Innovative materials and sustainable design are hot topics within the fashion and textiles industries at the moment. Designer Adey Thani shows us how items that we throw away everyday can be recycled into beautiful textiles and objects for fashion and interiors.
Adey Thani not only designs beautiful nature-inspired prints for fashion and interiors, but he is also on a quest to find innovative uses for materials which are commonly considered as ‘waste’. I was introduced to Adey’s work at New Designers earlier this year where I saw his striking prototype for a blind, which was constructed out of discarded spools from till-roll receipts. I was also drawn to Adey’s unique chicken skin leather creations, one of which is coloured gold and embellished with beads!
Adey talks to AVA about his inspiration, influences and his aim to change common attitudes towards ‘waste’ materials…
Where did you study?
I studied at the University of East London.
What would you say was the most interesting or enjoyable part of the course you studied?
The most interesting and enjoyable part of my course was studying with other students from different cultural backgrounds (as I have never had this sort of exposure before) and learning a bit about their culture in relation to design which I found very interesting and also the fact that I was the only male on the course. I enjoyed doing group presentations, which was daunting at first, but became enjoyable as I progressed on the course. Also, the most enjoyable part was realising my goal at the end of the course of being a designer and inventor. I designed four different products and my confidence was given a big boost.
What was your most interesting or memorable experience during your course?
The most interesting and memorable experience was learning to use photoshop to create designs. I joined the course as a mature student having been out of education for more than a decade, I had not experienced the use of this tool (in my time, things were done by hand). I left education when digital software was still new; it was very daunting but interesting to see what I could achieve with it. Another interesting thing was being able to look at ideas from other people’s point of view and understand why they had such views especially with regard to a particular work. We were able to give critique feedbacks on each other’s work, which was a very positive thing because sometimes we could get stuck in a bubble and not realise that the design is not working. So, it was nice to see and hear other people’s reaction to one’s work.
What inspires your work?
My work is inspired by the environment, nature and the need to preserve it, as well as other cultures and my own cultural roots. Nature has an explosion of colours that I find very alluring, while the environment has elements like buildings or even industrial shapes that could be used in design. Culturally, there are numerous elements that can be infused into a design, in fact, too much to choose from. I also get inspiration from other designers. For example, Paul Smith’s kidney bean sofa inspired my design print for furniture upholstery and Suzanne Lee’s bio-culture design inspired my chicken skin leather.
Who is the biggest influence on your work and why?
The biggest influence on my work right now is Suzanne Lee. She is the proponent of bio-culture, where she has made textiles from harmless bacteria and then fashioned them into garments. Also, I love Paul Smith’s colours and the urban elements in his some of his designs, not to mention Versace’s colours, which are ostentatious and could even be described as vulgar! One has to understand how to use them in either dress or interior decor.
Which piece out of all of your work best represents you as a designer?
I think my wallpaper collection shows that I am a nature lover and that I love detail, while my graduation project defines me as a sustainability designer creating new materials and up-cycling waste materials into beautiful functional pieces.
Have you worked with any clients or on any previous projects? If so which clients and what kind of project?
I used to make portraits years ago. People used to commission me to make portraits and I finished another one recently of my ex-partner, after about three years of leaving it in the sketching stage. It can be viewed on my website. I named it the green man which is figurative. More recently, I just finished making another sustainable design in the form of a Christmas tree wall hanging using waste cardboard spools and embellished it in crystals, telling the Christmas story. This was entered into the Tigerprint “Gifted” Competition. I keep trying to make new sustainable products from waste materials in the hope that people would start to see that not everything may be thrown away and they can start to think of different ways that they can be used. I think the Christmas tree design is exquisite! I would certainly buy it if I saw it in a shop.
What kind of medium do you use in your work and why?
I am still a painter at heart and I paint in oil because it gives me the flexibility of working the paint and to alter things. However, with regards to textile design, I use all sorts of media. Ink and pen drawings are great to give lines, tones and definition, watercolour is good to vary the tonal values in one’s designs and they are translucent and soft, while digital media helps to give that effortless, finished look that we all love to see in prints, plus, one can always manipulate the design to create a number of varieties of the same design. I also use acrylics. My chicken leather and Spool blind are all done in eco-friendly acrylics.
If you could describe your design style in five words what would they be?
Quirky, colourful, sustainable, original, and adventurous.
What kind of advice would you offer to someone interested in design?
Be very passionate about it and not to approach design half-heartedly. They have to be true to themselves and aim for originality as much as possible. A combination of sheer determination and doggedness to excel and keeping an eye out for new ideas as well as learning from other people with experience would surely lead to an optimum realisation of what and where they want to be. It is also vital to carry out lots of research too. Also not to be fazed by any obstacles that they may encounter on the way.
What are you currently working on now you have graduated?
Unlike most of my colleagues, I am not looking for a placement at the moment, but have been working on developing my ideas into a marketable product by trying to find ways that I can produce my products as cheaply and efficiently as possible and make the prototypes with an aim to get bespoke commissions including having them exhibited at different design shows and ultimately to get the business community interested in them and have them sold in shops. I am more entrepreneurial in my orientation. I have been collaborating with a designer to help me realize one of my goals of making ladies shoes for high fashion out of discarded materials. This is nearly done now and I’m about to have the prototype made. I also created a Christmas wall hanging decoration (it’s called the Christmas Story) using discarded ticket roll spools which was entered into the Tigerprint “Gifted” competition. I have been attending lots of workshops as well.
What are your hopes for your future career?
I hope to become established as a sustainable and ethical designer with my own brand and to get world recognition for my contribution to the design industry through my work. I hope to succeed in changing people’s attitudes to the waste and to make them look at these in a different light – the possibilities are endless. I am also looking at smart and sustainable textiles with the sole aim of reducing the ‘use’ phase. My satisfaction will come from seeing people using my creations in their everyday lives, using things made from materials that they never thought possible. I will be starting an MA course at the University of East London in September to further help me realise my goals and hope to do lots of collaborations.
If you are looking for an inspirational introduction to contemporary practice in textile design, check out The Fundamentals of Printed Textile Design. This book introduces the reader to the key techniques and processes used in textile design and also includes guidance on how to present your work professionally, and how to find work in this highly competitive industry.
If you’ve been inspired by Adey’s sustainable approach to design, you might be interested in Design for Sustainable Change. This book clearly explains the key theories and debates surrounding sustainability allowing you to integrate these into your own working practices.