This year, Latvian designer Sarmīte Poļakova, who runs the material design and research studio Studio Sarmite in Frankfurt, took part in Dutch Design Week with several projects. She was among eight artists and designers invited by The Visionary Lab to redesign one of Vitra’s iconic chairs for the Icons Re/Outfitted exhibition, using leftover fabric from jeans manufacturer Levi’s. Sarmīte also created a biotextile room divider for the exhibition.
Icons Re/Outfitted is a project initiated and curated by the creative studio The Visionary Lab, which aims to combine design, fashion, and storytelling to draw attention to the issue of textile waste. The exhibition at Dutch Design Week featured eight artistically transformed Vitra chairs — design icons created by world-renowned designers such as Charles and Ray Eames, Werner Panton, and George Nelson. The second-hand chairs were given a new life by dressing them in repurposed Levi’s denim using a variety of innovative techniques.
Sarmīte Poļakovaa redesigned the Panton chair for the exhibition by wrapping it in biotextile, the production technology of which Sarmīte developed for her project Pre-Loved in collaboration with designer Māra Bērziņa. The innovative material is made from textile waste, resulting in a non-woven, suede-like fabric that is not only sustainable but also durable and attractive. As the designers worked with second-hand chairs, Sarmīte thought about furniture and art objects that are temporarily out of use — covered furniture in an unoccupied house, wrapped statues that have been hibernated to protect them from the harsh winter weather, or the work of artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude, where the fabric cover becomes a symbolic preparation for a new journey. Following this inspiration, Sarmīte created a biotextile cover that continues the flowing lines of the chair in the extension or carpet while retaining the recognisable shape created by Panton.
«I like the idea of regeneration in design, conceptualising how materials age and transform over time: from big pieces of denim leftovers to smaller and smaller pieces, until only the fibres are left, and finally the colour alone,» says Sarmīte. Along with the chairs, the designer also created a room divider for Icons Re/Outfitted, made from recycled denim dye mixed with natural binders. As a result, Sarmīte managed to create a unique semi-transparent material whose bluish tint and light transmission give the room a distinctive feel.