Can stylish design be environmentally friendly? This was once a contradiction in terms, but the 2012 Ambiente consumer-goods fair in Frankfurt has presented a few designers capable of achieving both.
It was a broken bicycle tire that ignited Stefanie Fauser's great passion for recycled art.
"I have a friend who likes bike riding and he wanted to do something useful with his broken bike tubes," the Berlin product designer said. Since then, Stefanie has used the tubes to create shoulder bags, belts, wallets, bracelets and glasses cases.
"It is not just because it is environmentally friendly, but the bags and belts look very nice," she added.
The other kind of recycling
"Upcycling" - creating new products from rubbish - is a concept that has really taken off recently.
Stefanie Fauser's bike-tube-inspired fashion accessories are now on sale all over the world and currently showcased at Ambiente, one of the world's largest consumer goods fairs. From the February 10-14, 4,543 exhibitors from more than 87 countries have been presenting their products in the German city of Frankfurt.
Alongside established companies specializing in kitchen and household goods are an increasing number of businesses that specialize in products created from recycled materials.
Benjamin Ruggeberg's company is another such example. The Luna Company is a small South African business that was initially established in 1996 by brothers Mark and Brian Fanner as a project for homeless and unemployed people.
Today they employ 50 people and are renowned for their skilfully handcrafted picture frames made from old floorboards and furniture.
"Just imagine, so many of these waste products may have been burned or thrown away," Benjamin Ruggeberg said.
Upside-down plant from Down Under
New Zealander Martin Carter wants nature to be an intricate part of his business. His Sky Planter was designed for city apartments and allows for unique, space-saving features, like potted plants hanging from the ceiling.
"In the upper part of the flower pot there is a water tank that holds the water," explained Carter. "In spite of gravity, the plant and the floor remain dry."
The designer added that it was a funny coincidence that the idea for an upside down plant came from a small company from Down Under.
Berlindesigner Cantemir Gheorghiu agrees that ideas should be fun. He was always a little taken aback by just how serious some people look with thick horn-rimmed glasses and this inspired him to create his cardboard-framed glasses with colorful, witty designs. Leopards and dandelions decorate the frames that Cantemir says work as a type of art therapy and make people laugh.
"At big parties the glasses are passed from one person to another," said the performance artist, "It really lifts the mood."
Cantemir Gheorghiu's first glasses were first used during the last soccer World Cup. His following has grown so much that the glasses - complete with a host of other cardboard fashion accessories - were presented at this year's Berlin Fashion Week.
It was not by chance that Cantemir's chose cardboard as the material of his products, "because it's environmentally friendly and it pokes fun at our throwaway society," he said.
Meanwhile, his latest line-up of cardboard accessories included cardboard watches, cardboard bags, and even cardboard ties. And more are sure to follow.
Author: Richard A. Fuchs / bos
Editor: Kate Bowen