Designing for the Future: Investing in Innovative Design with Students at the Parsons School of Design

Our philosophy at Aquafil is to design with the end in mind, but we cannot carry the torch alone. So, we look to those who represent the future of sustainable design: students with a hunger for innovation and a desire to lead the industry with eco-friendly practices.

Aquafil had the incredible opportunity to partner with students from the MFA Textiles program at Parsons School of Design. The assignment was simply to create a piece – accessory, clothing, furniture, textile – using ECONYL® regenerative nylon that could be disassembled and recycled at the end of its original use. We were amazed by the immense talent and creativity of these students, and are thrilled to share a selection of their designs and perspectives.


Engaging Parsons with the ECONYL® x Aquafil Project

“It was an honor to work with Aquafil to provide a relevant and inspiring project for the students,” said Preethi Gopinath, Program Director for MFA Textiles at Parsons. “Our particular program is engaged with sustainability, social justice, well-being, health and beauty in artistic design. Working with a brand focused on environmental impact was a perfect fit for these students in all the various professional backgrounds they represent: fashion design, fine arts, and interior design.”

The graduating class of 2022 was excited to work with ECONYL® yarn, as “each of [them] is focused on creating change within the textile industry,” explained Hannah Kim, one of the students. Following sustainable design practices is a goal for the MFA Textiles program and its students. “Aquafil’s circularity is inspiring to us,” shared another student, Alyssa Schulman. “Its low carbon footprint gives us so much hope for the textiles industry, which up until this point has contributed a lot of pollution.” 


Spotlight on Students’ Designs Featuring ECONYL® Fiber

Natural Dyeing, Jason Greenberg

Through his exploration, Jason discovered that the ECONYL® yarn responds beautifully to natural dyes. He was able to produce a vibrant array of colors using 100% natural materials such as pomegranate extract and cochineal (whole beetles). 

“My first impressions of the material were its strength and absorption rate,” Jason offered. “The ECONYL® fiber absorbed the dyes more efficiently than natural fibers. I only needed to put them in the dye pots for 20 to 30 minutes as compared to overnight for natural fibers and it produced more vibrant colors than some of the natural fibers I’ve dyed. I really fell in love with it.”


Art Construction, Xiaofan Qu

This piece is inspired by the recycling process of trash found in the ocean. Xiaofan used different colors associated with the ocean as the background, embellished by textiles and marbles that rotate with a sensor. The sensor is in a glove and activates as the glove is stretched out, showing that even the smallest actions can have the greatest impact on the environment and the world around us.


Footwear Product, Xinyu Wang

Using knitted ECONYL® yarn, Xinyu employed the Japanese hand weaving technique called Zori to create these sandals. This technique uses only the body as tools so the maker gets a deeper connection with materials. Xinyu designed the shoe shape based on the concept that nature is supporting and relying on us at the same time. 


Lighting Product, Hannah Kim

“I was very inspired by the recycling of ocean waste and wanted to create a knitted sculpture wave that represents where ECONYL® fibers once came from,” shared Hannah. “By integrating LEDs and infrared sensors into my knitted sculptures I was able to create a lamp that can change colors based on the user’s preferences. When the lamp is activated, the LEDs replicate what it would look like when the moon shines onto the ocean.”


Woven Upholstery Product, Lenna Keshishian

Made entirely of ECONYL® regenerative nylon, Lenna wove together yarns of various colors to create a bold, beautiful upholstery fabric. Her final design’s specific length and width works perfectly as a decorative table runner, bringing vibrancy into the home. The weaving could also be produced at a greater width and sold as yardage to be used as upholstery fabric for chairs, pillows, sofas, headboards, and other interior pieces.


Finding a New Perspective: Designing with the End in Mind

The Aquafil executive team was surprised and impressed with the variety of designs and products these students were able to produce. We are in awe of their inventive practices and artistic expression through sustainable design, but found even more joy in the perspective the students gained from working with ECONYL® yarn.

“I was shocked by how much we could do with the material,” Alyssa expressed. “When we started experimenting with the ECONYL® yarn and everyone had such different ideas for how to use it, we were amazed by its versatility. It was really encouraging to see how much potential there is for a sustainable material.”
“Before learning more about ECONYL® nylon, I never really took into consideration the separation of everything at the end of a product’s lifecycle,” shared Lenna. “That to me is now always in the back of my mind in terms of recyclability.”

Hannah expressed that, “By the end of the project I fell in love with ECONYL® yarn and its qualities. Because of the material’s ability to curl and make very organic shapes, I decided I want to use the rest of the ECONYL® yarn we have to develop more of my lighting pieces, including for my thesis project.”


Designing for the Future

I have never been as excited for the future of sustainable design as I am after seeing the work of the MFA Textiles students at Parsons. We are proud to see ECONYL® nylon used in inventive, beautiful designs and look forward to the impact these students will have in the art and design industries.

“Aquafil gave our students a very open mandate to tell the story of ECONYL® fibers,” Preethi explained. “This project highlighted our shared priority of creating sustainable textile objects and products while giving the students freedom to explore and stretch their creativity in an educational space.”

To recognize the hope students represent in the industry’s potential for sustainability, we have designated the ECONYL® x Aquafil: Designing for the Future Award. The Aquafil leadership team has selected the top three designs presented by the MFA Textiles students at Parsons, who have been awarded with the opportunity to share their pieces at NeoCon 2022 in Chicago next month. At this year’s conference, we are proud to showcase exactly what the award embodies: the future of design.


Author: Gaëlle Merlin, Design & Development Manager - Aquafil Group