Can you wear what you eat? Yes, sustainable fish, mushrooms and pineapples…

Image result for LCF
Image source here.

 

In June, I was very lucky to attend a course on Sustainable Fashion Textiles at London College of Fashion, run by Amanda Johnston from “The Sustainable Angle” and her associates.

Our team of students was international and vibrant, with participants from the fashion and textile industries who were all keen to find out more about sustainable textiles. Of course, in my teaching, my students have had to look at sustainability and together we have acquired quite a bit of knowledge on this subject (we watched “True Cost of Fashion” and “Home”, we looked at fast fashion, Patagonia and luxury brands). At this short course my hope was to find out new things and develop new thoughts and indeed, it had some great surprises for me in store, such as fish leather, mushroom leather and a fabric made out of pineapple!

Amanda and her colleague Christina Tiran taught an engaging and inspiring day, speaking about the fashion industry, which according to some statistics is the second most polluting industry in the world, right after the oil industry. With consumers demanding lots of cheap fashion items, producers growing and sourcing not sustainably and designers ignoring the cradle-to-cradle approach when creating, it is no wonder that we cause a great misery to our planet. In fact, when Amanda asked us to brainstorm about what Sustainability means, I came up with the following thoughts:

To consider the state of the world which we leave for our children;

To return to a time when there was harmony with nature, pre-Industrial Revolution;

Treating nature, animals and humans in a dignified manner.

And although these are just my thoughts, as we learned, Greenpeace also suggested to move away from mass-production and consumption but embrace and respect each material individually. When I lived in Japan, I also learned this material lesson, as the Japanese culture has an ancient tradition of cherishing things, repairing and restoring them and not wasting them. For this, there is even a unique word: “mottainai” – litterally meaning “do not waste” or “too good too waste.” I love this concept and I feel that we should all embrace it in our lives.

 

Since The Sustainable Angle features the Future Fabrics Expo, an expo which helps to show, promote and communicate “textiles with a lower environmental impact to designers, buyers, press and global organisations, in a setting that is designed and curated to introduce textiles for the future with a lower environmental impact” – our class got to experience the innovative textiles and closely inspect them. This was very exciting and I want to share just a selection of incredible sustainable textiles with you below. Interestingly, most of them come from sources which are edible and so they are mostly bi-products of the food industry. It is not new to wear what we eat, as historically leather, fur and some plant fibres were part of people’s food.

Here are my top 8 favourites and perhaps some of the most exotic ones I have ever come across – to wear or to eat!

 

1. Apple Fabric

Apple fiber textile. Is it edible?

2. Mushroom Fabric

3. Plastic Trash gets a new life

This plastic sequin is made from recycled plastic and thus gets a second life instead of a trip to the landfill.

 

4. Pineapple Fabric

80% PINEAPPLE!! & PLA + Foil

5. Tree Fabric

“How a tree becomes a fibre” – an illustrative box by Lenzig which is great fun for tactile people like me…

 

6. Salmon Skin

Salmon skin in blue. It even works for cars! Yes, when I visited the BMW headquarters in Munich, I found out that there is a bespoke BMW model and any wish can be incorporated. A wealthy client who is a fish farmer thus had the interior of his new ride outfitted in salmon leather!

 

7. Ostrich Leg Leather

 

8. Pirarucu Fish Skin

And here is my absolute favourite: The Pirarucu fish, that lives in the Amazon region and can grow to nearly 3 metres (10 feet) and a weight of 220 kg (485 pounds) – according to Britannica. It is a carnivorous fish with a bony tongue and surfaces to breathe air. This fish is traditionally eaten by indigenous people and they are the only ones who are permitted to kill it.

However, if it becomes popular as a skin, my thoughts are that the fishing will need to be controlled to prevent overfishing. In fact, as recent as 2014, a study found that the fish was depleted at more than 90% of the sites examined and well-managed or unfished in only 7%. (Castello et. Al, 2014 and Gough, 2014). So again, whoever produces skins for commercial reasons has the big responsibility of ensuring the continuity of this species. Nova Kaeru is one of those companies.

This is fish skin, very light, beautiful and naturally pink! It didn’t smell fishy at all and the skin is light and flexible. This is the PIRARUCU fish below.

