The London Design Fair Presents Biomaterials as Material of the Year

Having considered the merits of reusing plastic components in design during last year’s event, this year the London Design Fair has chosen biomaterials’ positive contribution to both design and the environment as Material of the Year.

Material of the Year offers an opportunity to highlight and scrutinise a key textile whose properties are the subject of analysis and debate across the design world.

“The sheer volume of waste being repurposed and the potential volume these new materials can be used at, makes them extremely important and something we want to celebrate at the Fair,” says Jimmy MacDonald, Founder and Director of the London Design Fair.

Biomaterials (also known as bio-based materials) are often derived and made from by-products found in the agricultural industry, according to the London Design Fair.

In order to demonstrate the complex process of working with biomaterials, the London Design Fair will show four examples of work by designers with a keen awareness of the environment.

These designers have created functional and aesthetically pleasing designs using a range of by-products, which will be presented at the Fair’s Second Yield exhibition.

The designers include:

Fernando Laposse

London Design Fair, Fernando Laposse, Material Of The Year, Second Yield,
Photo credit: Fernando Laposse

Material: corn husks

Since 2016, Fernando Laposse has been collaborating with a group of families in Tonahuixtla, the Mexican state of Puebla. Totomoxtle is a new veneer material made with the husks of heirloom Mexican corn. An important part of traditional Mexican gastronomy, the country’s native corns range in colour, from deep purples to soft yellow creams. Unfortunately, due to globalisation, the number of native varieties of Mexican corn is under threat. The only real hope of saving the heirloom species lies with Mexico’s indigenous people, who plant the corn in accordance with tradition. Working in partnership with the community of Tonahuixtla, Totomoxtle is helping to regenerate traditional agricultural practices and establish a new craft that generates income for impoverished farmers.

Chip[s] Board

London Design Fair, Chip[s] Board, Material of the Year, Second Yield,
Photo credit: Chip[s] Board
Material: potato waste

Co-founded by Rowan Minkley and Rob Nicoll, Chip[s] Board is a biomaterial company that turns food waste into high-value circular economy materials. By utilising resources that are currently available, Chip[s] Board can create a sustainable, circular economy model.

As the world’s largest manufacturer of frozen potato products, McCain supplies Chip[s] Board with its raw materials. According to Chip[s] Board, the company has produced several sustainable circular economy materials using potato waste, including Parblex Plastics: these translucent pure or fibre reinforced bioplastics can be used in fashion and interior design.

Studio Tjeerd Veenhoven

London Design Fair, Studio Theerd Veenhoven, Material Of The Year, Second Yield,
Photo credit: Studio Theerd Veenhoven

Material: palm leaves

Based in the Netherlands, Studio Tjeerd Veenhoven is a product design studio that designs value chains from initial production to the overall consumer experience.

The areca betel nut is a staple ingredient of Indian cuisine. The nut grows on the areca palm tree, found throughout southern India and other regions. Like most trees, these palms shed their large leaves every year, beginning in October. The areca palm tree produces an abundance of unused palm leaves—around 80 million square meters yearly. Considering this natural waste, Tjeerd Veenhoven created a way of putting the leaves to use. Employing simple, natural ingredients and processes, Tjeerd was able to permanently soften the dry, hard and brittle palm leaf, giving it a leather-like quality. Known as PalmLeather, this project was established in 2010 and has been growing ever since.

High Society

London Design Fair, High Society, Material Of The Year, Second Yield,
Photo credit: High Society

Materials: hemp, tobacco and pomace

Founded in 2015 by Johannes Kiniger and Giulia Farencena Casaro, High Society is a sustainable design company, located in the heart of the Dolomite Mountains in northern Italy. By employing a compression moulding technique, the brand creates plant-based lighting from post-industrial waste. This waste includes: hemp leftovers, pomace, the pulpy residue that remains after wine production, and the discarded leaves and stalks from tobacco cultivation. Each light sold by High Society supports initiatives against drug dependency, in collaboration with Forum Prävention in Bolzano, a city in north-east Italy.

High Society produces three lamp variations: Highlight Hemp, Highlight Wine and Highlight Tobacco. To make the Highlight Hemp pendant, High Society uses industrial hemp leftovers, cultivated without pesticides. For the Highlight Wine pendant, pomace is collected from a local organic winery in South Tyrol. And to make the Highlight Tobacco pendant, leaves and stalks discarded during tobacco cultivation are collected from a supplier in the Venetian region of Italy.