On negotiating textile design, production, sustainability and designer identity.
In this blog post, I wrote a little about my thoughts on the textile industry: in short, I value sustainable practice and consuming less over consuming more. Then, how does this play into being a textile designer in the (quite near) future?
While innovative, clever and useful products are great in themselves, over the years I’ve really come to admire brands that have a strong value-based focus in their practice.
Two things I value and would like to bring to the forefront of my own practice as a textile designer are sustainable consumer habits and sustainability in production itself.
sustainable consumer habits
As a designer, I’d like to be able to bring attention to the way we consume textile products, and to provide an alternative method for it. All in all, I feel that our way of consuming is skewed: we’re ready to pay too little for products that don’t last long, which prompts us to buy a new one too soon – this goes for fast fashion especially. This kind of consumer mentality is not sustainable in my opinion.
My method would involve a careful consideration of sustainability issues and an assessment based on origin and quality, not the price tag. I’d like to remain optimistic and believe that this is something more and more people are willing to pay attention to: buying less in quantity, but more in quality.
sustainability in production
It can seem impossible to negotiate the different ecological factors that are in question: materials and their manufacturing and shipping, product development, production, shipping, packing, energy consumption, water consumption, just to name a few… The list seems endless! How is one supposed to be able to make a difference in an industry that’s so large?
While it is not the cheapest, I’d like to believe that it is completely possible to achieve a sustainable production chain—for me, locally-focused production would be ideal. I think there are other like-minded people out there who will value a product that is produced either locally, by hand, or from ethical and environmentally friendlier materials.
If production happens overseas or in another country, the relationship between the company and the manufacturer is something to consider and to define in my opinion: there are definitely examples of good management, in which overseas manufacturing is closely monitored for good working conditions, fair wages etc. Social sustainability is just as important as ecological sustainability, in my opinion.
Something I’ve realized is that we cannot stop consuming textile products because, really, there are so many we need in our daily life. In addition, few are eternal even if their lifecycle in use may be quite long (years, tens of years, a lifetime even). So, if as a designer I accept that it’s near impossible to live without textiles, perhaps then the best thing is to design textiles of quality, textiles that make a smaller ecological footprint—textiles that are sustainable, that is—and to encourage consumers to consider a local, sustainable or handmade product instead of their usual choice.
focusing on interior textiles
While all this can definitely be applied to producing or designing clothing as well, so far I’m more interested in interior fabrics and products. I do firmly believe that home textiles (home décor in general) can improve our well-being. We do, after all, spend a lot of time at home, and I personally greatly value products that are both beautiful and functional, be it towels, blankets, accessories… I believe that when we’re at ease at home, it helps us deal with the stress we encounter in our daily lives.
in short: quality over quantity
All in all, in the future I’d like to contribute to a textile industry that encourages us to spend less by really focusing on quality instead of quantity, either by being one to produce such products, or by being part of a company that does. Because, if consumers value a lifestyle that consumes less, shouldn’t companies too? I certainly think so!
That’s the direction I’m striving to move towards as a designer right now—hopefully I’ll be able to make it work! Do you have thoughts on this topic? Let me know in the comments!
© 2019 Elisa Penttilä