A design encounter of the royal coffee type

When it comes to receiving a plug for your product, endorsements don’t get much better than when they’re coming from Kevin McCloud, presenter of hugely popular television series Grand Designs. And fair enough too. Over the past couple of decades the designer has documented hundreds of buildings, so if anyone ought to be brimming with green building material and product insights, McCloud is your man.    

That experience has propelled McCloud to pass some of those insights onto the discerning public, in  a little something he calls ‘Kevin’s Green heroes’. And the good news for one Kiwi design company is that its sustainable woollen product, called WoJo, has made it onto the prestigious Top 10 list. WoJo is the brainchild of Bernadette Casey, director of Wellington-based company the formary, and in a story last year, we charted the material’s success as it found its way into Starbucks stores. 

The fabric was developed for Starbucks using a unique up-cycling process that blends jute fibers from recycled Starbucks coffee sacks with New Zealand Laneve wool. The resulting fabric, comprised of 70 percent wool and 30 percent jute fiber, is used to create sustainable upholstery for the coffee chain’s furniture. 

Casey is understandably elated at the products inclusion on the list, and says this is only just the start of what has the potential to be an expansive journey into waste re-use possibilities. 

“When businesses are willing to innovate and make a sustained commitment to their environmental mission they can make a real difference,” she says. 

Before making its way into the flagship Starbucks store on Conduit Street in Mayfair, London, the material went through what Casey describes as rigorous lab testing, where its carbon footprint, durability and flame resistance—among other things—were tested. 

Having received the green light from the lab, the material was used to upholster furniture in the Mayfair store for about six months, to check its durability. 

“We had the lab reports but we wanted to see how it would work in a store. Starbucks opens early, closes later and has people constantly going in and out of its chairs constantly so the product has to be durable,” says Casey.

Success at the flagship store means the material is currently in the process of being rolled out in Starbucks stores across the world, starting first with UK and Europe. Back here, one store located in Botany Town Centre also currently dons the material on its furniture. 

While the product was developed for Starbucks, it’s by no means an exclusive agreement and Casey says she is currently exploring other markets where it could be used. 

In October last year the material had an encounter of the royal kind when Prince Charles selected it as the material of choice for his ‘The Prince’s House’ project. Located at Earl’s Court London, the eco house is a prototype of a new home design currently being pioneered by the Foundation at the Building Research Establishment in Watford, United Kingdom. WoJo was selected for the project because of its low carbon footprint and durability. 

As well as WoJo’s inclusion on McCloud’s list, there are some other pretty impressive products and materials, like ‘Gumdrop’, a small pink bin made with recycled gum, and the very cool ‘Light Reading’, which converts old books that would otherwise be discarded into brilliant paper chandeliers. 

We love the way people think. 

Check out the rest of McCloud’s list HERE.


Light Reading

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