ethical design

Much of what we can buy for our homes now is inexpensive and disposable.  Because it is so cheap, it is easy to throw it away, and buy something else that catches our eye. Here are two projects that make a case for thoughtful, ethical choices.

The PET LAMP from South America turns the concept of throwaway on its head with lamps made from recycled plastic bottles, that are beautiful objects to keep. The PET LAMP project came out of a collaboration between a team of Industrial Designers, an activist, the problem of plastic waste contamination in the Colombian Amazon, and interestingly enough, Coca Cola.

Working with two indigenous groups of Bogotá (displaced by guerilla war), the bottles are kept intact at the top (used to connect the lamp) with the bottom half cut into vertical strips and then woven by the artisan, telling us a story of their traditions through it’s fibers, colours and motifs. No two lamps are the same because of their handmade nature. They can be bought individually, or in sets of three, six, twelve or twenty one.

I am very drawn to them because of their handmade nature, but also because of their beautiful use of colour! A single one would look amazing in a child’s room, and a twelve set over a dining table would be a showstopper! The individual lights range in price from $495-$985 depending ontheir size, then the sets start at $2,264 for three.

The PET LAMPs (which debuted at the Milan Furniture Fair last year) are available from Backhouse Interiors ph 09 309 0500 or

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This season Karen Walker is working with the United Nations’ ITC Ethical Fashion Initiative to create work in community groups of micro-artisans located in urban and rural areas of Kenya. Their motto is “Not Charity, Just Work” and their task is to promote sustainable business over aid dependency. From this has come her newest campaign “Visible”.

They are simple, screen printed pouches for the Summer 2014 (Northern Hemisphere). There will also be even more embellished and gorgeous versions, available to buy separately.  These have been made by Kenyan artisan groups.

Karen says, “We were thrilled to be able to work with the Ethical Fashion Initiative on this project and wanted to expand on that by presenting not only the pouches they’re creating for us, but also something more intimate – a glimpse into the world that the work is coming from. Karen Walker Eyewear has always had an optimistic outlook and has always been about standing out from the crowd. This campaign captures both this innate optimism and love of maximum impact in the images themselves and also the way in which they direct our attention to this part of the world and the work being done there. In short, the images help to bring visibility to this place, these people and the work of the Ethical Fashion Initiative.”

The Ethical Fashion Initiative works with small businesses, artisans and designers from the developing world, and aligns them with international brands such as Sass & Bide, Vivienne Westwood, Stella McCartney and Marni.  Karen Walker had previously worked with the Ethical Fashion Initiative and Myers in Australia, producing exquisite hand stitched bags.  Unfortunatley for us, these bags were produced exclusively for Myers, Australia. They were absolutely beautiful.

Simone Cipriani of the Ethical Fashion Initiative said of the project, “From the very beginning, the relationship between the Ethical Fashion Initiative and Karen Walker was a very natural connection. Karen is a visionary and she clearly understood who we are and the potential of working in Africa with us. Everything about this project — which brings forward the positivity, dynamism and beauty of Africa — is in line with what we do.”

So we have stunning glasses as always, a thought-provoking campaign and a handmade piece with each pair that helps restore dignity and fight poverty. Who says fashion can’t change the world?




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