Nature revisited

This year’s 100% Materials exhibits cover the full spectrum, from the ultra-new to traditional materials used in clever ways. Design Week develops a feel for some ingenious products that could bring real benefits

Innovative materials never fail to amaze with their promises of weird and wonderful uses, as well as cost-saving or environmentfriendly applications.

Shape-memory plastic that remembers its initial form no matter what contortions it is forced into, fake leather that feels like the finest calf-skin and synthetic fabric blended with ceramics to produce a textile that absorbs UV light are some of the attentiongrabbing materials on show at this year’s 100% Design.

There is a resurgence of nature as a major source of inspiration in design, says Chris Lefteri of Chris Lefteri Design, who curates 100% Materials. ‘Nature has always played a large part in decorative design, but recent advances in science, and particularly in the field of nano-technology, have allowed our aping of nature to go one step further,’ he says.

Materials on show will include Comfortemp from German company Freudenberg, which is a non-woven, breathable textile incorporating phase-changing particles that store up heat when the environment is hot and release it when it gets colder. Ultraleather looks at biomimicry from a different perspective, offering a credible alternative to PVC with many of the benefits of real leather, such as breathability and abrasion resistance. UK-based P2i, meanwhile, has developed a technology that can convert any fabric into a liquid-repellent surface. A treated silk, for example, will feel exactly like the untreated variety.

Unsurprisingly, environment-friendly materials are still high on the agenda. The No Bottle from Sidel uses shape-memory plastics in a standard PET bottle, which enables it to reduce its weight by up to 40 per cent. The X-Board from Xanita is a honeycomb-core cardboard sheet material with a high strengthto- weight ratio that is made with repurposed paper waste and sugarcane fibres and can be re-pulped into paper after use, and Bio-Batch from Begg and Co can be added to most polymers to render them 100 per cent biodegradable.

Despite the fascination with the innovative and new, 100% Materials will encourage visitors to consider the traditional. ‘It’s not just about the new materials, but also about reusing existing materials in clever ways,’ says Lefteri. ‘There is the excitement that newness brings to people, and that’s a real driver, but we sometimes underestimate the potential of existing materials.’ The exhibition is, therefore, structured around the idea of ‘building down and breaking up’. In addition to a new materials samples wall, a number of workshops will explore the theme of making things using smell and taste. Demonstrations will also encourage visitors to deconstruct design and analyse the material content of products and range from Making it from Nature with basket maker Lee Dalby to Making it with Taste with Zoe Laughling from Materials Library at King’s College, London. Three wellknown personalities will also smash up a product of their choice to delve into its composition.

Beyond 100% Materials, Norwegian design duo Stokke Austad has constructed this year’s 100% Norway stand in a traditional structure using Kebony, a new wood which has been treated using biowaste from the sugar industry to make it as hardwearing as teak, as well as environmentally sound. Brazilian manufacturer Componenti uses the 100 per cent recyclable Methacrylate material in its products, which range from the Entrelinhas lighting collection by Jose Marton to children’s furniture designed in partnership with Zanini de Zanine. ES Salmon Leather is, meanwhile, showcasing its eco-friendly alternative to the premium leather industry, which repurposes a by-product of the salmon industry.

As 100% Design director Peter Massey puts it, ‘the future of all our lives is in materials’.

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