How fashionable is industrial ecology?

How fashionable is industrial ecology?

Once a year, selected master’s degree students from some of the world’s leading design schools – namely NSCAD University, Halifax, Canada; Designskolen, Kolding, Denmark; London College of Fashion; Parsons Paris – gather at Pforzheim University’s School of Design for an intensive one-week Young European Talents (YET) Workshop (Canada is not exactly Europe, though). The fifth YET workshop in November 2013 was titled “from no.where to” and transformed rejected goods and leftovers into creative new products and fashion items in particular. Moreover, intermedial design experts developed virtual platform prototypes to bundle rejected and wasted material within a region to offer it to designers. A detailed description of the workshop can be found here.

Designing fashionable products from “waste for recycling” is certainly a very attractive option from an environmental point of view. It goes far beyond conventional recycling concepts, which are rather more often downcycling in effect. An adorable handbag made from battered bicycle tires or emptied coffee bags is upcycling at its very best.

To link YET activities to the field of industrial ecology, students in the resource efficiency management bachelor program at Pforzheim University’s business school analysed the life cycles of some of the reused materials and the environmental benefits of upcycling. The basic idea of LCA and industrial ecology, as well as the students’ results, were presented to the YET participants and at the YET vernissage.

You might argue that a small amount of upcycled design products are pretty irrelevant when considering overall global waste flows, material losses, and the need for recycling or disposal. Well, that is true. And it is completely wrong as well. Design and fashion anticipate future developments, set the trends, and are brilliant at communicating and emotionalizing. With this in mind, it is absolutely fascinating to watch future designers use all their skills to create great products from formerly lost material!

For further impressions of the YET vernissage check A short video summary of the YET workshop, including the vernissage, can be found here (in German) and the local TV station, Baden TV, also reported it (in German, starting at minute 7:00).

The images show fashion created from material that might otherwise have been lost (


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