Look Back, Look Forward

Constant reinvention and reconstruction of self is believed to be the key to success in life. However, this concept is also trusted when it comes to the design industry. For years, designers have delved deep into the past, searching for inspiration and they are almost never disappointed. In fact, many fashion designers use old architecture to incorporate into the designs on their fabrics, recreating images using embroidery, embellishments, etc.

“Design that looks at models from Nature and History” explores how designers find inspiration from the past and from nature. Study of historic garments shows that materials were used intelligently by keeping future reconstruction in mind. This is proven by the story of Mrs. Guiney which dates back to 1954. She accepted £5 from the Museum of London for a gown that had been in her family for generations, however, if it wasn’t for the letters that accompanied the dress, it never would have been revealed that the dress actually belonged to Queen Charlotte. The material evidence suggested that the gown had been carefully reconstructed twice to suit the fashion of the day for the women who went on to wear it. The final reconstruction is a fashionable day-dress from the 1980’s.

Similarly, scientists have developed a keen interest in “Synthetic Biology.” This is when plants are genetically controlled to produce specific functions, such as producing yellow, purple or even blue apples in the future. Experiments are also being carried out to see if nature can be genetically altered to manufacture textiles, e.g. lace roots from a tree.

Genetically engineered plants – Carole Collet







Personally, I think its important to carry the intelligent decisions made in the past in order to make a difference in the future, thus my interest in this particular TED. As a designer I want to be able to learn how to best utilise the information that I will find during my present studies and past research and blend them together to create a better environment for the public.


Also known as a “hook and loop” fastener, Velcro is made up of two prominent components, on two separate strips of nylon: the first component features tiny hooks while the second has smaller, “hairier” loops. These nylon strips are sewn or attached to opposing surfaces and when pressed together, the hooks catch in the loops, binding them together temporarily. When they are pulled apart, the strips make a distinctive ripping sound.

Hook-and-loop structure photographed under a low power microscope.

The hook and loop fastener came into realisation in an interesting way. Swiss engineer George de Mestral conceived the idea in 1941 while he was returning from a hunting trip in the Alps with his dog. He noticed that burrs (seeds) of burdock kept sticking to his clothes and his dogs fur. After close examination he noticed that the “hooks” on the seeds surface latched onto anything with loops, e.g. hair, fur and clothing. He saw the possibility of creating a way to bind two surfaces together temporarily, if he could figure out how to replicate the hooks and loops.

After successfully creating the fastener, de Mestral gave his product the name “Velcro” which is a combination of the two French words velour (velvet) and crotchet (hook). His company also goes by this name and remains as popular as ever to this date.

Velcro fasteners are used wherever there is a need to fasten a surface with a temporary bond. It replaces the use of buttons and zips on clothing, and on shoes for children who have not yet learnt to tie shoelaces. They are especially used in adaptive clothing made for individuals who find it difficult to dress themselves in clothing that utilises buttons and zippers.






Other than clothing, Velcro is used to secure backpacks and notebooks. It is used in the home to hold carpets in place, pleating draperies and attaching upholstery. A major user of the hook and loop fastener is NASA who equip each space shuttle with ten thousand inches of a special fastener made of Teflon loops, polyester hooks and glass backing. The fastener is used from the astronauts’ suits – including inside helmets where it is used as a nose scratcher – to holding equipment in place temporarily.

Velcro isn’t just used for clothing and other commercial uses, it can also be used for creative DIY’s such as hanging items on your walls without the fear of damaging them, or to keep your belongings organised in the boot of your car with their STAYHOLD range. Visit their solutions page here for more inspiration.

Velcro fasteners, as I have discovered, have many practical uses and have played a major part in providing ease both commercially and in our personal lives. Like many other fasteners, Velcro is low maintenance; cleaning it occasionally and using it carefully will take it a long way.



Tedresearch.net. (2018). 6 – Design that Looks at Models from Nature & History « Textiles Environment Design. [online] Available at: http://www.tedresearch.net/6-look-back-look-forward/

Polimekanos, h. (2018). Matilda Aspinall: Design That Looks at Models From History and Nature ← Research & Writing ← Textile Toolbox. [online] Textiletoolbox.com. Available at: http://www.textiletoolbox.com/research-writing/design-look-models-history-and-nature/

Griffiths, A. (2018). Genetically-engineered plants by Carole Collet produce food and lace. [online] Dezeen. Available at: https://www.dezeen.com/2013/11/30/genetically-engineered-plants-that-produce-edible-textiles-by-carole-collet/ 

En.wikipedia.org. (2018). Velcro. [online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Velcro

En.wikipedia.org. (2018). Hook and loop fastener. [online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hook_and_loop_fastener

United Kingdom. (2018). Velcro Companies | VELCRO® Brand Hook and Loop Fasteners. [online] Available at: https://www.velcro.co.uk/

Home, I. (2018). Home Organisation Solutions | VELCRO® Companies. [online] United Kingdom. Available at: https://www.velcro.co.uk/solutions/in-the-home/




Ethical Production

Design for Ethical Production covers a wide range of issues such as animal welfare, sustainable production, safer working conditions, etc, and aims to support the rights and values of workers as well as sourcing of fair-trade materials.

