Conscious design

Aspiring a minimalistic life, where we only buy what we really need, where we choose the most ethically, locally produced and sustainable products available, has become a status symbol. Through this we express how mindful we are about the choices we make, a way to show our values and personalities. With the best of intentions it is still limited to those that have the luxury to spend money or time cultivating appreciation for sustainability.

Could we stop feeling guilty about our desire to look good, buy something nice for our home? Designer Anneka Hall decided to allow for these human wants and instead break the conventions by influencing how things are made.

Anneka threads her designs with the love and appreciation for the material, making the most out of what we have and yet with a close understanding of consumer mind-set and our reality. With her down to earth and small scale approach she’s taking on the big and scary challenges we’re facing in sustainability and the textile industry. There is a lot to be inspired by from Anneka who take a full circularity approach for her designs and products.

The combination of Anneka’s creative and crafty side with a grandmother who taught her how to knit, led her to pursue a design career in textile design and more specifically men’s knitwear.

– I always loved the structure and the mathematical, logical thinking that the craft has and for me this comes through in a graphical aesthetic.

After working in the fashion industry for a few years she started feeling frustrated by the disposability she saw and how hard it was for the industry to change.

– As much as you want to say that everyone should stop buying – it’s not reality. I also go to the shops and buy, I know I buy stuff I don’t need and I work in research centre for sustainability! I like to treat myself and look good rather than feel guilty about this we need to find solutions for this.

This inspired Anneka to take a masters in Textile design with a heavy emphasis on designing for sustainability at Chelsea College of Arts and to start her own business to create the change she wanted to see.

The interest in homewares was always there but the reason why Anneka chose to create an interior collection was more of a practical one. Whilst developing her own up cycled yarn, she realised that the material was much better suited for home wares rather than clothing.

– I wanted to play to its strengths rather than forcing something to fit which it wasn’t made for. In home wares you can see some knitted throws and cushions but there is not the same variety as for other techniques. There are a lot of students making bold and exciting products out of yarn but these products usually never reach the shops.

When Anneka started looking at the textile recycling systems as a part of her masters programme she found that though reuse of material was common, the whole lifetime of a material wasn’t being considered. Working with all types of material, she found that the knitwear she used to design is being sold to be turned into “shoddy” materials. Meaning that a knitted jumper bought from the high street that costs around £40, maybe used a couple of times, immediately was turned into something of almost no value.

To change things around Anneka stood side by side the workers in the textile recycling plant and was able to see what knitwear is being thrown away. This led her to find the colour combinations that would be most realistic to have access to and saw the beauty in these materials that nobody else wanted. The grey and navy threads unpicked from the bestselling jumpers on the shop floors became the starting point to develop her yarn and felt fabrics which inspired the design of the collection.

To fulfil true circularity she encourages customers to return the used product so she can put this back into the system and once again make better use of the material.

With the material bit sorted, next design challenge was to make products, such as a pouf with a simple domestic knitting machine and by working with sturdy, thick yarn by hand.

Everything Anneka talks about in her words and actions are about material and conscious design. So what does conscious design mean to you?

 – To me it’s about thinking things through. Thinking about how I design the product and how they can come back to me. It’s about the full circle, questioning my process, supply chain and understanding how the customer will use what I create.

Designers like Anneka inspire me and more than anything they give me hope that the future of design is a better one. The combination of material focus, true craftsmanship and the mind set that we can change structure and systems of how things are made is brave and inspirational. With a common sense approach the ideals could become reality. Not only for the ones who made it this far reading but also to any one shopping a knitted jumper on the high street.

 

Anneka works in the new Centre for Circular Design formally Ted research and is about to start her PhD researching how the fashion industry can effectively recycle textiles. She is now looking at the next steps moving into manufacturing her products and being able to design for a bigger scale. Get in touch with Anneka for orders or collaborations/partnerships with brands.