 

A beautiful yellow handbag made out of Pirarucu fish skin. It also works well for shoes. Image source: Pinterest.

 

What’s great about these fabric samples is how the labels are designed: Not only do they tell you the regular information of fabric composition/ weight/ size or price, it also gives you insights into the company that produces them as well as how the textile meets ecological and sustainable prerogatives. That is an innovation and should be available on all textiles! Apart from these exotic samples, there is also linen, cotton, wool, Alpaca, viscose and the rest of the textile gang.

Sadly though, this is only a fraction of the efforts that we should put into preserving biodiversity, respecting all living things on our planet and changing the fashion industry which is far from being sustainable nor circular in any way.

As the Business of Fashion recently explained in an article entitled “Circularity: Sustainable Fashion’s Holy Grail or Greenwashing?” quoting Maxine Bédat, co-founder of sustainable fashion brand Zady:

Circularity is three things: keeping resources in use for as long as possible, getting the most value from those resources while in use, and, finally, recovering and regenerating products and materials at the end of each service life. We can’t forget the first two components of this concept.”

But Kirsten Brodde, a campaigner for “Detox My Fashion” at Greenpeace has a more critical approach:

“The current discourse about circularity depicts a society that can continue to make, buy and discard as much fashion as it likes. We need to stop thinking about growth and speed and start thinking about extending the lifespan of clothing to slow down and limit our excessive wasting of precious natural resources.”

This is a point well made and so pertinent to the fashion industry and those giants who cause grief to the planet. As soon as a company is listed on the stock exchange, as soon as it has to achieve profits every quarter, every year and pay dividends to its investors, you are in a viscous circle. You can’t slow down and ignore profit, as investors will turn away, sell shares cheaply and put the company’s health at stake. Equally, if you keep feeding the “machine” like Seymour fed his Audrey II, you are bound to engage in unsustainable practices.

Image source: Good on You.

Perhaps you want to explore more on this topic? If so, there are a few good websites, books and fairs to start with:

Check out The Sustainable Angle and their Future Fabric Expo, have a look at the Fashion Revolution or the Sustainable Apparel Coalition which was set up by Patagonia, as well as Good on You. You might also like to get your hands on the international bestseller  “Cradle to Cradle” by Michael Braungart and William McDonough or the Handbook of Sustainable Luxury Textiles and Fashion by Gardetti and Muthu.

And if you can travel to Berlin, why not visit the Ethical Fashion Show in July? It’s a fashion event entirely dedicated to sustainable brands. At the University of the Arts, we have a Centre for Sustainable Fashion, which you can visit here.

As I close this blog post, I want to ask you: Have you ever worked with sustainable fabrics?

Have you recently seen anything in the shops that was made of either organic, bio or recycled materials? How do you recycle your clothes or decrease your environmental impact? Have you encountered a fabric made out of a food?

And how can we improve the industry and educate consumers?

Feel free to share your thoughts and contribute to the discussion!

 

 

 

Advertisements

This week, Vogue reminds us of Rana Plaza and offers small solutions

Rana Plaza is one incident which was reported on, published and shown to us (see my post here)but how many people suffer due to our fashion system on a daily basis? The numbers remain in the dark. 5 years ago, there was alot of activism, such as the Spanish trade union UGT, who felt for their manufacturers in Bangladesh and staged a protest.

Activists of the Spanish trade union UGT (General Union of Workers) perform with fake blood in front of a Mango store in Barcelona on May 7 during a protest after the tragic death of hundreds of Bangladeshi workers who made clothes for western brands in precarious conditions. Photo: AFP

What can we do to make things better?

We can take small steps to initiate small solutions. For example, a few years ago, I staged this Barbie photo below, in order to remind us of the constant consumerisim we live in.

 

“Barbie’s Shopping Binge” Photograph by Olga Mitterfellner

 

I am pleased to see that Vogue has written a piece on “Fashion Revolution”, reminding us of Rana Plaza – the horrid catastrophe which shook the fashion world 5 years ago and I am reposting the article further below. Have a look at what Vogue’s Ellie Pithers suggests here below followed by my own special recommendation and do post your thoughts!

