Emerging Designers Share Five Key Takeaways on How to Design for Circularity

We are honored to partner with universities across the globe to share our knowledge of eco-design. Most recently we collaborated with two university textiles programs to empower and inspire students to design with the end in mind with ECONYL® nylon. From interior design products and artwork to personal accessories and fashion, these students have continued to amaze us with their creativity and excitement for sustainable design.

Here is what five emerging designers learned from reimagining design with ECONYL® nylon and how you can implement these practices into your next project.

Therese Mieth, University of Art & Design Burg Giebichenstein Halle

For the 2022-2023 project with this university textiles program in Germany, students were tasked to create a product that combines the soft elements of ECONYL® yarn with the hard elements of 3D-printed ECONYL® filaments.

Therese Mieth was inspired to combine the two in a series of jewelry designed with 3D-printed modular chain links and knitted textile tubes. She experimented with various colors and structures to create beautiful, wearable pieces, all made of one material that can be easily recycled at its end of use.

“It was really special to work with ECONYL® nylon because it behaved differently than expected,” shared Therese. “I like how the textile element adds something soft to the hard chains. It’s flexible but also stiffens into the positions you want.”

Key Takeaway: By working with the same ingredient in a variety of forms, you can create an interesting product that still provides multiple textures and colors while being easily recyclable. 

Lauren Colbert, Parsons School of Design MFA Textiles Program

For the second year partnering with the Parsons MFA Textiles program, students were asked to design a product with the end in mind – one that could be easily dismantled and recycled at its end of life.

One of the Parsons students, Lauren Colbert, wanted to incorporate ECONYL® nylon into items that we use every day but don’t really think about. She designed a utensil and pen pouch woven with a double cloth technique.

“I have a pouch of utensils I carry everywhere so I don’t have to use plastic silverware or straws when I’m out of the house. With the shared focus of sustainability, I wanted to design a pouch with ECONYL® yarn,” said Lauren of her inspiration behind the project. “The double cloth weaving technique I used makes this piece customizable for any organization systems, and because it’s made without any added materials it’s easier to recycle.”

Key Takeaway: There is a mindset shift needed in the design process. By starting with the ingredient and designing a product around it, taking inspiration from what we do and use everyday, we can create more and waste less. 

Leah Messerschmidt, University of Art & Design Burg Giebichenstein Halle

Leah Messerschmidt was inspired to explore hat making for her project. She was fascinated by the technical know-how and stories behind hats from different cultures and wanted to reinterpret a few of them using ECONYL® nylon. Leah used various techniques for her hats, including weaving, knitting and 3D printing.

“Creating with ECONYL® nylon was a challenging and surprising experience – especially working in a monomaterial, but being able to use various textile and non-textile manufacturing procedures since we had both the yarn and filaments for 3D printing,” shared Leah. “I enjoyed the opportunity to create something fun and playful without tapping into new resources.”

Key Takeaway: Designing products in a monomaterial makes it easier to recycle and regenerate the ingredients. Not all materials are processed the same way, so recycling can be complicated if the various ingredients are not easily separated. By creating a product in one material, there is no need to separate the ingredients and no obstacle to recycling.

Katherine Weir, Parsons School of Design MFA Textiles Program

Katherine Weir wanted to design a sustainable fashion item as a replacement for the waste and unsustainable materials often found in the fashion industry. For her shawl, Katherine created two separate crochet structures, one of which she designed herself. The product is completely homemade and designed with Indigo.

“I wanted to make a wearable piece that would take the place of a fur or fake fur because I find there is so much plastic waste in the fake fur and leather textile industries,” shared Katherine. “My goal was to create a fully circular, recyclable piece that had the same qualities [as a fake fur] while still offering a coziness.”

Key Takeaway: We do not have to do things a certain way just because it’s the way it’s always been done. While better for the protection of animals, fake furs and leathers are still incredibly harmful for the environment. We can reimagine these products by exploring more sustainable ingredients.

Liia Zonova, University of Art & Design Burg Giebichenstein Halle

Liia Zonova wanted to create a handbag out of one material that would be easy to recycle while still being functional and beautiful. The greatest challenge was replacing the handle and fasteners, which would typically consist of metal or leather. She was able to design these pieces using 3D-printed ECONYL® filaments and wove them into the fabric of the bag so they wouldn’t need to be attached with a separate material.

“As we know, there is a huge overproduction of clothing and accessories these days,” shared Liia. “It was important to me to make an object that consists of one single material to reduce waste and improve the opportunity for recycling.”

Key Takeaway: The extent of our creativity is endless. We must tap into our creativity to develop innovative solutions to make designs less wasteful and more easily recyclable.

Experience the Future of Design at NeoCon

The theme for this year’s NeoCon – Together, We Design – inspires us to not only collaborate with our peers, but with emerging designers as well. That is why we are focusing the ECONYL® showroom on how we can all work together to reimagine the way we design and manufacture products through our compatible theme – Together, We Reimagine.

Visit our showroom at NeoCon on the 11th floor, room 107, to learn more about how we’re investing in the future of sustainable design. Several of the student products mentioned here will be on display!