Category Archives: Innovation

Nokia Designs that Save, Cost More

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In the New York Times article, “Nokia Tries to Undo Blunders in U.S.,” journalist, Kevin J. O’brien interviews executives at Nokia, a Finnish company and the world’s largest cell phone maker, about its decline in the United States.

Nokia’s comments are best summarized by this quote: “Among its biggest blunders, analysts and former Nokia executives say, the company failed to design many of its phones to the tastes of American consumers, instead mass producing devices for the global market to save on production costs.” That move cost Nokia almost a 30% share of the American market. On Thursday, Nokia posted a 1.36 billion loss and a global sales decline of 20%.

Evident in this story: the value of good design, and the cost of short-term thinking.

Example, Nokia was slow to develop a smart phone that could compete with the iPhone, a consistently growing sector of the cell phone market. And refused to tailor merchandise to local tastes and demands, at a penalty. The cell phone industry is extremely competitive and good design is an important element to any business success story.

Now, “Mark Louison, president of Nokia’s North American unit, says the company is laying the groundwork for long-term success.” Long-term, is a word not often uttered in corporate America. That said, having a vision of the long-term, the future that is, will be critical to any company looking to thrive.

If  only more executives  would take the time to understand the long-term picture and build for local markets, we would all benefit from an environmentally and economically sustainable world. NATALIA

Hip-tech Pop Culture

When I see performers like Kanye West and Lady Gaga sporting light up clothing and accessories I can’t help but think that this could be a glimpse into the near future of fashion.  The visceral use of the technology lends itself in performance but could there actually be a real world purpose? Yes, but not yet. A new technology called Lumalive has emerged, and like most fashion technology collaborations, Lumalive is best suited as marketing buzz. Until there are more fashion designers that understand material technology and see the big picture, we will continue to see frivolous high-tech innovations.

Lumalive is a branch off product from Phillips, and specializes in pieces of clothing with embedded LED lights that can create moving images within the textile itself. So far, they have been pushing the idea that this is an eye catching way to promote your company, product or event.  The images that are created within the garment are very generic and look like a scrolling movie theater marquee. None the less, the experience is visually stimulating, and as this technology evolves the images will become more complex.

It seems inevitable that its novelty will wear off and that Lumalive will make its way into mainstream retail. Considering how fast trends in fashion move people may just crave a light bright garment for back to school.  Now the idea of illuminating clothing becoming accessible doesn’t seem to be so Tron-esque anymore.

CABEZAS

design-futurist-natalia-fabric-display-philips

Carbon Fiber Textiles

Carbon fibers are a woven structure of thin carbon strands used to create a strong and lightweight shell for a variety of products from cars and fishing rods to cycling clothing.

The textiles are stronger than steel but much lighter. This decreased density is why the fibers are used to lower the center of gravity in cars, and create ultra light, durable clothing.

In some cases the fibers endure a multi-step process of heat and oxidization reaching several hundreds of degrees Celsius. The last phase for some of the fibers involves using a plastic resin changing the fiber into Carbon Fiber Reinforced Plastic. For military use in planes and protective clothing this multi-step, energy intensive process may make sense, yet it seems excessive for everyday clothing.

According to C&F Fabric Corps., the carbon fiber biking jerseys have extra absorbency to keep athletes cooler, cleaner and drier. Overall, the ecological impact seems too great to start mass producing clothing dependent on a process involving extreme temperatures and exposure to toxins.

– GANDRUD

History of the Bike Jersey

Design Futurist – joins World Economic Forum – Young Global Leaders

natalia-allen-design-futuristNEW YORK, NY – February 25, 2009 – Natalia Allen received an honor, bestowed each year by the World Economic Forum. The Forum recognizes and acknowledges between 200 and 300 outstanding young leaders from around the world for their professional accomplishments, commitment to society and potential to contribute to shaping the future of the world.

Drawn from a pool of almost 5,000 candidates, the Young Global Leaders 2009 were chosen by a selection committee, chaired by H.M. Queen Rania Al Abdullah of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, comprising 31 eminent international media leaders.

About The Forum of Young Global Leaders – Established in 2004 by Professor Klaus Schwab, The Forum of Young Global Leaders is a unique, multistakeholder community of the world’s most extraordinary young leaders who dedicate a part of their time to jointly address global challenges and who are committed to devote part of their knowledge and energy to collectively work towards a better future. Together the Young Global Leaders work to discover innovative solutions to today’s most pressing problems through various initiatives and workstreams as well as catalysing the next generation of leaders. Please visit the link for more information. Source: http://www.weforum.orgWorld Economic Forum announces Young Global Leaders 2009 http://www.younggloballeaders.org

English Retreads

English Retreads

English Retreads is a Boulder, CO based company born from Heather English’s own desire for a vegan handbag. Heather, a strict vegetarian, was looking for a leather alternative handbag. One day while floating down Boulder Creek on an inner tube she got an idea to refurbish vintage rubber and made herself a bag with tools from the local company McGuckin Hardware. After producing her bag and a few for friends, the company was officially founded in 2001 and operated out of her basement. Now based out of North Boulder, English Retreads continues to collect used inner tubes from local bike shops and gas stations, reusing the rubber for everything from dog collars to purses and belts. The average inner tubes have traveled an average of 60,000 miles already according to English Retreads.