***********************************************************************************************************************

 

5 Changes To Make This Fashion Revolution Week

Five years on from the Rana Plaza garment factory disaster, and there’s no better time to make more mindful, socially responsible fashion choices. Here’s what to do if you want a fairer fashion industry this Fashion Revolution Week.

 

It’s hard to believe that it’s been five years since the world watched an eight-storey factory collapse in Bangladesh. The Rana Plaza disaster claimed 1,138 lives and injured a further 2,500 garment workers – and has subsequently proved a turning point in the collective fashion consciousness.

In a special “Fashion Question Time” discussion at the House of Commons on Monday, numerous panel members argued that conditions have improved – albeit painfully slowly – for garment workers since the industrial tragedy, which forced factories, brands and governments to analyse the human cost of fast fashion.

Rushanara Ali, MP for Bethnal Green and Bow, and incidentally the first person of Bangladeshi origin to have been elected to the House of Commons, put it succinctly when she said: “[Rana Plaza] was a wake-up call to consumers in the west, and their governments. The awareness and public pressure both internationally and also domestically has meant that the workers in that sector have a stronger voice and more back-up which needs to be maintained. Overall pay and conditions have improved slightly. But the prognosis is a mixed one. There has been some progress but not enough. We need to make sure the legacy of the tragedy is that there are international agreements to make sure something like this does not happen elsewhere.”

Step forward Fashion Revolution, a movement founded in the immediate aftermath of Rana Plaza, to radically change the way our clothes are sourced, produced and consumed. This week marks the fifth Fashion Revolution Week, and the debut of a new manifesto which aims to make the fashion industry fairer. Here are five ways to get involved with Fashion Revolution Week, and shop mindfully in the process.


And No. 6 is my own suggestion, something I preach to all my students:

WEAR VINTAGE!

If you live in a fashion capital like London, there is an abundance of vintage stores and charity shops where you can find a designer piece that you personally can resurrect and give it a new life by wearing it! If you do not have physical access to those hot-spots then there is the internet which offers so many sites with beautiful vintage pieces.

The vintage clothes not only contribute to a unique appearance, they also break the chain of cruel production and mindless consumerism. They also make a great conversation piece for the office or a party! Below are some of the vintage items which I have purchase in the past:

Kansai Yamamoto sweater which I had previously blogged about here, shoes by Escada, Chanel and Pollini and a skirt by Karl Lagerfeld.

 

 

 

Lufthansa’s Rebranding to Premium Identity

This month Lufthansa did something it had not done in the last 30 years: It announced a complete corporate rebranding – represented by a visible change of colours, materials and the famous tailfin colours (First image above shows the new colours).

The announcement coincides with the airline celebrating 100 years since the invention of it’s brand logo – the abstract crane – and it’s celebrated rating as a 5-star airline, something that insiders tell me the airline was struggling to achieve for a while now.

Established in 1955, Lufthansa is one of the leading airlines in Europe and the world. Based in Germany, with HQ in Frankfurt Airport, Lufthansa flies to more than 200 destinations in over 70 countries with an impressive fleet of close to 350 planes and is the largest European operator of the Airbus A380. And until very recently, this fleet sported a familiar and comforting “egg yolk” yellow on its rudder.

I must say that I grew up with this egg yolk and the airline and spent many childhood flights on short and long-haul flights, when my father reached senator status in the 1980s. This was the highest tier status back then and meant that I had my own Senator status card well until the year 2000. I could use up all the collected miles and spontaneously book flights to any place in the world – from Seattle to Cairo – with absolute trust towards the airline. Afterall, I was sent on longhaul flights by myself from the age of 9 and never had one bad experience.

 

This week, however, Lufthansa introduced a new logo, identity, and livery designed in-house in collaboration with Munich-based Martin et Karczinski

The visuals of the Lufthansa brand will be changed completely over the next 7 to 8 years to reflect their “premium” character. For faithful PAX (that’s passengers in aviation terminology) or SLF (that’s self-loading-freight in derogatory aviation jargon) this is a move not easily digested. Personally, the “premium” feeling has been there for me all along, but perhaps I am not the typical target customer to understand the new corporate identity? Lets look at some brand psychology to see if it all makes sense:

 

Why change the corporate identity?