Map of the Designer and Garment Worker relationship in a large fashion company

Over the years there have been an alarming number of reports of workers in well-known organisations being treated miserably, working unreasonably long hours in harsh conditions and being paid minimum wage. Globalisation has made it easy to purchase cheap materials and cheap labour in different parts of the world, thus the maltreatment of employees.

Design for Ethical Production encourages designers to consider the ethical and social ways in which their demands affect their employees, as well as their responsibility to the world as a designer.

The Ten Principles of Fair-Trade

The Fast Fashion industry is driven by the insatiable demand for cheap clothing and accessories, leaving behind crippling impacts, including child labour, increased pollution and global warming. Slow Fashion, on the other hand, contradicts everything that makes the Fast Fashion world so successful, such as standing up against exploitation, family separation, slum cities and pollution.

Out of the three TED’s Ten that we discussed, this appealed to me the most as it talks about bringing around social change. In my opinion, to make the world a better place you must begin by empowering the less privileged and taking their circumstances into consideration.

People Tree

Founded in 1991 by Safia Miney, People Tree is recognised as the pioneer in ethical and environmentally sustainable fashion. Their partnership with Fair Trade producers has enabled them to create a new way of doing business by creating access to markets and opportunities for people who live in the developing world.

The brand started off as a fashion catalogue featuring hand woven and natural dyed hand bags, clothing and clogs made by women in Bangladesh. As the business was the first of its kind, the initial years were incredibly difficult.

“When I started out, I wasn’t very realistic on how difficult it would be to make People Tree work. We were investing in labour-intensive processes while the industry was going in the other direction: mass-manufactured fashion, using synthetics instead of natural materials. We were dealing with very disadvantage people in remote places, and the business costs were huge. It was a massive undertaking, but it needed to be done.”

The first People Tree collection was launched in 1997 when Safia Minney added a Fair-Trade Fashion collection, made with organic cotton, to the products that were already sold at the Fair-Trade Company. People Tree employed two full-time designers and was working closely with textile artisan groups to help them meet environmental standards and develop their market potential.

Organic Cotton used by People Tree

After their expansion to England in 1999, People Tree continued to prosper in the fashion industry, carrying the helping hands of the developing world with them to greater heights. People Tree designs, manufactures and markets its own label and often collaborates with designers like Orla Kiely, Bora Aksu and many more. The label is currently sold in 500 stores around the world including ASOS, and is the first organisation in the world to achieve Global Organisation Textile Standard certification for a supply chain located in the developing world.

Here is a video that shows the process of hand embroidery and hand weaving from one of the two Fair-Trade groups in Bangladesh known as the Swallows:



Tedresearch.net. (2018). 7 – Design for Ethical Production « Textiles Environment Design. [online] Available at: http://www.tedresearch.net/7-consider-ethical-and-fair-trade-production/

Polimekanos, h. (2018). Clara Vuletich: Design for Ethical Production ← Research & Writing ← Textile Toolbox. [online] Textiletoolbox.com. Available at: http://www.textiletoolbox.com/research-writing/design-ethical-production/

Vam.ac.uk. (2018). Ethical Fashion – Victoria and Albert Museum. [online] Available at: http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/w/what-is-ethical-fashion/

Peopletree.co.uk. (2018). People Tree – Our Story. [online] Available at: http://www.peopletree.co.uk/about-us

En.wikipedia.org. (2018). People Tree Ltd.. [online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/People_Tree_Ltd.

Seminar 27/10

The session was a group presentation seminar in which half of the class presented their own research and areas that inspired them from previous lectures. The pattern that I noticed during the session was that plastic was a popular topic of exploration. The seminar consisted of a range of subjects from dyeing plastic to biodegradable clothing.

The project that I found most interesting was M-Vironments by Michael Jantzan. These relocatable “houses” come in different shapes and sizes with panels and hinges for ease of use and customisation. According to the buyers needs, they can be connected in many ways as many times as the user pleases, to create play environments for kids, office and retail spaces, etc. Each branch of the project contains a combination of various materials such as wood, metal, concrete, etc.

The M-House was designed to operate as a single, private vacation getaway, however it can be used as a stand-alone, high-tech resort complex with modifications made to produce energy from the sun and wind.





