Back in a busy city…Tube everyday… I start to miss those forests in Sweden.
Sweden has a good reputation with policies and methods to conserve the environment. Sustainability always comes in priority. I can often see these pracitise in Swedish daily routine— such as the food wastage recycling is carried out in everywhere even the pantries of the student classrooms. Scrap yarns are thrown in separated bins. Lights are off in washrooms / rooms that aren’t in use. …
So as this design course, we were asked to do a fashion project with a fast fashion chain- Gina Tricot- aim at designing and developing textile samples towards sustainable ideas. A study visit was organised to meet the head of sustainability of Gina Tricot. It was a good experience for me to know how people from fast fashion think about these issues.
However, I am not so sure if I can agree with their ways of thnking. After the study visit and the meeting, I found it is all about bussiness— which implied maximising earnings. Instead of maximising product life or quality. Sustainability is much of business tactics to add value to products and boost competitiveness. How awful is the fast fashion …!
The Swedish School of Textile has tried to introduce students to sustainable design as much as possible. There have been a few design seminars about eco labels and the designers talked to us about their philosophy and their ways of developing eco materials. The design seminars are very useful and convincing. Those eco labels weren’t of big scale business. They were independent designer houses. We had the the chance to know about their background and how the business was started without much financial support. They were friendly and happy to tell us their work.
One of the eco labels is called Creatables and I have previously written about. See Wastewise design from Creatables
It is all about feeling good . So rest time, food, quietness…. are very important to them. I was told that ‘fika’ is the most important word in Swedish !!! Fika… is the name for coffee break. Usually a few fika time for everyday at work or school. Fika probably helped to restore mental health. There were a lot of soundproof design in the school- espeially in library and teacher office. Some rooms in the office had working desks for standing height so one can stand or sit to work for better blood circulation. Space is important for design students so each of us has own bookcase/ working desk/ drawers/ bin/ pin board. Communal tables in the centre to separate work time and meal time.
Quality of life is also a huge emphasis in design. We had a 3-month group project to work on soundproof textile design with a company called CGM that specialises in furniture and control room design. It is said that operators in the control room are under much stress and sound absorbent design can enhance their working atmosphere for better working performance. All the working human are equal and well deserve a pleasant working environment.
So we considered much about the well beingness of the operators at work and develop our sound absorbent design work with support from acoustic workshop and seminars.
Ikea and H&M are the iconic Swedish design companies. Very much about low price, mass production. Also settig some hints of indication for the Swedish general style. Therefore, we were encouraged to consider the production way when working on our design. The Swedish School of Textile has well-equiped labs with wide range of industrial machines. They are there for students to try out big scale production.
I am not a ‘production-thinking’ person. I have never tried to categorise myself into a style. But now in comparison, I came to realise I am a ‘craft’ person. A production way of thinking is very hard for me and I am not familiar with such style of working.
In the beginning, I found it quite awful because the fabric is produced itself. When a fabric is made fast without taking care of bit by bit during the progress, I don’t have much affection for it at all. It was the first time I didn’t have a friendly relationship with the work I made. That was a jacquard kniting piece. I felt really bad…..
However, I made myself to work with them later on. Simply tried them out since I was there in this Swedish school. No matter how reluctant I felt, I should try at least once.
So I tried to turn my crafty textile samples to those flat kniting machines. I thought it would failed and absolutely impossible (simply because of my bias). I had great help from the technicians. In the end, it worked out after much effort.
I came to realise though kniting with hand machine and industrial machine are entirely two different ways of working, they both require the skill of problem solving. To turn a piece from craft into industiral production is challenging since it requires a different approach that fits the industrial production with a result that looks similar to the initial craft piece. Once the apropriate approach has been come up, the next step is to set a computer program. After a lot of attempts translating the program to the machine, fixing the right yarns, stitch length, methods, I realised I have gradually built up the lovely relationship with the textile piece. I felt hopeful and had a lot of expectation. The technician is a clever!! The fabric can be made fast from the industrial machine, but it is the previous progress of development taking painstaking effort of porblem solving skills that adds precious value.
I used to think innovative and creative is similar thing. Now I came to realise what the ‘innovation’ the Swedish people keep saying all the time is.
‘Innovative’ implies functionality.
‘Creative’ implies conceptualism.
Swedish way of design looks at innovation much. A clever design is expected. A clever design can be a minimal design that beneficial for production/ a practical design that improve daily life/ multi-function/ technology-based….
Some lessons start at 8:30am. — this simply tells the Swedish impressive attitude.
I applied for exchange for leaving this busy London for a while… for new insight. new thoughts. new culture. Whilst my days in Sweden, I missed the atmosphere in London. I have been an enjoyable life in Sweden but I came to realise the uniqueness of art and design colleges in London.
I know I am learning ‘creativity’ in Chelsea College. The main technique we are learning is the way to develop our own individual work. Once it is gradually developed, it is never ending. Creativity is endless. We learn to observe, be inspired, develop, solve problem,express ideas, visualise …
very individual, independent, liberal.