Marieke de Mooij (2011) explains that “like the self, identity in individualistic cultures is supposed to be unique and consistent, as opposed to a collectivist’s identity, which can change according to varying social positions and situations.”

Thus the “corporate identity” is defined by a Western identity concept. It is concerned with the impressions, the image and personality which a company projects. (Interestingly, there is no adequate understanding of individualistic identity in collectivist cultures and languages, such as China and Japan.)

Ideally brands have clearly defined images created by advertising, packaging and other positioning elements, and theory believes that these images are congruent with consumers’ self images.

If you have a look below, you can see two mood boards of the Lufthansa as it was known in the last 30 years and its new visual identity. Has the self image of the Lufthansa customer changed over the decades and will it morph in the near future?

 

Old corporate identity mood board with lots of the egg-yolk-yellow in many customer-facing interfaces.

Above, the new corporate identity with lots of dark blue and only accents of yellow, such as the in-flight chocolate or crew uniform.

 

 Are premium travelers expressing themselves through choosing a premium branded airline?

“The concept of brand personality refers to the human-like attributes associated with brands. For example, Apple is cool, Hermes is elegant, and the Volkswagen Golf is understated.

Much like in humans, brands develop their personality with time, as they mature.
In some cases, this results from deliberate attempts to translate the vision of designers and marketers into a product that can help consumers express key emotions. Chamorro-Premuzic, Tomas (2015).

What’s in a colour and shape?

How people describe colour greatly depends on the linguistic terms of a culture’s language. Adult polyglots show different associations with the same colours.

“In marketing and branding, colours can have powerful effects.” 

“Colors can alter the meanings of the objects or situations with which they are associated and color preferences can predict consumers’ behaviour. Color is an integral element of marketing communications. (…) It helps to differentiate from the competition, evokes strong product associations and category images. Color communicates corporate position.”

Marieke de Mooij (2011) Consumer Behavior and Culture. Sage

“Five experiments document that the mere circularity and angularity of a brand logo is powerful enough to affect perceptions of the attributes of a product or company,”
the researchers write in the Journal of Consumer Research.

 

A 2013 study published in Psychological Science shows that logos and branding can have a profound influence on decision-making. Authors Marios Philiastides (University of Nottingham) and Roger Ratcliff (The Ohio State University) found that visible logos and branding on clothing items carried significant value – ultimately biasing decision-making processes in favor of preferred brands.

“It is not sufficient for companies to try to attract consumers with price promotions, good customer support, or product-specific technical requirements (e.g., updates),” they concluded. “Instead, companies should place special emphasis on brand design and awareness and strive to promote strong affective associations with their brand among customers to develop and maintain a competitive advantage.”

Source: https://www.psychologicalscience.org/news/minds-business/the-shape-of-a-logo-has-a-powerful-impact-on-consumers120911.html

So there we are: Lufthansa has clearly a specific understanding how their customer thinks and acts, what he or she finds attractive and what will bind that person to the brand over many decades. Martin et Karczinski have apparently spent an awful lot of time working out the new identity, as you can see here.

But it is not all that positive within the German media space:

Aviation writer Enrique Perrella described the new brand identity it as “bland and pointless”, while industrial designer Clemens Weisshaar told Dezeen it was a “design belly flop.“ Weisshaar also compared the new livery to that of a “dodgy insurance company” or “a failed bank”.

https://www.dezeen.com/2018/02/05/lufthansa-airline-updates-yellow-100-year-old-logo-livery-redesign/

I wonder if I will grow to like it as much as I did the egg-yolk-colours and will report on the effect in the near future. However, it might also be the case of what happened to Japan Airlines: During some tumultuous business years, the airline changed its logo several times, only to revert back to a beloved retro-branding (the “tsuru” or Japanese crane) a few years ago. The retro-feel of the tail fin was still a symbol to PAX young and old and really worked well. So, Lufthansa, what will it be?

I invite you to comment on the Lufthansa rebrandig and share your thoughts!

My travel moments on an LH flight to London.