Here’s a quick video of the M-House in action:


Other branches of M-Vironments:

M-Velope: A special place designed to help the user relax.





M-2: Like the M-House but this was designed “to see how the same basic components of the M-house could generate a very different structure to accommodate the different needs of its occupants.”

Mobile M-House: This was designed to establish that the M-House could be transported to any site and be set up with ease.





I found this project interesting as it gives us a glimpse into one of the many possibilities of the future of architecture. Since the beginning of time people have travelled around the world but always come back to one place that they call home, but Jantzan challenges that conventional approach by allowing users to take their home with them. Although, the harsh exterior of the house is quite unsettling. It may take away the warm and tranquil image of home that the users have in their minds. However, others may argue that the space appears more modern and would fit in with the minimalist themes of the modern day.

To find out more about Michael Jantzen’s work I encourage you to visit his website, you won’t be disappointed!



Michaeljantzen.com. (2017). M-HOUSE. [online] Available at: http://www.michaeljantzen.com/M-HOUSE.html [Accessed 12 Nov. 2017].

Michaeljantzen.com. (2017). M-Vironments. [online] Available at: http://www.michaeljantzen.com/M-Vironments.html [Accessed 12 Nov. 2017].



Reduce the Need to Consume

Design to Reduce the Need to Consume

 We as designers (and budding designers) are part of a thriving industry that constantly comes up with innovative ideas for new products. So the concept of reusing items to reduce the production of goods puts us all into a momentary state of shock. In fact, the statement “design to reduce the need to consume” is contradictory in itself as, when you think of design, you automatically visualise the creation of more goods that are upgraded from their predecessors.

Design to reduce the need to consume follows the strategy of making products that can last longer against the test of time, while allowing the user to take full advantage of their durability.

Design for Longevity: Emotionally Durable Design

“It’s actually very easy to design and manufacture a toaster that will last 20 years; that can be done. What’s not so easy is to design and manufacture a toaster that someone will want to keep for 20 years, because as people… we haven’t been trained to do that,” – Jonathan Chapman

The quote above explains the concept of Emotionally Durable Design in a very simple way, as well as highlighting the problem that comes with creating long lasting products. We as humans are constantly looking to get our hands on the newest technology and the best upgrades available, which discards the notion of having things to keep for a long time. One could argue that manufacturers, such as phone companies, design their products to function for a limited amount of time which makes our efforts to make goods last as consumers, go to waste. This is also damaging for the bank account of an average person, with phones as expensive as £1000 emerging in the markets, it’s difficult to keep up with the latest technology while your current one is deteriorating in your own pocket.

Forming an attachment with an item encourages us to cherish it for a very long time, perhaps even lifetimes. These items include jewellery that is passed down from generation to generation, clothing that reminds us of a certain time or place, or even souvenirs collected from different corners of the world. These examples, and many more, fall under the bracket of Emotionally Durable Design.

Stain (2006)

The project “Stain” by Bethan Laura Wood challenges the idea that using a product damages it or wears it down. To prove this, she designed a set of teacups that improve, aesthetically, when they are drank from. The interior surface is treated to stain more in certain places, revealing a pattern as they are used over time. As the consumer utilises the cup more often, the pattern develops into a design that is more personal to the individual and their drinking habits.


As someone who is fond of collecting unique mugs, cups and glasses, this project is immensely significant for me. In my opinion, the excitement of discovering what the pattern may turn out to be for you is more than enough to make the consumer use the teacups daily. Moreover, a personal conversation and a bond between the designer and the user is formed which turns the teacup into a keepsake.


Polimekanos, h. (2017). Prof. Jonathan Chapman: Design to Reduce the Need to Consume ← Research & Writing ← Textile Toolbox. [online] Textiletoolbox.com. Available at: http://www.textiletoolbox.com/research-writing/design-to-reduce-the-need-to-consume/

I.pinimg.com. (2017). Waste is a Design Flaw. [online] Available at: https://i.pinimg.com/originals/db/37/28/db37282e1bcde58db0ec8ccc4ea07a43.jpg

Bethan Laura Wood. (2017). Stain – Bethan Laura Wood. [online] Available at: http://www.bethanlaurawood.com/work/stain/






Circular Economy

Circular economy:

A circular economy is a regenerative system in which resource input and waste, emission, and energy leakage are minimised by slowing, closing, and narrowing material and energy loops. This can be achieved through long-lasting design, maintenance, repair, reuse, remanufacturing, refurbishing, and recycling.

The above definition is a courtesy of Wikipedia. However, in simpler words, Circular economy is finding a way to use a material again after it has fulfilled its purpose, or giving it yet another function. Yes, even the empty Coca Cola can that has been sitting on your desk for a week.

