78, The Substance Issue
Where form and function collide
"Francine Stock’s 2002 novel, Man-Made Fibre, captures the enthusiasm for modern materials that pervaded the post-war landscape. At the time polyester, nylon and crimplene were seen as saviours that would liberate us from the toil of laundry and the inflexibility of natural fibre. But over time we discovered that these new fabrics had their limitations too. Breathability and biodegradability became buzzwords and what was once seen as an asset has become a liability as the zeitgeist shifted. Today’s engineers are developing composites that marry the benefits of natural and man-made materials from both sides of this cultural shift. On a recent trip to Normandy I was impressed to see flax, a traditional product of the region, being used to make new, high-tech sports equipment. The lack of elasticity in flax fibres, once seen as a limitation, has proved beneficial as a shock absorber in these new composites. At Selvedge we are looking forward to collaborating with Ercol, the 100 year-old furniture maker, and Solidwool, an innovative new manufacturing company, on an installation that will be revealed at the London Design Fair.
In this issue we celebrate the material empathy of one of our favourite innovators, Dutch designer Christien Meindertsma, and others working from Eindhoven. This is not new of course: we see the same ingenuity in the spirit of the Pennsylvania Dutch settlers, who adapted their aesthetic to meet new circumstances when they fled religious persecution in the 17th century.
All of the designers in this issue work with old materials in new ways, new materials in old ways, and all sorts of combinations that lie in between these binary approaches. Now, natural and man-made materials are being turned on their heads as the hierarchy undergoes a seismic shift.