 

Gucci’s new fake fur is all but sustainable

Gucci’s fake fur is aggravating pollution and is all but sustainable

Gucci Ghost Mink Fur GG Diamond Coat ($23,535) as seen o Pinterest

Real fur or fake fur? Sustainable or unsustainable fashion? Real fur is very expensive but what is the true cost for our planet when we opt for fake fur?

Gucci announced this October 2017 that it will cease to use real fur and switch to fake fur only. This is hailed by the flag of sustainable measures, much in tune with the Corporate Social Responsibility measures (or CSR for short) of the parent conglomerate Kering.

CEO Bizzarri & creative director Michele announce fake fur at Gucci in 2017. For the love of who?

No doubt, this action is also targeting Millennials, those Eco-conscious consumers who are so lucrative for Gucci and part of the strategy behind its complete revival, headed by the recently-appointed Alessandro Michele.

Business of Fashion reported: “The decision to ban fur was made with creative director Alessandro Michele, emphasized [CEO] Bizzarri. “Fashion has always been about trends and emotions and anticipating the wishes and desires of consumers,” he said. The best creative directors “are able to anticipate, to smell something outside before anybody else. Fashion and modernity go together.”

For animal lovers, vegetarians and vegans of this planet, fake fur might seem like it’s long overdue amongst luxury brands, and a welcome directive. However, I argue that fake fur is highly unsustainable, bad for the planet and – in the long run – helps no animal nor human. Furthermore, when it gets really cold (like in Russia or Canada) you will freeze in your expensive or cheap fake fur jacket. But if you wear real fur, you will not only experience perfect insulation, you might even have a waterproof garment on.

 

inuit-caribou-skin-1
“Inuit elders indicate that Inuit-designed caribou skin clothing is the most effective cold weather clothing for extended periods in severe cold with no means of warming up. Elders continually remind people to bring their skin clothing with them even if they are just going out for a short snowmobile or all-terrain vehicle ride. Accidents happen each year where 1 or 2 people perish from the cold due to being stranded a mile or two from the community when an unusual storm comes up quickly and they are inadequately dressed.” (Oakes et al., 1995)

There is a study by the Canadian military, which was also published in a research journal, which performed a “Comparison of traditional and manufactured cold weather ensembles” putting half of the military men in the latest and most advanced synthetic outerwear and the other half into Inuit-style Caribou fur costumes. If you are keen, you can read the study which concluded:

“Findings indicate that the overall skin temperature, as well as the cheek, thigh, toe, and torso temperatures, remained significantly higher when wearing the caribou skin ensemble compared to changes observed when wearing the military or expedition clothing ensembles.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Ok, so fur will keep you warmer, but how is it more sustainable, you may wonderbiodegradable?

The Fur Source has some interesting facts about fur, as published on their site in 2016:

” Genuine fur is natural, renewable, biodegradable and sustainable. The negative environmental impact caused by faux fur and synthetic fibers in general is far greater than that of real fur.”

 

 

Synthetic Fibers are Made from Petrochemicals

Petrochemical plant. The starting point of your fake fur jacket.

Faux fur and most synthetics are made from petrochemicals. They can take more than 3 times as much non-renewable energy to produce as real fur. Like other plastics, these materials do not break down easily and will remain in landfills for centuries. At a time when the true ecological cost of “cheap”, mass-produced, disposable “fast-fashion” is just beginning to be calculated – think millions of tons of poor-quality fibers and short-life garments filling up landfills – the naturally durable and recyclable qualities of fur make more sense than ever!

 

 


Plastic, plastic, everywhere: The world’s oceans are full of discarded trash that degrades and sinks, or drifts ashore at places like Turneffe Atoll in Belize.
Photograph by WaterFrame, Alamy – Image source here.

Real Fur is quickly Biodegradable – Fake fur not a bit

Yes, real fur is biodegradable, like all things made by nature, mother nature happily takes them back into its eco-system. You don’t believe me? Look at this experiment which Truth About Fur (voice of the North American fur trade) conducted.

They burried real fur and fake fur and left it untouched for several months. When they dug it up again, this is what they found:

The Great Fur Burrial: After cleaning. Fake fur on the left, real on the right.

So what does Gucci say about all that? Parent company Kering has developed E P&L monitoring system for their environmental efforts and state:

“INSIGHT

Finishing and dyeing textiles is one of the areas in the supply chain that uses the most water and energy the E P&L revealed.

