Behind the Scenes

The Environmentally Friendly Interior Designer

October 30, 2019

There is a lot in the news lately about the environment, and governments’ and corporations’ failure to act to tackle climate change. Aside from where you might stand on the issue, most of us can agree on some basic principles: we like living on this planet, we would like the best version of it for the next generation, and too much rubbish is embarrassing.

Climate change comes from many sources. Rubbish, rejects and leftovers are a significant factor in it. I have written in my journal posts about the value in reusing and restoring the old and how it relates to my own perfectly imperfect interior design philosophy. I talk about, for instance, those who create art from rubbish like Tim Noble and Sue Webster, and companies like Retrouvius who restore old furniture, lighting, or architectural elements.

Recently I met Christina Dean, who opened my eyes to the fabric waste in the fashion industry. Apparently, due to the aggressive fashion cycles, ‘mistakes’, changes of heart and changes in fashion, the fashion industry generates 92 million tons of textile waste each year. Redress, the NGO Christina spearheaded that has a mission to reduce fashion’s waste, receives ‘waste’ materials and tries to recycle it, either by collaborating with emerging sustainable fashion designers and fashion universities and other social groups, or by channelling fabric excess to their sister fashion brand, The R Collective. The R collective is an upcycled brand that creates beautiful clothing using fabric that would otherwise have been landfilled, incinerated or downcycled into low grade padding or rag materials.

Many other businesses are trying to address this issue of waste. Adrian Jones and Graham Ross from Block Texx take blended fabrics and reduce them to their raw components that can then be reused for plastic items – read more about it in this Guardian article.


So, what can we do in interior design? I would love to have a place like The R Collective where I could buy upcycled fabrics from all the major brands. Just imagine walking through your house, decorated with Ralph Lauren Curtains, being able to tell guests you upcycled them and did a little something for the planet! The curtain maker could be the same curtain maker you love, with the style and design you want … and the fabric itself? The same luscious quality you would have bought anyway.

Who will start this company that collects and stores discarded fabric? I can’t right now. I’ve just gotten past having a baby, creating a business and moving to the UK. I need a couple of years before I expand my ventures. The advice I would give for someone who might like to take it on would be to create a factory near Milan, in the heart of the fabric industry in Italy. Having a facility in the area that collects unused fabric would make it easier for textile manufacturers to salvage their discards. I promise I will be your first client!