Talking Wool CPD

This month Wools of New Zealand ran its very first Continued Professional Development (CPD) seminar for members of the Society of British International Design (SBID) in London.

WNZ SBID CPD

Me talking wool. – Image courtesy Marek Sikora – Click for more.

For interior designers to stay relevant they need to keep learning about the materials they specify in human habitats and they have to do this to stay accredited to professional organisations like SBID.

Over a glass of New Zealand wine, and with London as a backdrop we went to the next step in influencing, influential people to specify Kiwi wool.

In two hours we grabbed the attention of some of London’s best architects and designers and focused their attention on wool. We followed up with a book about our New Zealand wool and we made sure everyone took home a catalogue that featured Laneve products (so these people can buy our wool)

The presentation is rich in lifestyle imagery and messages around the benefits of New Zealand wool to the environment and the human habitat. There was the occasional sheep picture too. The question and answer session was lively so we had people engaged and we got people thinking.

This cost time and money, but its free for SBID members to attend.   We do this because ultimately architects and interior designers are our customers. These are the people that demand style, innovation, integrity, provenance and sustainability.   Now a handful of these people are thinking a little bit more about using wool.

London from NZ House

The view outside was amazing – click for more..

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.

 

Language

We are all experts at something, and we all have something to say.  Recently I was listening, for a change, and actually learnt something.  Well, I was reminded of something.

When you talk, speak in the language of your audience.  Wool people talk in textile terminology, which is fine if you talk to a weaver, but really dumb when you talk to a retailer.

When an IT consultant talks in jargon, do we trust her or wonder if we are going to be ripped off?   When a mechanic sucks air through his teeth and talks about machine parts we prepare ourselves for a shock.

I was listening to Jim Hanna of Starbucks recently and he could not emphasize enough how talking Business language to business people had made the difference in the internal battle to sell sustainability within Starbucks.

Talking about saving trees does not make an accountant happy, but talking about making more profit by improving staff retention, reducing energy costs and streamlining value chains – that’s gets the bean counters on board and the HR department and the store designers…

Language is too important to trust to the linguists.  Lets keep it simple and build some trust.

Jargon

image stolen form random internet site – sorry

The Finishing Touch

The Finishing touch is how one of our customers recently described the rugs they manufacture.  They describe what they do as part of the experience a customer has not just of their beautiful New Zealand Wool rugs, but also of the total experience of the interior.

This focus on the customer experience is exactly in-tune with how we need to position our lovely New Zealand wool.

We don’t breed sheep, or shear wool, or spin yarn, tuft carpet or weave fabric.

If we want to be successful we have to think not as part of a process but as part of what it means to the end user to own our wool.

Our job is to deliver the ultimate experience with wool.  The feeling of walking bare foot on your soft new wool and knowing you have made a wise and ethical investment.

We in the wool business know how amazing it feels to walk on wool.  The challenge is to make people aspire to have that experience for themselves.   We could put wool carpet down at airport security so people have to feel the luxury but it is not the time that people are focused on home decorating.

We have to communicate the experience of wool in an era when advertising is already dead, and to consumers dotted all over the world.  Thank goodness for Blogs and social media.

Increasingly we rely on wool ambassadors, people who love wool and can spread the good word.  Interior Designers and smart retailers have the customer’s attention at the right time, and they really know how to apply the finishing touch.

If you are wondering about the customer, its Nourison, You can experience them here.

nourison wool rug

A lovely New Zealand Wool Experience by Nourison

Care Statement

According to sustainablebrands.com over 50% of global consumers are willing to pay more for socially responsible products.

This varies according to markets demographics, with European consumers being more skeptical than Asian consumers.  But the numbers are staggering.  People really do care about the integrity and the impact of what they purchase, at least half of them do anyway.

As with everything it’s about building trust.  People love brands that they trust and they will show loyalty and forgiveness.  Brands that consistently deliver a feel good experience will win every time.

