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SHIFTING FOCUS: DESIGNER SARAH K SPEAKS TO US ABOUT CONTEMPORARY APPROACHES TO SUSTAINABILITY

We are pleased to have the opportunity to introduce Sarah K - the thoughtful designer responsible for the immersive, sculptural interior of Shifting Worlds. We have always felt lucky to work within this interactive, light-filled space and it has been really interesting learning more about her personal mantras during the design process.

Sarah's practice is deeply bound to sustainable methods, she considers what it means to create objects and bring them into the world. She is the founder and creative director of international project Supercyclers, a design initiative that aims to build a sustainable future for design, transforming perceptions of waste material. This year Supercyclers launch the Sustainablist Online School, a Masterclass for designers and makers in sustainable design thinking. The course develops actionable guidelines for a more sustainable outcome, useful for anyone who is making tangible material products. In this interview, we explore Sarah's design influences and question how we could all develop more sustainable practices.

Sarah K Self Portrait with Narcissus Mirror part of the Mythic Gods series

We are in constant admiration of the space you have designed for Shifting Worlds, what were some of your influences when designing for this space?

Shifting Worlds is such an evocative name, it really made me want to create an immersive world to experience what a shifting world might look like. To achieve this I played around with my own sculptural shapes, creating interest through the movement of sunlight. I had this mantra in my head all through the design process; shapes, shadows, shifting worlds. The resulting design is a series of large scale functioning sculptures compositionally arranged so that the space is like a sculpture playground or sculptor’s atelier. Incorporating the clothes and accessories as an integral part of this world, that you become part of when you’re in the space.

The pedestal that you stand on to admire your clothes in front of the mirrors is an old fashioned idea that’s been lost - but it adds to the experience of being in this world full of beautiful things and puts you into the starring role, which is something you can’t do when you’re shopping online. That’s something we really thought about, what makes the experience of shopping worthwhile and memorable in itself. I’m always influenced by books and films in my work, in this case, Jean Cocteau’s theatrical sets in his film Orpheus of the Underworld was definitely in my folder of references. The use of the space from floor to ceiling was important to create the scale so that you really feel that immersion and was inspired by photos in my old books of artists and their high-ceiling studios.

What is one way the fashion industry could change to be more sustainable?

The best way we are going to change any of our mass production and consumer behaviour is first to shift our thinking. To do that we have to acknowledge how we are behaving now, which is harder than it sounds because we are so in it. But it’s happening, and this is exactly what I’ve created the Masterclass for, to help it along, since I’ve been putting my mind to this issue for a decade now. In the near future, once our thinking has changed, we are going to look back and see it for how ridiculous and irrational this behaviour is. Some of my favourite designers have moved outside of the unsustainable fashion seasons, which at present can be up to 8 collections a year. They produce and release clothes much more mindfully, minimally and slowly. I think that’s important as a first step. To explore the myth of clothes being made and bought, only to be replaced in the next season. 

I've been buying clothes outside of this mindset for the past 20 years. I'll invest in one good dress or coat or outfit only once a year or every second year, and I buy knowing what I get will be worn and in my wardrobe for my lifetime. I'd rather spend my money on one important (to me) piece than lots of things that won’t last (physically or because we think they’re irrelevant in time). Doing this means defining your own classic style for yourself. There are 15 items hanging in my wardrobe and I am enjoying the life-long process of creating my own personal capsule collection.

Who do you think would benefit most from the Sustainablist Masterclass?

Anyone making tangible, material things for this world. Established and emerging. Designers, makers, creators, but also anyone interested in the change we’re making from unsustainable living on the planet to sustainable. Even if you know something about sustainability, it can be tricky to know how to tackle it. I’ve framed it so it can be easily applied to your own work, from within. This starts with an understanding of a holistic philosophy that informs the sustainable creation of things. One reason I felt compelled to write the course is that I consult to brands on sustainable outcomes for their businesses and they’ll come to me with their idea and straight away I can see that they are replacing the old problem with a new one, or they haven’t thought it right through - it got me thinking that the best thing I could do was create some guidelines or templates that can be applied to anyone's own process, at the start of the process where it’s important to do so and they can work through them knowing they have arrived at genuinely sustainable solutions.

Sarah K Pod Stool, Solid Rock Maple Stool or Side Table

When did you realise that Supercycling was the way of the future?

It’s crept up on me actually. I mean I had a pivotal moment ten years ago that led to creating Supercyclers, but I honestly thought at the time that it would be fleeting, we’d get sustainable real quick and I could forget about it. I guess like all good things it’s taking time, so I’ve stayed with it. I see my part in it as being a sustainable modernist. While mass production evolved against the backdrop of modernism, the two are ideologically opposed. Modernism is about streamlining and paring things back, economy, less is more. While mass production is about more and faster, excess and waste. Modernism goes better with sustainability, and that’s the movement I want to be a part of and attract people to. 

SARAH'S PICKS

Sarah's philosophy is to invest in pieces that will stand the test of time, she has carefully selected her picks which include the Paloma Wool Tratame Cotton Sweater in Peach, Y's by Yohji Yamamoto Long Clasp Bag and Robe Wool Flannel Coat in Black. Her scent of choice is the Maison Louis Marie No.4 Bois de Balincourt Perfume Oil, which has just been restocked!

 

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