Recently, Puma hosted a symposium for design professionals at their London headquarters to great success. Titled the Sustainable Design Collective, the goal was to turn creative ideas into real products that have a lasting positive impact on our community.
One of the more interesting projects at the conference was “Sole Searching,” presented by Tanya Dean and Nick Gant. The pair focused on material and its relationship to contemporary culture in their design research. The end result was ten incredibly unique pairs of shoes, each evoking a strong message based on what it had been made from.
For one pair, in order to incorporate recycled materials into textile and apparel production, Dean and Gant have found a solution in the use of corks. Once upon a time, natural cork was the perfect material for the wine industry- it is completely biodegradable and the tree is not harmed when it is harvested.
Now cheaper, plastic corks have replaced natural ones. Playing on this concept of the consequences of cost, Dean and Gant cut down on waste by re-purposing these plastic corks into “Businessman’s Brogues,” dress shoes that are traditionally a symbol of power and wealth.
A pair of slippers was also included in Sole Searching, and despite its strange premise, it is definitely one of the more heartwarming ideas. The slippers have been knit with yarn that has been spun from dog hair!
While this kind of yarn is certainly unusual, it comes from the same process as a cashmere sweater (simply using a different animal). The slippers draw inspiration from the emotional comfort a beloved pet can give, as well as the therapeutic nature of knitting.
In using shed fur that would otherwise be discarded, the project questions whether such sentimental value can be carried forward into a functional object.
Sole Searching produced several other interesting concepts, including flip flops made from plastic waste found in the ocean, baby booties made from human breast milk, and real glass “Cinderella” slippers!
Though the ideas presented through Sole Searching at the Sustainable Design Collective are certainly out there, Gant and Dean present an impressive train of thought that is a positive contribution to the future of sustainability.