Tee Tag was the Student Winner in the Service Design category of the 2020 Core77 Design Awards competition.
When it comes to amplifiers of climate change, promotional products like tote bags and t-shirts may be one of the print industry's biggest sins. Today's textile industry in general uses many non-renewable materials to make garments that have over a 50% chance of being worn and then discarded in under a year. The total amount of pollution that stems from textile production is second only to the oil industry and is greater still than that of transportation—the short shelf life of promotional products means promotional products' contributions to the trash heap are considerable and turnover into the landfill incredibly high.
The t-shirt packaged -
Johanna Brämersson and Kjersti K. Fretland of the Oslo School of Architecture and Design began to wonder what can be done immediately to put an end to these destructive practices. "To begin, we acquainted ourselves with the everyday realities of the textile industry. We were shocked & appalled by the extent of modern day slavery, child labour and the disregard for the environment," the pair shared. "We looked at our own wardrobes and shamefully whispered to each other about how many garments we owned. The whole textile industry is so large, overwhelmingly complicated and difficult to change. We knew we couldn't fix everything, but we could examine the system and identify trends & potential changes in the textile industry."
The team's research led to the idea for Tee Tag, a rental business concept that offers re-brandable workwear for campaigns and events. The idea behind the product system is for companies to send in promotional wears printed by Teetag using a more sustainable printing method; once a campaign has ended, apparel can then be recycled to use for another customer's event.
Coloring the t-shirts (test) -
Colouring the t-shirts (test) -
Tee Tag's chosen method for printing t-shirts allows graphics to be removed and shirts reused. The designers came up with using an environmentally friendly ink developed by the company Refinity that can be applied by hand or with a digital printer. The ink is removed by soaking, rinsing and re-soaking in a water and detergent mix, followed by a normal wash. It will leave no trace and the t-shirt can be reused.
Brämersson and Fretland's research led them to interesting discoveries of where consumers stand on their opinions of secondhand items. The duo's main priority was to talk to users and experts, primarily to educate themselves on the textile industry & inter industry communications. "We decided to look at short-term workwear after research showed that employees just wanted their uniforms to fit and be clean. We talked to businesses and employees and found that short term uniforms were mostly discarded, unable to be recycled because of low quality and non-removable logos," the team notes. They were also surprised to find the idea of promotional products being recycled excited research participants, making them feel more ethically and environmentally responsible.
The idea for Tee Tag still remains a concept, but serves as a positive model for what service industries like textile printing can evolve to be. For the designers behind Tee Tag, this dream feels less like wishful thinking than it does an inevitable shift. "The system is no longer sustainable: It demands expansion, consuming precious, finite resources, creates vast amounts of textile waste, ignoring the potential for the reuse & recycling of clothing and takes little to no responsibility for its severe environmental impact," Brämersson and Fretland write.
Read more about "Tee Tag" on our Core77 Design Awards site of 2020 honorees
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It reminds me of a pop-up by PrintClub London at Clerkenwell Design Week in 2018, where they offered to recycle your branded tote bags with a selected screenprint design by Chelsea College of Art graphic design students.
Anyone that has been to trade shows will immediately understand how many tote bags, t shirts and branded gifts go to waste as some of them are really nicely made, but you're unlikely to use them precisely because of the branding they carry !