2016 has been an incredible year for the world: a lot of emotions, drastic changes, and a nagging feeling that the future might hold even more surprises for the years to come. As usual, designers are among the firsts to grasp and internalise current moods and trends translating them into finished products.

Below, a very personal selection of fashion and product designers that have characterized this 2016 with a positive outlook towards the future.

TAMARA ORJOLA

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Who had never thought of recycling pine needles into a chair? Well, that has been the thought of Eindhoven graduate, Tamara Oriola after she discovered that every year 600 million of pine trees are cut down. And this figure representing just the EU alone. This number it’s already worrying. However, if we count that pine needles account about 20 to 30 percent of the mass of each tree, the number of unused needles reaches the billions.

With this consideration in mind, the designer decided to study a possible use of this excess of material transforming it into something else. After a bit of experimenting with standard manufacturing techniques (soaking, steaming, binding and pressing the needles), she developed Forest Wool: an impressive series of stools and carpets made out of pine needles.

Patterned with lines to recall the needles, the furniture shows the possibilities for Forest Wool and other materials leftover from industrial production.

WOOJAI LEE

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Whether recycling pine needle comes as a first (at least at current knowledge), recycling paper is not exactly something new. However, Korean-Zealander, WooJa Lee added a new dimension to the whole thing. He made bricks out of discarded paper.

His Paper Bricks are made from recycled newspaper. They are sturdy and stackable like the real ones and they feature the visual appeal of marble-like items with the perceived softness of paper or wood. To show the strength of these bricks, Lee built a bench, in light grey, and two coffee tables in blue and grey.

In the nearest future, the designer plans to extend the range of Paper Bricks into wall panels, room dividers, objects and more furniture series.

ECOALF

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Still in the theme of recycling, but this time applied to fashion, there is a Spanish brand that it’s worth to discover more. ECOALF was created by Javier Goyeneche in 2012 to realise innovation in recycled clothing. Goyeneche, after being frustrated by the exploitation of the world’s natural resources and the amount of waste produced by developed countries, decided to set up this brand.

His mission, through ECOALF, is to create recycled products that boast the same quality, design and technical proprieties of their non-recycled counterparts.

But there is more. What’s really inspiring – besides the cool and no-nonsense aesthetic – it’s the effort of the team of managing the full process from waste collection to recycling technologies, manufacture, design and retail.

Currently, the brand has partnered with 14 specialist manufacturers around the world that create garnets out of discarded fishing nets, PET plastic bottles, used tyres, coffee, post-industrial cotton and wool coming from the oceans transforming them into high-quality yarns and components for clothing, accessories and footwear.

CAMILLE WALALA

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Moving from ethical to ethnic with pop infusion, there is a designer that’s worth mentioning in this 2016. A french native designer settled in the UK, Camille Walala is one of the most interesting and colorful artists currently around. If you happen to be in the UK, it’s not so difficult to spot around one of her signature graphics. Through her Tribal POP – influenced by the Memphis Movement, the Ndebele tribe and Optical Art master Victor Vasarely among others – she has left the mark of numerous famous buildings, schools, and public spaces.

Graduate in Textile Design from the University of Brighton, her namesake brand was established in East London in 2009, where she continues to live.

Alongside private commissions, Walala can boast collaborations with Nintendo, XOYO, Koppaberg, Bompas&Parr, Darkroom, Barbican Festival and Land of King. She also collaborated with Gorman clothing for 80s feel capsule collection.

KATIE ROBERTS-WOOD

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Least but not last in this top 5 of up-and-coming fashion and product designers in 2016, there is medical student turned fashion designer Katie Roberts-Wood that made headlines in 2016 as a fashion talent to watch. She made headlines in 2016 as a fashion talent to watch.

Although British designer Roberts Wood had already been praised for her graduate collection at RCA (Royal College of Art) in 2014, it was a series of prizes (“Collection of the Year” and “Vogue Talents Award” at ITS -International Talent Award; and the Fashion Scout Merit Award) that led her way to the ones to watch.

So much so that the New York times featured her story in their fashion section. In her graduate collection, Woods used a layered technique developed by creating fabric and form through repetition of a wave rendered in both micro and macro scale, a nod to natural and mathematical influences. The wave being of opposing hues and bright tones created a colour effect with the movement of the wearer.

The same mathematical influences were spotted in the unstitched, plaited silk organza creations presented last September for her Spring/Summer Collection 2017.

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TAMARA ORJOLA

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WOOJAI LEE

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ECOALF

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CAMILLE WALALA

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KATIE ROBERTS-WOOD

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