Circular models

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Miniwiz, textile for Bonotto

Creative reuse of the most abundant resource in the world – trash – has allowed Arthur Huang to invent 20 new materials per month, with applications ranging from fabric to architecture. His backpack– shoebox for Nike Air Max sneakers is a masterpiece

Arthur Huang is a structural engineer and architect. He has pioneered the use of building materials that adhere to the principles of the “circular economy” and is specialised in post-consumer waste recycling. In 2005, he founded Miniwiz, a company dedicated to the innovative upcycling of consumer trash and industrial waste. His mission is to diminish the great disparity between eco-consciousness (sustainability and recycling) and the bleak reality of the market: a lack of financially feasible products. Under Arthur Huang’s leadership, Miniwiz has pushed boundaries beyond all expectations, with his company winning the Earth Award in 2010 and The Wall Street Journal Asian Innovation Award in 2011. In 2015, Miniwiz was recognised as a Technology Pioneer by the World Economic Forum. (Technology Pioneers are start-up companies working on the design, development and implementation of new technologies and innovations.) Huang’s aim is to have a positive influence on the changing of global consumption patterns.

Giorgio De Mitri: What is your line of work and how do you approach it?

Arthur Huang: Our approach is biomimicry. We always try to use geometry and engineering software, taking advantage of all the material data we have created over the years. We invent roughly 20 new materials every month, using the world’s richest resource: trash.

G.D.M.: Your upcycling projects include collaborations with brands and architecture. Tell us about that

A.H.: Architecture is a core specialty and a passion at Miniwiz. We have executed award-winning projects in 15 countries around the world. At the same time, we work with an array of influential and recognised global brands to help them redefine and reconceptualise their identities. Since 2014, we have been working with Nike designers to develop innovative materials created from motherboards (printed circuit boards) and casings for the NikeLab stores, retail spaces that feature modular fixtures made out of recycled e-waste. Seeing we always try to push the envelope, we strive to achieve maximum performance and aesthetics with low environmental impact.

 

G.D.M.: So you are able to maintain a balance between responsible manufacturing and function?

A.H.: Absolutely. This equilibrium forms the backbone of all our collaborations. Take for example the shoebox for NikeLab Air Max 1 Royal sneakers: it is made from made from recycled drink containers and lids. It is lightweight and made entirely of post-consumer materials: milk and orange juice containers, morning coffee lids. Also the sneakers are made only from recycled materials. The box can be used as a backpack, and its modular design makes it a stackable, interlocking component of a product display or storage system. These are all intentional features and qualities found in the intent of every Miniwiz product: reducing the impact on the environment in every way it can. So now we’ve added features and efficiency to an existing product, the shoebox, by reusing non-virgin materials in a sustainable and responsible way. G.D.M.: Global waste levels are astounding, and it is clear why sustainability is not a commodity, but a necessity.

A.H: That’s why we partner with companies, people and brands that have a vision for a low-carbon, closed-loop future as part of their growth strategy. One of our first projects with Nike, in 2012, was a reinterpretation of their groundbreaking Flyknit technology. We created the Feather Pavilion, constructed of 100 per cent trash and designed to conceptualise Flyknit’s lightweight strength and supportive flexibility on a giant scale. The walls and canopy structure were made entirely of recycled PET plastic bottles. But we don’t stop at structural solutions. At the 2017 Fuorisalone in Milan we premiered our collaboration with the historic textile manufacturer Bonot We offered a first glimpse of what the future of fabrics in fashion will be: an era of the most sophisticated manufacturing ever seen – fashion meets re-engineered trash. By combining technology, innovation and tradition we now have a high-performance, 100 per cent recyclable, multi- purpose, single material, completely customisable in denier, strength, colour and stiffness. Hopefully this will be the new standard for the marketplace. The goal here is to lead the luxury fashion industry into the circular economy, where nothing is wasted and everything is possible. It is not just a boon for the environment, but a journey into unprecedented material properties that offer more competitive advantage and a more luxurious experience for the end consumer – just another facet of the beauty of trash.      

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Giorgio De Mitri

De Mitri is a creative director, editor and curator. He is the founder and director of Sartoria Comunicazione in Modena; the founder and president of Fondazione De Mitri in Modena for art and culture; and an editor of the magazine Cube. His interests are cinema, theatre, club culture, editorial production, fashion and art. He developed communication projects for Nike, Converse and Philip Morris, based on a blend of commercial requirements and artistic expression.

Last modified: 21 June 2017