Going Circular, Going Cellulose

Going Circular, Going Cellulose is a design research project in which Hellen van Rees works together with the Saxion research group Sustainable & Functional Tesxtiles, the ArtEZ Fashion Professorship and various projectpartners in the textile and clothing chain.

Going Circular, Going Cellulose investigates an interactive co-creation process to adapt the technical design of yarns (based on sustainable cellulose fibers) and fabrics (functionality of the sustainable materials). The designers, one of which is Hellen an Rees, play an important role in making the sustainable products widely accessible due to the aesthetic design of the products. In addition, it is of great importance for designers to develop more technical material knowledge and to be involved in material development at an early stage; this is essential for an actual circular design process.

Through mutual interaction between all stakeholders in the supply chain, the technical design can strengthen the aesthetic design and vice versa. The research will focus on how the stakeholders in the circular supply chain must work together and what knowledge they need to exchange in order to actually realize this synergy. Hellen especially worked extensively with Enschede Textielstad and Alcon Advies.

As a result, Hellen developed a series of sample products that are based on an intense amount of research into weaving processes and material combinations. The base of this is the unwanted/flawed/irregular materials that sometimes occur in an industrial textile production process. Even automated processes can sometimes slip, break, crease and require the skill of the workers to tweak the settings to get the constant, homogenous quality/look/feel the client desires. The irregularities don’t meet these requirements and are therefore often discarded. That doesn’t mean the quality is not good, it’s just different. Then there are (small) design studios, and their clients, always looking for something different & authentic. So what if these production flaws, or production waste material can become the new design feature in a product?

That means a shift in the design process. Rather than the designer demanding a certain specific colour, material, binding… it is reversed to the producer telling what is available, what went wrong in production this week, those are the ingredients. That means not having a set colour scheme, material type, weight, etc. also not knowing what the irregularity will be. 

At the design phase Hellen also took into account the design for longevity and design for disassembly/recycling. Various pieces are modular so pattern parts can be exchanged between different garments. The threads, haberdashery, etc. have been chosen so that they match the main material of that pattern piece. The adjacent piece might be something altogether different in composition, which has consequences for the afterlife of the product. These parts are stitched with an innovative yarn that can easily be dissolved in an industrial microwave.

This research would not have been possible without visiting the different industry partners and their willingness to share their knowledge and the critical reflections and support from the knowledge institutes. The project finishes in the summer of 2021.