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.

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.

 

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

Sheep Shearing in Paradise

A short film cobbled together from footage I took in New Zealand this month..  It shows the shearing  (wool harvesting) process.  Check it out..

Measuring the full lifestyle effect.

Measuring the full lifestyle effect.

Manufacturers of synthetic carpet fiercely push their eco-credentials.  Their websites are full of statements about how low their carbon footprint is and how their plastic tiles can be recycled.  All very noble but somewhat ironic.

What about the customer experience of the product?  How proud do people feel when they Facebook their friends to say.  “Hey I just got a new plastic floor covering!  Its’ made from real oil and it gives off wonderful static shocks.  Apparently it will only take 400 years to biodegrade!”

 Wool does so much more.

wool vs nylon

Wool on the left as opposed to the plastic tube of hardened oil.

A wool carpet will last for years, far far longer than polyester.

It will feel soft underfoot and its ability to absorb moisture from the air reduces the risk of static shocks.

Wool absorbs toxins form the air and locks them away, actually purifying the indoor environment.

Wool is fire retardant whereas synthetic products melt and give off toxic fumes (they are made from oil)

Wool is anti-allergenic.

And of course wool is an amazing heat insulator; Homes with wool carpets will feel warmer and dryer and have lower heating costs.

Shouldn’t the experience of living with a product be considered as part of its sustainability profile?    Shouldn’t a products environmental impact take into account the energy it saves for years after it is installed?

If a plastic tile claims a low carbon footprint, is it right to ignore the longer term failures of the product to do what wool can do for human comfort and energy conservation?

At the end of the day wool has been protecting sheep for thousands of years and has evolved to be a complex and highly technical fibre.  As clever as the oil man thinks his plastic fibres are he is still falling a long way short of what nature has built into wool.

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

The right way to suck

Wool carpets are a big investment, a very rewarding and worthwhile investment, but big all the same.

It seems right that something you have carefully selected and paid for gets all the care and attention it deserves. The most basic and important thing to do is to keep your lovely wool carpet clean.

A few tips on Vacuuming

(Hoovering if you are British, or noo noo in Telly Tubby)

Laneve wool carpets trap dust, but this is a good thing as it means that dust is not floating about in your home irritating and causing allergies. Carpets are textiles and require a little bit of looking after. The most important thing to do is to regularly vacuum your carpet, especially in high traffic areas.

Vacuuming once per week will ensure that dust and dirt is kept out of the pile. Vacuum a little more often in heavy traffic areas.

Certain cleaners are more appropriate for certain types of carpets. Make sure you choose the best type of cleaner to keep your carpet looking marvellous.

Oh, and take it slow, don’t frantically scurry about, give the machine time to lift the dirt out of the pile.

If there are small piles of loose fibre on your carpet, DON’T PANIC!

The 1st few times you vacuum your carpet there will be a little bit of shedding and the cleaner may fill up very fast. Shedding is a tiny percentage of the carpet fibres escaping from your carpet that don’t really need to be in there. This is completely normal and will settle down after a few weeks.

use this vacuum cleaner for loop pile wool

For the long term benefit of loop pile carpets use a cylinder cleaner.  Some short fibres can work their way out after the initial installation but this will settle down.

use an upright for cut pile wool – with a beater bar

An upright vacuum cleaner with a beater brush is best for cut pile carpets. Dust will be lifted from the pile by the brushing action.