The material choice alone can account for up to 95% of a product's environmental and social footprint." (The Sustainable Angle, 2020). Currently there is still a big gap regarding the availability of healthy materials and fashion products that are circular and inspired by the Cradle to Cradle design agenda. Algae as positive impact materials have been explored in material labs or textiles, but are not yet used to their full potential in a circular collection.
The project tackles this challenge by using algae as raw materials to develop a range of healthy new algae leathers. New Matters helps transform an efficiency discussion in sustainability to eco-effectiveness and material health. The slowness of lab-made and crafted materials offer an antipole or alternative to fast fashion and inspire for a mindset shift
As designers from the fields of architecture, product design and fashion design we are intrigued by unconventional materials and driven by their explorational and analytical development. Specifically the fascination for algae has brought Sarah Maria Schmidt from VT&S and Anke Pasold from MDL together, ideating and creating a vision for the use of the inherent positive benefits of algae captured in a more sustainable, circular material for design, with a strong local connection and straight from the ocean. Together we imagined a new algae material that could represent a substitute for some of fashion’s concerning materials, while incorporating the raw beauty of algae in a soft, translucent and almost weightless leather alternative as a reminder of the transformative power of algae floating in the oceans.
THE BIRTH OF THE PROJECT
Currently there is still a big gap regarding the availability of healthy materials that are circular and inspired by Cradle to Cradle design philosophy. Algae as positive impact materials have been explored in material labs or textiles, but especially the link to local sustainability still bears untapped potential. The project tackles this challenge by using algae as a raw material to develop a healthy material capsule collection and circular showcase garments as material studies. The algae materials create a sensory experience while connecting the garments to local sustainability. By using only healthy processing chemicals we created materials that can safely return to the biosphere.
THE CREATIVE PROCESS
The creative process was really kicked-off and accelerated by the collective hands- on material explorations at MDL in Copenhagen, starting with a playful material tinkering process and leading towards a very focussed and deep research into the local algae species and their positive potential. We were able to discuss our design ideas with other professionals, such as biologists and algae farmers, which kept the creative process fresh and stimulating through the multidisciplinary input and experiencing the local environment through algae harvesting trips. Due to the worldwide Corona Pandemic however we were faced with difficulties such as closures of facilities. Through our strong partnership we were able to overcome the obstacles and made us think in completely new directions. We explored and embraced low threshold technologies in our process, found creative solutions and focused our project scope to the key product, the material in itself, as well as develop accompanying products of our research, namely a publication and installation. Through the mentorship programme we were able to use the time given fruitfully for our conceptual work and development of a diverse marketing strategy.
At both VT&S and MDL we strongly believe in the positive power of collaboration and co- creation. Through the partnership we were able to benefit from each other’s facilities and network as well as sharing and discussing ideas critically. Together we were able to develop a much stronger and more diverse project outcome that incorporates our respective expertise. The partnership and mentorship fostered an environment for individual and collective growth, stimulating debates and opening up new perspectives. Especially the global challenges that came along with the pandemic has shown us the strength that lies within forming partnerships and human connections through a common goal.
We aim to explore the potential of our algae material further, also for other design applications, and strive to find inspiring collaborations with other designers, researchers and brands that would like to explore the benefits of our materials. In order to do this we aim to acquire further funding for material testing, further development and scale-up of the material processing. We envision a whole range of the material also in different colours. We envision our material to become a viable alternative for leather in the future. We are going to publish a documentation of our research and have been working on a workshop format in order to disseminate our findings and inspire other designers. As soon as we can all come together physically again, an installation will mark and celebrate the outcomes of our research.
We believe that the future of sustainable design innovation lies within multidisciplinary collaboration, as they offer chances for unexpected results. Working within diverse teams of experts towards a common goal allows us to solve complex challenges and benefit from each other’s depth of thought, ideas and knowledge. In a positive and healthy environment new ideas can flourish and transformative energy can be unleashed.
photography: Caroline Wimmer
hair & make-up: Nadja Jeberien
model: Cris Zeyu