Words by Staff writers, The New York Times News Service
Rags to Riches: Reducing the Waste in Fashion
Recycling textiles is a thrifty endeavor that is older than rag rugs. In April, visitors to the International Furniture Fair in Milan saw shining new examples in Waste No More, an exhibition in the murky vaults of the city’s central train station. Stretched across panels were vivid patchwork fabrics concocted from unsold or worn bits of Eileen Fisher garments.
The exhibition was curated by Lidewij Edelkoort, an educator and fashion trend forecaster, who for years has voiced her dismay at the casual consumption and trashing of clothes.
Others share her concern. The Danish company Really, in partnership with the Danish textile brand Kvadrat, returned to Milan for a second year with a show of furnishings made from discarded denim and white cotton laundry fibers stiffened with a binder. Handed to seven prominent international designers, the material resolved itself into cabinets, shelves and a table with the denim part rubbed away to reveal a white cotton core.
Jane Withers, curator of the Really show, noted that only 25 percent of the world’s textiles are recycled and the rest are burned or buried in landfills. Cheap clothing and a pestering fashion industry make the problem more dire. “In 2008, we consumed 60 million tons of textile fibers, and we expect that number to reach 110 million tons in 2020,” she said.
Textiles displayed at Waste No More. Recycling textiles is a thrifty endeavor that is older than rag rugs. Image: Ruy Teixeira
In Orbit: Sputnik Chic
With the United States and Russia expelling diplomats, many people worry that the countries are careering toward another Cold War. But at least there’s this to take comfort in: The marketplace is ready with period-appropriate ceiling fixtures.
Descendants of the original Sputnik chandelier — named after the Soviet satellite that was the first to orbit the Earth, in 1957 — are found everywhere, but especially in stark modern rooms that beg for whimsy.
Space Oddities: The Holes in the Furniture Belong There
The modernist design idea that less is more has a twist. A number of designers are putting cheese-hole-style perforations into furnishings to create visual and actual lightness. The technique, often accomplished by smart machines, reduces the amount of material in a piece while boosting the decorative effect.
The Italian designer Paola Navone is a member of this holey order. Carve 07, her latest chair for Gervasoni, has a mahogany back with circles of different sizes punched out, an unexpected detail in a piece that recalls African tribal stools.
Fungus is fashionable, especially with ecologically minded designers; the International Furniture Fair in Milan included these stools with puffy round tops that looked, well, like mushrooms. Image: Eugeni Aguiló
Earthy Furniture: Fashionable Fungus
Displayed here and there at the International Furniture Fair in Milan last month were stools with puffy round tops that looked, well, like mushrooms.
Fungus is fashionable, especially with ecologically minded designers. In September, Ninela Ivanova, a British designer, and Sebastian Cox, a British furniture-maker, exhibited hanging lamps and stools made of willow wood and mushrooms (or more technically, mycelium, the root network of fungi). “I think mushrooms, and fungi in general, are amazing organisms that help sustain our ecosystem and life on the planet,” Ivanova said. “However, their potential in design, for materials and products, is still underexplored.”
Buildings that grow and regenerate like plants also decompose like plants, and that is what excites Columbia University architecture professor, David Benjamin. “Architects tend to specify building materials based on their color, finish and strength, he said, but now they can think in terms of duration. Maybe the organic structures last two months. Maybe 20 years. “And if more of it were mushroom-based materials, it would really change our landfills,” Benjamin said.
Drink Up: Water Bottles, With Style
A simple object with a simple function, the water bottle comes in a surprising range of styles. There’s even a bottle accessorized with floating gemstones. But just when you think the market has become saturated, two new vessels have appeared. In March, the designer Karim Rashid introduced Hip, a refillable curvy flask made of BPA-free material. Offered in six colors, it has a silicone sleeve to control slippage.
The market for reusable water bottles is certain to grow with research exposing the environmental and anatomical challenges of plastic. A recent study by the State University of New York in Fredonia found that water in 90 percent of commercial bottles contained microplastics.
Feature image: Chandelier inspired by the original Sputnik chandelier — named after the Soviet satellite that was the first to orbit the Earth, in 1957. Image: Jonathan Adler