Post-Vlisco is a series of interior products designed by Rotterdam designer Simone Post. With a firm belief in the “beauty of waste” she upcycles misprints from Dutch textile company Vlisco– commonly known for their wax-coated textiles popular in central and west Africa – and turned them into a range of seat covers, panels and an accompanying book. In the following interview Post gave us insights about her design approach, Post-Vlisco’s complex production process and upcoming projects.
Referring to your Post-Vlisco project, you were quoted in an interview, that “there is so much waste in the textile industry”. Nevertheless, many of your designs seem to have a more or less direct link to textiles. What roles play textiles for you as a designer?
For me textile is a fascinating material to work with. It is true that nowadays it is one of the most polluting industries in the world. Textile once was a product that had a lot value and was actually the starting point of our industrial revolution, because it was such a valuable and complex product to produce. In many cultures textiles have played or still do play a very important role.
At this moment I am travelling in India, I have attended a ceremony were people were thanked and blessed on a stage by handing them and covering the man/women in a beautiful sari. This even happened when I was visiting someone’s home and he wanted to thank me for visiting his village. Here you can see textiles still have that symbolic value. Our big industries, humongous store chains producing double of what they know they can sell and launch new collections every 3 months, destroyed our validation of textile and turned it in to a terrible industry. With my products I want to manifest this beauty, evaluate the material by showing the waste, introduce new ways of dealing with this and show the exceptional value of certain techniques and history of textiles.
The Vlisco Recycled Carpets are made in a multi-stage process. Would you describe the production technique? How exactly were the original Vlisco-fabrics transformed?
Researching the material it became more and more clear to me that I wanted the result to be applicable in an industrial production process, to give a true destination for the amounts of Vlisco’s waste cloth. Vlisco was a huge inspiration in this and the collaboration with Label/Breed was very important, too. On my own this is something I could not have achieved. For me it was also very important that the end-product would display the unique quality of Vlisco’s cloth with its deep and bold colour combinations. The big rolls of textiles standing in the factory were a big inspiration. On the side of these rolls a beautiful colour gradient was visible. By folding the misprints and winding them in circles, the colours jump out and a beautiful mingled colour circle arises.
Looking at your designs and their specific displays, production processes seem to be of vital interest to you. Do you think this is reflected in your design objects and can you tell us a bit about the design collective Envisions in this context?
For me researching by making is my main way of designing. You come up with completely different and often much more surprising ideas then when you would just sit behind a computer or drawing table. For the Vlisco project the starting point was just a beautiful material and the question what else can we make from it and make sure it becomes something completely different. I made a research book including all the samples and try-outs I did before reaching the result. I thought what if we exhibit only these types of samples to an audience and not the end product.
Together with Iwan Pol and Sanne Schuurman I started the Collective Envisions and decided to exhibit “everything but the end product”. This leads to very surprising and efficient collaborations with innovative results. For different exhibitions we bring designers together to work on new experimental designs and showcase this together in one presentation. In the group we create an atmosphere that pushes us to create new work and we can help each other by giving feedback and share our knowledge and networks. By exhibiting this we can also show the industry the value in this open-minded way of working and the necessity of the experiment.
My main goal as Envisions was to collaborate with the industry. And I am very happy to tell that we we found our first collaborating partner, Finsa: A mega Spanish manufacturer of all types of sheetmaterial. We visited 3 of their factories and started having meeting with all 13 collaborating designers. As Envisions all of our designers have a complete open-minded and fresh look to this company, to its material, production process or application. All these researches will be presented during the Salone del Mobile 2017.
Post-Vlisco will be part of the section Forms of Modernity at the Flow of Forms – Forms of Flow exhibition, which aims to recontextualize the cross-cultural flow between Europe and Africa at the beginning of the 20th century until today by showing objects with different alignments of transcription.
How would you classify Post-Vlisco [which kind of transcription] and your own position as a contemporary, European designer being informed by African textile traditions?
For me Post-Vlisco symbolizes this perfectly. I think it is very interesting that people consider Vlisco’s designs as typical African, but big amounts of these textiles are being made in Holland. And we actually took it from Indonesia during the Dutch East Indies in the 19th century. And the same technique came to Indonesia during the 12th century from India. I found it revealing that people tend to put certain products into boxes or mark them as traditional, but they don’t realize how much travelling and cultural exchange there always has been, especially in the 19th and beginning of the 20th century. The cultural and traditional items have always been in transit.
At this moment I am actually working on a new project which is about Indian textiles. In a lot of ‘traditional’ Dutch clothing one might find reminiscences on Indian textiles, which were traded during the VOC. These textiles are seen as typical Dutch by all Dutch People. I am now visiting these workshops and manufactures in India which still use these techniques and try to tell this story and create a new exchange.
Besides Post-Vlisco, your necklaces designed for Liselore Froweijn “Let’s hear it from the lions” collection have references to Africa. Are the creative traditions of Africa an inspiration to you and your work as a designer?
Well the world becomes smaller and smaller because of modern technology. I am interested in the mix of different ethnic references/aesthetics of many different cultures. And I think Africa is a fascinating country with a very inspiring take on making things and in that way holds a great potential to inspire design.
Interview and Article by Mareike Schwarz.