ACTION

Implement Clean by Design, a programme to improve the efficiency of textile mills through identifying low cost opportunities that save water, energy, fuel and electricity.”

“Corporate Sustainability: Profit, Motive and Intention in Greenwash” from this very interesting article.

When I read this, Greenwashing comes to mind and profits over people. There is no way you ca follow a sustainable and clean design programme when you are in fact, polluting the world with the procurement of petrochemical-based garments. There is however, certainly much marketing savvy involved and an opportunistic jump onto the sustainability band wagon.

Did you know that synthetic fur does not only destroy our planet at the end of its life, but also during its lifetime?

“Washing Faux Fur is Bad for Waterways

While machine washing a faux fur article, it’s estimated that each piece can release as many as 1900 tiny plastic particles into water systems. This can be harmful to the ecosystem in general, negatively affecting the health of plants, animals and people who live off of the waterways.”

Fur is a Byproduct of the Meat Industry or Meat is a Byproduct of the Fur Industry

If you eat meat, or buy any clothing made from real leather wouldn’t you be happy to know that the hide of the animal did not go to waste? Or if it is a farm that trades with furs, wouldn’t you be relieved to know that the meat is eaten? If you are a vegan or vegetarian, you don’t have to eat the meat, but think about how much natural resources are used to produce fake fur and how it pollutes the planet. Sure, you might not choose to wear real or fake fur in that case – and perhaps the products by Scandinavian designer Stine Sandermaan might work for you.

“[…] a report by the European Commission in 2014 found that acrylic, the principal fibre in fake fur and other synthetic fabrics, had the worst environmental impact of nine fibres studied.”

My fur coats are all vintage and their production did not involve the pumping of oil (a great pollutant to the planet) and the use of huge amounts of energy in order to make synthetic fibres.

One of my fur coats is inherited, so it has lasted several generations already and will still be useful for the coming one. When it has finished it’s life-time as a garment, it will become compost which in turn feeds the earth. By polluting the planet less, more animals of our entire eco-system will live a happier life. Above all though, I know I will stay warm this winter and for this I thank the animal who gave me their hide, for we humans are unable to survive naked in most climates.

I value our earth’s traditions, which have been passed down for tens of thousands of years. There is wisdom in what has been done before, there is purpose and integrity.

And thus, I close this post with one of my favourite documentaries: Nanook of the North (also known as Nanook of the North: A Story Of Life and Love In the Actual Arctic) is a 1922 silent documentary film by Robert J. Flaherty.

Watch it here:

Junko Watanabe’s interactive textile designs reaching disabled children

Today, I would like to repost this report which recently appeared on NHK World (Japan) about Junko Watanabe and her cloth books. Not to be confused with the famous fashion designer Junya Watanabe, Junka has been using textile design in a way which reaches the youngest members of our society. Children with disabilities or difficulties have seen benefits from cloth books over the last 30 years.

Watanabe’s work reminded me of my “cut & paste project” which I came up with during my first year at Central St. Martins. The idea was to let children and adults take control of the final design by making interactive clothes. There were playful parts which could be removed and reattached, coloured with fabric markers. Here are a few images of the prototypes.

This t-shirt sends a message about pollution. You can manipulate the tree leaves. Put them up if they are healthy, push them down if your tree got too polluted.
This t-shirt sends a message about pollution. You can manipulate the tree leaves. Put them up if they are healthy, push them down if your tree got too polluted.
Tree_N_skirt_kwase1
This skirt prototype has velcro elements. You can change their position and customize the elements, for example with fabric crayons from pentel.

 

My professors were not very enthusiastic of my idea and wondered who would ever want to purchase this. However, over the last 10 years more and more interactive  design items have come onto the market! I am happy to see that more designers are thinking the same way.Back then I never considered that children with disabilities could be the end-consumers who’d benefit the most from such products.

Junko Watanabe’s interactive cloth books are not a commercial product but rather a humanistic gift. What an inspiring woman!

Please have a look at NHK’s story about Mrs Watanabe.

