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.
Shanya Lewis, a graduate student in industrial design at Parsons School of Design, says she believes recycled textiles carry a stigma of low quality and lack of cleanliness, which she is seeking to overcome. Her thesis project is a similar work of alchemy for which she transforms blue-jean fibers into tableware and designed a wood chair with recycled denim upholstery. Look closely at the chair’s profile and you’ll notice that the stocky legs look as if they’re wearing pants. – Julie Lasky
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.
The Soviet feat prompted Americans to fear a “missile gap” and intensified the space race between the countries. That, in turn, fanned the midcentury space-themed décor craze, in which the Sputnik’s kitschy combination of straight polished-brass arms and bare bulbs played a starring role.
The original’s designer and manufacturer are murky, but that hasn’t stopped sellers from offering vintage examples on sites like 1stdibs for upward of $3,000.
Now, new starburst-style fixtures are also proliferating.
Ikea’s Stockholm chandelier ($99.99) has clear acrylic arms and polycarbonate plastic bulb brackets. West Elm sells many Sputnik-y pendants (from $199).
At the higher end of the spectrum, Jonathan Adler offers his take on the classic in mini and maxi versions ($1,495 and $3,195). And the lighting designer Robert Sonneman has introduced a Constellation series, in satin nickel and clear faceted acrylic (from $3,500), decades after offering his 1967 Orbiter floor lamp.
And then there’s the Czech glass artist René Roubicek’s halogen fixture for the lighting company Lasvit; made of handblown Bohemian crystal and stainless steel, it costs $11,900 and is named “And Why Not!” – Jane Margolies
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.
Another disciple, Max Lipsey, an American based in the Netherlands, designed his Acciaio chairs for Cappellini ($4,770) with perforated leather seats and backs. And the new kitchen utensil brand Origin makes robust ladles and spatulas with drilled-out steel handles ($79 each).
Recently, the Pompidou Center acquired a one-off Carrara marble table by Normal Studio of France made to look featherweight with 4,938 holes in the top.
Kelly Wearstler, the Los Angeles designer, is an enthusiastic perforator. Her Precision floor lamp ($1,890) is a solid brass tube that diffuses light through a delicate end of cutout dots.
She also created a side table of solid Negro Marquina marble ($3,595) that appears to have given up orderly rows of core samples.
Perforations are a “timeless interplay” of geometry, graphics and negative space, Ms. Wearstler said. “There’s an inherent flow of energy and light in these designs that adds depth and dimension to a vignette or a whole room.” – Tim McKeough
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,” Ms. Ivanova said. “However, their potential in design, for materials and products, is still underexplored.”
David Benjamin would agree. Four years ago, the Columbia University architecture professor created a 40-foot tower of mycelium “bricks” for the courtyard of MoMA PS1 in Queens. Now he is preparing to display the next generation of mushroom-based structural material at the Pompidou Center in Paris in February 2019. The new bio-matter will not only fuse together in place, as the earlier towers did, but also have self-healing properties.
Buildings that grow and regenerate like plants also decompose like plants, and that is what excites Mr. 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,” Mr. Benjamin said. – Hayley Krischer
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 ($19.99). Offered in six colors, it has a silicone sleeve to control slippage.
March also brought Built PerfectSeal Apex, a svelte bottle with a patented lid that efficiently locks in place to contain spills ($14.99). “The Apex bottle is not a radical departure. All I did was unify the form,” said its designer, Harry Allen. “I wanted to create an eco-friendly object that was chic and desirable.”
And there’s more out there. Kickstarter is featuring the self-cleaning LARQ bottle (formerly known as Quartz), bottle, which uses UV-C LED light to purify water, and Bindle, a vacuum-sealed container that stores keys, earbuds and other small objects.
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.
Then there’s the matter of thrift. According to Mr. Rashid, buying products like Hip will “save you from spending 300-plus dollars on bottles of water” each year. – Clover Hope