(Want to try some cool DIY projects with cans? Check these out. This too!)

Every day, millions of materials are wasted after a single use which is more and more damaging for our fast-evolving world. Circular economy prevents this by taking the “waste” and putting it back into the industrial cycle to be turned into a useable product. As well as challenging the linear “take, make, dispose” industrial approach, the concept moves away from the use of fossil fuels and towards the use of renewable energy.

Silk is my personal favourite material, not just because of its delicate and luxurious appearance, but also because it has a rich history of production and many surprising facts surrounding it.


 Silk, one of the most sought-after luxurious materials, has maintained its worth for several millennia thanks to its countless qualities such as an elegant appearance and smooth texture.

According to Ancient literature, its origins date back to Ancient China in which it states that Empress Si-Ling raised silk worms in around 2600 B.C. It was used for clothing, decorations and for the arts. However, it soon became an integral part of the Chinese economy and a means of trade with neighbouring countries. Initially, the Chinese were extremely protective of their silk-making secret and declared death by torture upon anyone who dared to talk of the process. Nevertheless, their secret was smuggled into adjacent regions such as Japan (300 A.D) and India (400 A.D), which then became some of the leading competitors of the silk-making industry against China.


Silk is a natural protein fibre, composed mainly of fibroin, which is obtained from the cocoons of the silk worm, the caterpillar of the Bombyx mori. The life cycle of the Bombyx mori begins with the moths mating and the female laying 300 to 400 eggs.

Naturally, the chrysalis breaks through the cocoon and comes out as a moth, however, to obtain the silk the sericulturists must destroy the chrysalis so it does not break the silk filament. After a few days these silk worms wrap themselves into a silk cocoon, made by a filament secreted from the spinerette, to safely transform in to a chrysalis. This (slightly unsettling) process of silk production and possession is called Sericulture.

The fibroin is held together by sericin which is a soluble gum secreted by the worm that hardens as soon as it is exposed to air.

A single cocoon produces between 1000 to 2000 feet of silk filament and is generally made of two elements. The fibre called fibroin, makes up 75 and 90% of the material, while sericin, the gum secreted by the caterpillar comprises between 10 to 25% of silk.

A single thread of silk is said to be as strong as steel.


“Thrums” are the remnants of pure silk Indian saris which are left on the looms after the saris are woven and cut off, therefore, left to be thrown away or go to waste. To prevent it from going to waste, this valuable unused material is purchased by underprivileged Tibetan, Nepalese and Indian women and taken to a cottage industry in Nepal, set up to help them support their families. The threads are separated by colour, cut into even strips and must be put through several stages of work by hand to be bound into skeins of pure dyed silk. The recycled silk sari yarns are used to make various items such as scarves, hats, mittens, gloves, and many more.


Read more about the process of recycling silk here.


The Berlin based brand AnnaMariaAngelika has given a rather trendy edge to upcycling with their FeatherBuns hair accessories. Their products are inspired by traditional Peruvian feather textiles which consisted of colourful feather head-dresses and were a symbol of a healthy and full life.

The brand is using unused or unsold silk scarves with minor imperfections or second-hand scarves that are spinned into yarn to create their knitted faux feather head dresses. Their product has received positive response due to the excellent quality. Keeping circular economy in mind, they produce items on demand rather than in bulk, to avoid wasting resources.

AnnaMariaAngelika have also taken the initiative to educate the people about upcycling silk instead of throwing the precious material away.

Read more about them here.

Circular economy gives materials a new life instead of letting them sit around with the rest of the industrial waste. After reading about the production of Silk and all that I can do to recycle and upcycle it, I sure would think twice and once more before throwing this precious material away.


En.wikipedia.org. (2017). Circular economy. [online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Circular_economy

Beaty, V. (2017). 20 Genius Ways to Recycle Soda Cans into Amazing DIY Projects – DIY & Crafts. [online] DIY & Crafts. Available at: https://www.diyncrafts.com/17586/repurpose/20-ways-to-recycle-soda-cans

Instructables.com. (2017). The Tin Can Rose. [online] Available at:  http://www.instructables.com/id/The-Tin-Can-Rose/

En.wikipedia.org. (2017). Silk. [online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silk

Hands Across The Sea Samplers. (2017). Recycling silk – Hands Across The Sea Samplers. [online] Available at: https://hands-across-the-sea-samplers.com/recycling-silk/

Circular Economy Club. (2017). Circular Fashion Case Study: Hair Accessories Made of Upcycled Silk. [online] Available at: https://www.circulareconomyclub.com/circular-fashion-case-study-hair-accessories-made-of-upcycled-silk/