those nets from renewable fibres that break down in water and there is no problem to solve.

Lets take a step back and stop creating problems to solve so we look less bad in our marketing propaganda.  Lets just plan to be naturally good.

Coffee Production.

Coffee Production.

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.

Radiant Orchid, Mauve and Permission to Innovate.

The market knows best except when it doesn’t.

It’s a nice safe strategy to be market-led.  Deliver your customers what will solve their problems and make their experience better.  But what if the market doesn’t know what is good for it.  What if the market makes beige and never experiments with Radiant Orchid (Pantone colour of the year 2014)?

What if the market thinks natural = sustainable and never tries to get better, smarter and more efficient?

perkins mauve

Perkins Original Synthetic Mauve

Yesterday I was lucky enough to see the very 1st synthetic dye ever produced, kept behind glass at Leeds University.  When William Perkins invented this he wasn’t following market signals, he wasn’t even trying to invent synthetic dyes. He was trying to create a cure for malaria!  But it turned out the market was tired of beige natural dyed potato coloured clothing.  A textile and chemistry revolution took off and the rest is history.

Funny enough the 1st synthetic dye was actually mauve or as Pantone call it Radiant Orchid.

We must listen to the market and be guided by its trends and the opportunities it demands.   We have to look far ahead of what the current market can tell us and build new innovations that will create new product categories and new industries.

Good market research and understanding your customer’s future needs gives you the intuition to innovate.    Permission is not required just get on with it.

radiant orchid

Pantone Colour of the year. “radiant orchid”


Its Emerald year, At least it is according to Pantone.

Emerald Pantone

Colour of 2013

Thanks to 17-5641 “Emerald” 2013  is going to be amazing so long as we all replace our carpets, paint our walls and dye our hair Emerald.

Sarcasm aside, there is something in creating your own sell fulfilled trends.

Pantone’s mission is to set themselves up as the authority on colour in order to give themselves credibility as a colour reference system.  You have to admit it, it’s working.

If you make a statement, tell enough people and back it up with some convincing rhetoric people believe it.  I spent a decade as a carpet designer, so my job at that time was to get in front of international design trends and to predict the next big thing.  This sounds daunting but what I learnt was that we the designers, product designers, policy designers, no matter what experience we create we are all designers..  We designers do not follow the trends we create them.

2013 is Emerald year because Pantone said so.    Now there are Pinterest boards, blog posts, key rings and everything cashing in on the rush to be seen as up with the trend.

What year shall we make it next year?   2014 Purple Wool Year!

Or maybe we should all get making Pinterest Boards like this.

Emerald Interior

Lovely Emerald Room

A little bit on Colour and Style

Ossimi courtesy of Flock – Natural Luxury

Colour (or color for our American friends) and style is a very personal thing. There are no right or wrong designs; it’s all about finding what works for you. There are things that work better than others and colour combinations that will create moods and be more in tune with fashion trends.
Culture plays an important role in colour selection with some colours having very different connotations depending on somebody’s background and their personal experiences and subsequent associations. You are never going to please all the people all the time, colour and style will always be down to a level of personal taste.
Colour is in everything around us but the actual colours we are exposed to are determined by our local environment and the objects we surround ourselves with.
The internet, social media and longer established media like cinema are also an influence so the local environment is no longer the only thing that sets taste. It’s an ever changing world we live in where colour and fashion will continue to evolve and be influenced by local and international events.

Designers spend a lot of time studying the psychology of colour and know how to create textiles and interiors that use colour for maximum or if desired minimum impact. Luckily the best examples are featured in trend magazines and websites making it relatively easy and affordable for us normal people to get inspired.
A few sites like Pinterest and are popping up where you can find interiors that look great and then post your favourite rooms and objects to virtual pin-boards. These are great tools for gathering ideas and deciding on a theme for your own home.
Have fun with it but remember to use Wool! Our Wool is perfect for any interior and offers truly unlimited colour and style options. New Zealand Wool is a modern fibre with incredible features that have been built in by nature over thousands of years.

Image courtesy of Bronte Carpets

Sexy Authenticity

Enchanting your customers is essential to building your brand and selling products at reasonable margins.

Buying in bulk and selling at volume works if you are big enough, but it’s a lot of work and you will always be vulnerable to market fluctuations, volatile pricing and other beige products that copy you.

To break out of the commodity downward cycle we need to inspire people to engage with our brands.   A fancy logo and a mission statement is not a brand.  A brand is the experience that customers have with you and it is only as valuable as your customers believe it is.

A push mentality won’t build a brand and it won’t get people engaged with your product.

People no longer want to be marketed to and they no longer pay good money for average stuff.  People want to be entertained, engaged and thrilled by what they spend decent money on,  or they want a bargain.  People want to be enchanted.

People want to trust a product and a brand.  Knowing what value is being delivered, where the product was made, by who and from what are all important to affluent environmentally conscious consumers.

Make your product sexy, and make it authentic.

Make it renewable, natural, promote the benefits to the person who buys it and make it aspirational.

Use scarcity to your advantage.  If it is scarce it is harder to get hold of, and more treasured by those that can afford it.

Do you want to be all things to all people or special to a few people that love your product and are willing to pay for what only you have to offer?

The fabric below Blazer by Camira uses 100% Laneve wool from New Zealand which is traceable to the farms in New Zealand where it is grown.  The product offers incredible performance as well as being sensuous and colourful.

Blazer by Camira Fabrics – A Sexy and Authentic product