Inspiring a new generation of designers: how sustainability and material technology are shaping future trends

There is a lot of emphasis on sustainability in the media at present with headlines such as John Lewis trials sustainability schemes at Oxford store or Zalando to push ‘sustainable’ fashion published everyday online and in print.

Sustainability is now a movement in itself. From schoolchildren and students protesting in the streets to global organisations holding summits, the issue is affecting us all and all of us are responsible for “doing our bit” to help win the race against climate change.

Design is at the forefront of this battle – shaping future trends, influencing millions around the world with regards to their choice in clothing and footwear but also furniture, cars and much more. Designers have the responsibility to source materials that are not only manufactured responsibly, but are also aesthetically pleasing, durable and – in the ideal world – fully recyclable.

On the other hand, manufacturers must consider the production process and how it impacts the environment at the same time not compromising on the performance and appeal of their product. Many global brands have been looking to commit to sustainable materials for years and some of them, like Nike, are already ahead of the curve with materials such as Flyleather.

New generation of leather

Flyleather, as Nike put it, is “the greatest advance in leather, since leather”. It’s made out of at least 50% leather fibres, it’s 40% lighter than full grain leather and it’s five times more abrasion resistant. It is also proudly manufactured by ELeather using our patented process that bonds leather fibre using only water and thus reducing our carbon footprint. The process was even documented in this video by Dazed Magazine.

Nike Flyleather

In early 2019 Nike, Central Saint Martins College and British Designer Samuel Ross collaborated on a project aiming to encourage young designers to actively think about sustainability of their projects and to utilise Flyleather in areas other than footwear.

Over a period of one month, a group of BA and MA students experimented with Flyleather following the brief set out at the beginning of the project with advice and feedback from Samuel Ross, Golnaz Armin (Senior Design Director at Nike Sportswear) and CSM tutors.

Before they got stuck in, the students had a chance to tour the facilities at ELeather in Peterborough, UK getting to know the product but also the manufacturing process it goes through and the qualities that make it superior in performance and efficiency.

Central Saint Martins students at ELeather in Peterborough

New generation of designers

It’s fair to say that CSM students rose to the challenge producing an array of products – from skin protection, to bags, furniture and portable picnics with the top seven projects exhibited at Copenhagen Fashion Summit 2019. Dazed magazine produced a gallery of some of the amazing work submitted by the students.

One of those young designers was Amon Kale, a third-year Fashion Design Womenswear student from Canada who, together with his project partner Claire Peng, designed the Woven Beach Chair pictured below.

“As a designer it’s good to explore new materials and this project allowed us to do that” says Amon. “Flyleather is essentially a heavy-duty leather. It’s an unusual material – it looks like leather but it doesn’t always behave like leather because it’s very robust. It lends itself to footwear and furniture products and I can see it used in mass market in that context.”

Asked about whether he thinks the materials industry is moving towards using more engineered products in the future, Amon remarks that “sustainability is the pressing issue of our generation. The strive for circular economy is moulding operations going forward, not only in design but in business in general and so for major brands, such as Nike or Ikea (who did a similar project with CSM) it’s crucial to prioritise sustainability.

The leather market is very artisanal in a sense that there is a lot of craft involved. As much as materials will change and evolve to comply with sustainability requirements, the craft aspect will remain and so manufacturers will have to develop products that can be crafted”.

Johanna Parv, MA Fashion Design Womenswear, was also involved in the project with her ‘Infinity bag’ shown at Copenhagen Fashion Summit this May.

Amon Kale beach chair Flyleather
Woven Beach Chair by Amon Kale and Claire Peng at Copenhagen Fashion Summit 2019
Johanna Parv Infinty Bag Flyleather
Infinity Bag by Johanna Parv at Copenhagen Fashion Summit 2019

“What I love about designing is to create new solutions and solve problems or to draw attention to subjects that are relevant to society at the time.”

Johanna’s Infinity bag is a harness that can be worn with already existing accessories and bag inside it. It fits different types of product and can be worn when commuting, running, cycling or even travelling to carry multiple bags at the same time.

“I enjoyed working with Flyleather as I’m a big fan of leather. It’s similar to full grain leather and I can see it used in many applications due to its durability and practicality.” Asked about her view on sustainability in design, Johanna remarks that “it’s very important to think about circularity and sustainability in your design process to make sure we’re not wasting any material and that we design products that are actually needed. What I realised doing this project is the passion I have for thinking about circular design and I would definitely want to keep working in that direction.”

Delivering greater sustainability and responsibility

It’s not an easy job being a designer nowadays. Luckily, the majority are rising to the challenge of creating sustainable and responsible fashion which is welcome by the general public. Social change has been gaining momentum for a while now with hashtag #sustainablefashion having grown five times in the last three years. This also encourages brands to be more transparent about their production chains.

At ELeather we are proud to be supplying our engineered leather to not only the likes of Nike but also global brands in the transportation industry such as American Airlines, Delta, Emirates, Deutsche Bahn, JetBlue and many more.

Ultimately, the goal is to deliver what people want and what the planet deserves. High quality products and services developed and produced responsibly and sustainably. To achieve this, industries must transform the way they think, and the way they work and we’re proud to be at the forefront of the material revolution.

 

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