Aside from a personal commitment to vegetarianism, Heather had no formal background in design or production. The company’s philosophy is to create “one-of-a-kind, hand-crafter accessories that make a high-impact fashion statement and a low impact on the environment.” Eight years later the company offers its hip, urban, waterproof products throughout  local boutiques in the U.S. and Canada. Not only is the product committed to social and ecological consciousness, English Retreads is a member of Co-op America’s Green Business Network and offsets its carbon footprint.

The bags themselves are very individual since each inner tube has different markings and as of now the product is made by hand. Recently the line has expanded to include lined bags as well and the lining is made for PET, recycled plastic bottles. Of course the bags are sturdy because of the material and also a little heavy. English Retreads is a great example of a local business born from an individual need for a smart product.

English Retreads bags are only sold in local boutiques and the average cost is between$100 and $200, with the large Beetle (pictured above) retailing at $209. – GANDRUD

 English Retreads

McGuckin Hardware

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bark Cloth

barkclothfromfiji

Bark cloth has been made throughout tropical and subtropical communities for ages and was a symbol of stature of the social elite. Today bark cloth is used as a sustainable, renewable material outside of these traditions. Traditionally, the inner bark of a fig or paper mulberry tree was harvested then through a two-week process of soaking and pounding the bark until it is thin, flexible and strong. Then a gum base is applied to attach pieces of the bark cloth together. Finally, after the men had gotten the bark cloth to this stage, the women painted it. Bark cloth was used for various ceremonies from mourning to weddings. The traditional Ugandan production of bark cloth is so specific it is considered a masterpiece of cultural and world heritage and is certified by UNESCO.

The final product is a strong, light, soft, textured material that withstands high humidity.Unlike Rayon and Lyocell, both made from tree pulp, bark cloth can stand high-humidity locations and the dampness does not cause shrinkage.

Aside from locals in Africa, Hawaii and other equatorial locations, there is a more modern production of bark cloth as well. The modern production is more of a weave and incorporates some Lycra or other material into the cloth and uses machinery for the pounding. The advantage of using bark cloth is that it is a natural process and the bark is renewable since it can be harvested from the same tree once a year. However, this more modern production often requires starting the material in one country and shipping it to another to be finished which counteracts some of the sustainability that is desirable about using bark cloth.

Bark cloth is used for hats, bags, as well as interior design fabrics. In the 1950’s there was quite a bit of bark cloth used for interior, and this vintage bark cloth is available widely online. While it is difficult to find any specific name brand designers using bark cloth, it seems that with the new Bark Cloth Initiative between Germany and Uganda that there will be more bark cloth on the market and hopefully it will trickle into mainstream fashion. At the moment, most examples of bark cloth are in textile museums, online purchases of vintage materials and local tropical communities.

At present modern bark cloth is also used by quilters and can be purchased from the New England Quilt Museum. Bark cloth can also be purchased by the BarkCloth Hawaiian Fabric Shop phone at: 808.422.4321. GANDRUD

 UNESCO

Making of Bark Cloth

Bark Cloth Production in Tonga

 

 

Bionic Yarn

Beautiful, sustainable and durable. That’s the motto for Bionic Yarn and hopefully part of the fashion industry’s New Years resolution. 

Return Textiles Corp, a two-year-old New York based company, engineers and manufactures sustainable yarn and fabric made from recycled plastic bottles. The construct is made of a polyester core wrapped in recycled plastic and then depending on what the fabric will be used for, a combination of nylon, polyester or cotton will be wrapped around the recycled plastic in two different directions creating a tension similar to a Chinese finger trap. The durable fabric is used to make backpacks, luggage, handbags, active apparel, work wear, denim, footwear, home and outdoor furnishings.

Bionic Yarn Construction

 

According to Bionic Yarn it takes eighteen 1 liter recycled water bottles to make an average piece of luggage and seven recycled plastic bottles to make a pair of jeans. With 60 million plastic bottles from consumers being put into landfills daily, there is more than enough supply to continue developing these types of sustainable fabrics.

 Pharrell Williams

Pharrell Williams the Grammy winning musician and a new investor and owner of Bionic Yarn has incorporated the new material into his own clothing lines Billionaire Boys Club and Ice Cream.  Pharrell was quoted as having said he was fascinated with the technology and pleased with the softness of the denim as well. With growing concern for the environment Williams will be an ambassador to the company. As Pharrell says, “Our goal is to be the go-to fabric supplier. We want to provide quality fabrics that also happen to be sustainable. We want to do everything from high end luggage to high end denim, to university caps and gowns to Parks Department uniforms. It’s a plus that the fabric brings environmentalism to a whole new level.”

Let’s hope so Pharrell, let’s hope so.

Bionic Yarn

Billionaire Boys Club & Ice Cream