Designers Lisa Siedlecki and Jennifer Silbert worked in fashion and architecture, respectively, two industries where they saw their share of wasted materials. Three years ago they'd had enough and quit, teaming up to produce something useful and ecologically responsible. "We started Rewilder to combat the fast fashion craze with meticulous design, ethical materials, and high quality," they write.
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With the goal of repurposing existing materials, Siedlecki and Silbert began to do research and found that beer manufacturers use enormous swaths of polypropylene filters during the manufacturing process, then throw the unrecyclable filters away. They also found that climbing gyms deem ropes unsafe after just six months of use, then those go in the trash. And they found that painting contractors have no use for the leftover custom color paints from one job to the next.
The duo then set up a means of acquiring these materials and designed a line of useful products that could be made from them:
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To divert items from landfill and instead see them as a useful and free (or low-cost) raw material to produce useful objects is a goal all designers should have. I've read through Rewilder's philosophies, printed below, and wish that these principles were part of every design school's curriculum.
Rewilder's "THINGS WE BELIEVE IN"
REPURPOSING: Extending the useful life of a material; the evolution of a material from industrial byproduct to design object. Repurposing means that we are not making new material; instead, we're careful to use materials that are already made. Repurposing is better than recycling.
DESIGN: Design is a powerful tool with the ability to influence thoughts and actions. As designers we feel responsible for starting conversations about the things we make and consume. We take a thoughtful approach to every decision – what materials we use, where we get them, how we fabricate, and with whom we partner.
HANDCRAFT: Making things by hand brings us closer to the end product and allows us to thoughtfully consider each detail. The close-knit relationship between design and making results in beautiful, long-lasting objects that fulfill our intentions.
TRANSPARENCY: Production is hard, and we want to share our knowledge about the decisions we make. Ask us questions and we'll answer them!
PRESERVING NATURAL RESOURCES: Los Angeles has the lowest green space per capita in the country. Even so, nature is all around us, and we believe in preservation both in our backyards and on a global scale. We support organizations that keep plastic out of the ocean, and keep waste out of our local natural resources.
FAIR PRICING: The price of our products reflects the actual cost of producing items in a responsible manner in the US.
OUR MISSION STATEMENT: We are passionately creative makers who believe in repurposing materials already in circulation rather than making them anew, and creating long-lasting products valued as design objects in order to inspire thoughtfulness and impact people's relationship with the things they buy.
If you're a design entrepreneur looking to make a difference, you can start by visiting a material recovery facility to see what gets thrown away. Read this entry on how Siedlecki and Silbert did just that several years ago, and the benefits and insights they gained from the visit.