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.

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

Wool Season

It’s Friday afternoon, the last friday before Christmas.

This will be the last WoolBlog post for 2013.   The blog has been found 27,844 times as I write this.  You might be visitor number 27,845 (sorry no prizes).

A friend sent me a Christmas message today with the picture below.  Although obviously missing one of the best opportunities of the year to send sheep pictures about, I think this is a brilliant reminder of why we need natural and therefor biodegradable products.

Where are the sheep!

Where are the sheep!

After we unwrap our presents next week lets all recycle the packaging.

It’s time to put down your iPad, turn off your PC, Put the phone on silent and go have a brilliant festive season with the things that really matter – the people you care about.

Look forward to more sheep antics and sustainable woolly rants in 2014 – thanks for reading WoolBlog

Step in the right direction.

Last week I was lucky enough to be asked to present the Laneve Wool Story at a carpet recycling conference.  These events are great for getting up to speed on what our industry is doing to be a better industry.  It turns out that is quite a lot.

There are a growing number of people and organisations switched on to sustainability and ethical business practice.  This isn’t just small companies trying to find a niche; large multinational organisations sent senior people along to both learn and to inspire others.

After I presented the Laneve wool story, explaining that we have an ethical and environmentally sound product which is completely renewable, I went on to show what we are doing to address the end-of-life issues associated with carpets.

This is of course includes the Crumbwool story, which uses post-industrial carpet off-cuts and used car tyres to manufacture a high-performance and high-quality carpet underlay.

After I had finished presenting one of my fellow presenters challenged me on the use of rubber for the backing.   I was not aware that rubber was in the Dog House with environmentalists?

*Note to self – Learn about social and environmental impacts of rubber…

I argued that we are presenting a solution that diverts carpet and tyres from landfill.  We make something useful that improves people’s well-being and comfort while at the same time helping to motivate our industry towards cleaning up its act.  We also provide funds to the Woodland Trust through this activity and save trees.

The other option is to do nothing, let the landfills overflow and stop planting trees.

We are not claiming to have stopped global warming and to have brought dodos back from extinction but we are doing something.

I think it’s better to take a step in the right direction, If people need underlay let’s provide a sustainable option.  This only solves part of the problem of the mountains of post-consumer carpets we need to find a home for but it is only by taking the 1st step that we can reach our final destination.

Steps are much bouncier with a nice wool carpet under your feet.

woodland

Which tree didn’t you want to save?

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

Creating Magic

Make your process part of the Story

People want transparency; they want to know what it is made of and who made it. But why?

People want to trust, to feel safe, and to know they got something of value.
Mostly people hate to be ripped off. If you cannot see the value chain, you can’t see the value. How do you trust something that is kept secret from you?

But there is a line. Take Crumbwool underlay. People want to know it is made in the UK from sustainable materials and they help the planet by choosing a sustainable product. But do people really want to see factories? Is it better to keep a little bit of mystique and magic?

We have to remember that a process is just a process; it is not the final product. Products sell when they deliver real benefits to the people that use them. But what if we turn a process into a story?

The wool in Crumbwool gives it sound insulation, heat insulation and it makes it super bouncy. A home with spongy floors that are fire safe and absorb nasty chemicals is part of delivering a customer experience. When your product is invisible as its end up literally under the carpet the message has to be even stronger.

Rather than pictures of a factory, no matter how clean and modern your factory is why not focus on the magic.
I decided to draw a picture of the Crumbwool Creation Process.

The Magical Crumbwool Creation Process

crumbwool creation

Crumbwool is Created

crumbwool tyres

The Amazing Magical Crumbwool Process

Crumbs!

Crumbs!

How deep should sustainably produced carpets go? Much deeper than the pile.

Selecting something natural is a great first step on your mission to creating a green eco-interior, but knowing where the materials were grown, how they were cultivated, who got paid, what milk got spilled along the way should also enter the equation.

Laneve textiles tick all the boxes, and we can prove it… here
But what’s underneath the carpet?  You shouldn’t pick a green carpet and sweep the rest of the sustainability issues “under the carpet”.
What happens to the waste from factories that produce wool carpet?  If it’s a responsible producer they send it to a recycling facility like Anglo Recycling in the UK.  Anglo are taking the off-cuts from British wool carpet producers of New Zealand wool carpets and combining it with rubber crumb (also completely recycled from tyres) to create an excellent carpet underlay, CRUMBWOOL.

So Laneve customers can enjoy a total environmentally friendly and socially responsible product. This does not mean compromising on quality or performance.
Don’t forget wool has incredible insulation properties and won’t burn. This stuff is so good that it has just been installed in the New Zealand high commission in London, underneath a Laneve carpet by Flock – Natural Living.
Not only do the ministers, diplomats and dignitaries who enter the penthouse suite get an amazing visual experience, they also get a soft and quiet environment that has not compromised the environment.
Wait! It gets even better… Wools of New Zealand want to promote Crumbwool underlay as a responsible choice to enhance the experience of a Laneve carpet and to grow awareness of our brand. We have decided to give proceeds from the sale of Crumbwool to the Woodland Trust as part of our Wool For A Better World Programme.

crumbwool underlay

Crumbwool and Flock being installed at NZ House – Photo by Darren Keane