Buying natural products supports rural farming communities, buying synthetic products supports the oil industry.  Maybe if people thought about this they would use more wool?

What we have to do is pull heart-strings.  It’s our job to build trust and to deliver integrity.  With real stories that resonate with the half of consumers who care.

Perhaps we need to stop making sustainability statements on corporate websites? No one cares what your carbon footprint is, that was last centuries obsession.  Make a care statement instead, but make it real.

More information on the Sustainable Brands survey is here

Gratuitous Heartstring Picture.

Gratuitous Heart-string Picture.

Conformity is an Industrial Disease

Innovate or Die (of industrial disease)

We all have the choice to make something special.  We can choose to make things Purple or make things beige.

Standing still, watching your competitors win and slowly moving from the heart of the industrial revolution into oblivion is a choice.   Samuel Pepys once wrote “Conformity is a social disease” As a textile designer I have to agree, as an innovator I would say…

  “Conformity is an industrial disease”

“It is better to be more wise and not be catched” To complete Pepys’ quote.

Keep making beige, me too, products and compete in the ever decreasing spiral of lower prices and lower profits..  Or break out of the commodity cycle with added value innovative “purple” products and services.

How to win and stay alive..

Understand Future Costumers

Deliver Outstanding Customer Experience

Simple.

samuel pepys

Samuel Pepys with his purple scarf.

Natural’s Not Enough

Natural Isn’t Enough

I come from a land where there are many more sheep than people;   a land untouched by Europeans until only 150 years ago.   As you can imagine when I left New Zealand seven years ago as a carpet designer I had spent my life working and living with natural fibres like wool.  I designed and exported beautiful wool carpets all over the world.   When you do something well it gets noticed so I was then asked to come to the UK to show the rest of the world how to create a business around excellence in wool product development.

The UK like New Zealand has a long history with wool, cotton and other natural fibres.  It was textile manufacturing that sparked the industrial revolution in Manchester which shaped the world as we know it.

For centuries man has been using wool to warm his cave and shelter his family.  The benefits of natural fibres were pretty obvious.

Roll on to 2013 and we live in a world where 97% of Americans are living on synthetic materials made from oil.  Today only 30% of Brits are living with wool and even in New Zealand, I am ashamed to say, people are choosing plastic based carpet with a small amount of recycled content and think they are saving the planet!

So it is blatantly clear.  Being Natural is No Longer Enough.

Wool carpets need to be acknowledged as a lifestyle choice that will have a positive impact on the health and comfort of our families.

Wool carpets remain the very best thing you can put in your home to create a warm and safe environment.  Wool absorbs indoor air contaminants like formaldehyde and locks it away for up to thirty years.  Wool carpets trap dust and keep it out of the breathing zone.  Wool carpets with a good underlay absorb shock and assist with posture, as well as being anti-slip.   Walk across a hard floor and then a wool carpet and hear the difference, or rather don’t hear it.

It seems that in focussing on colour and style, which of course wool offers more options for than any other material, we have lost sight of what really matters.  The comfort and wellbeing of human beings and the future of our planet.

Wool is of course the ultimate eco-warrior fibre.  Sheep in New Zealand grow a new fleece every year.   Wool is 50% carbon which means that it’s a carbon sink locking C0² away from the ozone layer.  New Zealand wool is the purest and most ecological of all and is only grown on free range farms under strict animal welfare, environmental and social standards.

Through the Wool for a Better World program.  At Wools of New Zealand we support the Heiffer foundation through the sale of wool carpets, we support the endangered Hector’s dolphin through the sale of wool fabrics and we support the Woodland trust in the UK through the sale of our recycled underlay.   On top of being brilliant at designing stuff, giving back to the environment through these activities and just being really nice people perhaps it is time to get active and shout louder,  perhaps it time we start a war on oil instead of a war for oil?

Let’s get reminding people of the many technical benefits of wool and try to stop this mad obsession with oil based plastic carpets and noisy hard floors.

New Zealand wool factory

Wool growing in New Zealand