Beauty and sustainability

The BA Textiles Graduate Show here at Chelsea last week was a real triumph of talent and new ideas and techniques. There was also evidence of some really strong sustainable design concepts, mainly hidden from view (as they often are!) but the ideas and concepts the students have been developing over their time here at Chelsea was so exciting to see.

Here at TED we believe passionately that textiles and objects/garments have to be beautiful and well made first and foremost. The 'sustainability' of how a garment or fabric is designed and produced is obviously important but if the final piece does not engage us, or inspire us, there is no point. You could say the ideal is 'human-centred, low impact' textile/fashion design!

Another aspect of this design approach, is that the 'sustainability' of a design or concept is about how the designer thinks - not just in their choice of 'eco' fabrics or re-use of materials. At TED we base all our research on this notion - aware that over 80% of our decisions as designer's affect the environmental impacts of a product, but also re-thinking the role of our designs/textiles in people's lives, and our role as designers.

This can be explored in a multitude of ways - which is what the ideas behind many of the works on show at the Graduate Exhibition revealed. Can a designer become a design facilitator in a country like India, to work promoting the traditional, craft skills while also bringing new opportunities and markets to local communities? Can a designer bring her innate skill and hand techniques to create new, delicate fibres from waste plastic while also communicating an old cultural tradition of thrift and resourcefulness?

We have done some interviews again this year of some of the Graduates who have been exploring our idea of sustainable textile design, and these will be edited and developed into podcasts soon.

Top image: Imogen Houldsworth, Bottom image: Jo Fowles