 ********************************************

NHK WORLD – Culture & Sports

Nov. 17, 2014

The Fabric of Education

A Japanese artisan has a unique take on the classic picture book. She crafts each one by hand from fabrics, adding a personal touch that seems to connect with readers. And now her creations are reaching children around the world. NHK WORLD’s Mikiko Suzuki has the story.

Image source here.

This is a classroom at a school for disabled children and their parents in Tokyo. Students with disabilities get the chance to experience something new here.

Junko Watanabe created the special books they are exploring. She has been making them for 35 years as a way to give disabled children opportunities to earn.

Watanabe uses felt, kimono material and other fabrics.

Details include embroidery… buttons…and string. Children can practice tying and untying, buttoning and unbuttoning while touching the books. These exercises can foster independence.

Image source here.

 

“Sometimes a mother calls me to let me know a cloth book inspired her child’s first words. That makes me so happy it brings tears to my eyes.”

Watanabe has assembled a group of volunteers who help make the books and donate them to libraries around Japan.

So far, the group has given more than 20 thousand books to around 500 libraries. This library in a Tokyo suburb has 300 of them.

Eiko Naito and her 8-year-old son Daisuke live nearby. Daisuke was diagnosed with Down Syndrome at birth.

When he was a year and a half old, he started coming to the library with his mother to borrow cloth books. A book introducing musical notes really caught his eye.

Image source here.

Image source here.

“We also borrow regular books. But he is really drawn to the cloth ones. If I bring a big bag of them home, he’ll say, ‘I want to see one of those!'”
Eiko Naito / mother

Now Daisuke can play the piano. It’s a simple song, but it requires both hands.

Image source Image source here.

“The cloth books have broadened his world. He learned how to read from them. And he got interested in knowing more about the things around him.”
Eiko Naito / mother

It is tough for Daisuke to interpret the notes, move his fingers and listen to the music all at the same time, but he keeps trying.

Now Watanabe and her team are sending the cloth books to children around the world…especially those living in poverty or without access to education.

Some books were sent to an orphanage in Myanmar that takes care of 200 kids. Many had lost their parents in ethnic conflicts, or were abandoned due to poverty.

Other books were sent to students in Africa. They reflected cultural differences, like the way people there count with their fingers.

Image source here.

“People learn their own country’s language and think and act in that language. Just one cloth picture book is something people can explore and learn from. That’s why I want to pass them on to future generations around the world.”
Junko Watanabe

Watanabe believes all children, regardless of their circumstances, can learn something from her picture books. And she hopes this seed of an idea takes root around the world.

Berlin: fashion, cafés and sparrows + INLAND pop-up fashion store report

 

 BERLIN : THE CITIY OF CONTRASTS – OLD and NEW

Around Spittelmarkt
Around Spittelmarkt

 

Yes! I went to Berlin for a meeting and got to explore “Mitte”. What I found on Brunnenstraße was a very cool pop-up store called “INLAND” featuring Scandinavian fashion from Finland.

 

 

Inland shop front

 

Inland designs

 

 

Furthermore, there were reversible kiss-n-tell pillowcases …

Kiss n Tell Pillows

 

By some talented designers:

Some of the designers featured in INLAND
Some of the designers featured in INLAND

 

And a very amazing fridge, housing vitamin drinks and beauty products by “Lumene” which is a range vitamin-C infused cremes.

The fridge!

Vitamin madness

Thank you for my vitamin boost, to the fantastic staff of INLAND who will be there until the end of August and then move on to a yet undisclosed location! Let me know if you find their next pop-up store please.

 

Brunnenstrasse graffitti

Brunnenstrasse Graffitti 2

Brunnenstrasse also has some cool carpets (Jan Kath designer carpets, to be precise), graffitti and Kaviar Gauche, the fancy fashion label which has become a synonym for Berlin.

Jan Kath designer carpats

Here are the most beautiful carpets by textile artist Jan Kath, whose magic carpets I have fallen in love with!

Jan Kath designer carpets 2

…posing in the tiny door which leads into KAVIAR GAUCHE….

 

Outside Caviar Gauche

Finally, we sat down for a well deserved coffee and French tartelettes….

opposite "Gorki Park" café
opposite “Gorki Park” café

We also had some fluffy guests join our table:

fluffy guests on my plate
fluffy guests on my plate