Stilwerk Magazine Article :: Material Girls | Sustainability

A chair should look good and be comfortable? Moment! If you ask the collective Hyloh, the most important thing about a product is what it consists of. The material experts advise companies to optimize their manufacturing processes. One of her most important topics: sustainability.

When Fiona Anastas, Elodie Ternaux and Sarah D'Sylva look at a chair, they are less interested in their comfort. You can see the wood from which it is made, with what kind of screws the seat is connected to the legs and what kind of fabric glides protect the ground on which it stands. The three women founded the collective Hyloh in 2017 with other international designers and material professionals. What unites them is the question of the stuff that makes everyday items such as coffee machines, watches and furniture. "If we share our discoveries and information, we can just work even better," says Fiona Anastas. The name Hyloh derives the "material minds" from the ancient Greek term "Hylo", which translates as much as matter or matter means.

 Material is everything, nothing exists without reason. We are not only fascinated by its constant development, but also the connection to the human being - and from a sensory, emotional and value-creating perspective, 

explains Elodie Ternaux. Instead of sitting in a shared office, Hyloh's members are scattered across the globe. Fiona Anastas works either directly with the client or in a co-working space in Brooklyn. In video or telephone conferences she exchanges with her colleagues in Australia, China, Germany or France. Personally, they meet at design fairs; For example, in Milan or Amsterdam, where Hyloh presented different future scenarios and material worlds as part of the "FRAME Labs", a congress of the design magazine of the same name. Climate protection did not only play an important role there.

 Sustainability means that future generations will have what they need. As we currently consume, we take and waste too much, 

says Fiona Anastas. In their opinion, there are no really sustainable materials; the term would only simplify the problem. And how can one then work against climate change? The most convincing strategy is the Hylohs in the formula: "reducing, refusing and reusing". It could also revolutionize restorative design.

If we want a circular economy, we have to look at waste as a resource, 

explains colleague Sarah D'Sylva. "Thanks to improved recycling technologies, it is now possible to convert waste like this into a comparable raw material. Or alternatively in a new material with a special aesthetic. "Examples include the textile recycling material BlockTexx, Ecor panels made of paper fibers or Seaqual made of 100 percent recycled polyester fibers, some of which come from plastic waste from shipping.

Sounds like the solution to all problems, but the infrastructure for recycling and reprocessing still needs a lot of investment and development. "Until this gap is closed, consumers should choose products made from recycled materials that can be repaired and reprocessed. Or for brands offering take-back programs, "says Sarah. In this way, at least one regenerative loop is guaranteed. Hyloh material experts see interesting developments in biodegradable materials. The promise sounds tempting: like potato peels or coffee grounds, they are composted and degrade without leaving any residue, and even deliver nutrients to the environment. A binding standard is intended to guarantee that the materials actually decompose completely and do not remain as microparticles in the earth or the oceans. However, this requires a corresponding composting plant, which brings with it logistical challenges.

Among the trends of the future, Hyloh's professionals include not only grown fabrics, but also traditional manufacturing methods such as fermentation. This is also about exploring new uses for traditional materials such as hemp or rattan. As far as technical materials and manufacturing processes are concerned, they are seeing photovoltaics, graphene or 3D printing on the rise. Hyloh advises her clients on the background of studies to rethink complete manufacturing processes to achieve a more sustainable and rounder product - for example, by eliminating adhesives or using layered monomaterials.

With success, the list of clients is wide-ranging. They come from consumer electronics, architecture, the furnishing, packaging and cosmetics industries, for example. For the future, Fiona Anastas predicts:

 Materials will increasingly be chosen so that their durability is consistent with their intended life. For this they should embody the values of a brand. Overall, however, they will continue to promote us as they have always done. 

If you ask Hyloh, materials are nothing less than the engine of humanity.

This is a contribution from the stilwerk magazine " Living intensified ", written by Judith Jenner. Your personal copy of the current edition is available for take-away in the stilwerk houses in Berlin, Düsseldorf and Hamburg as well as in selected newsagents.


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