A design student in Germany has created trainers made from waste materials such as dog hair and mushrooms that are lighter than conventional shoes.
Emilie Burfeind, 26, designed her shoes as the final project in her studies at the University of Art and Design in Offenbach am Main, Germany.
She spoke to Real Press in an exclusive interview about the inspiration behind her creation that she named Sneature – a portmanteau of sneaker and nature.
She said: “I was studying design at the University of Art and Design with a focus on material design.
“At our university, we have the Institute for Material Design with Professor Markus Holzbach where we work with different materials, so I worked with many different materials such as ceramics, glass or wood veneer during my studies.
“In my final thesis, I wanted to show the potential of natural materials and designed Sneature for this purpose.”
Emilie’s goal was for a design that did not contribute to the Earth’s dwindling resources.
She said: “I asked myself to what extent natural materials can be integrated into a circular product cycle.
“With this in mind, I reduced Sneature to its minimal components and used suitable additive manufacturing processes for the implementation of the sole, the transition area and the upper material.”
Her penchant for material design and her already impressive experience in developing solutions for complex design projects meant manufacturer Modus Intarsia was onboard to help her source yarn made of upcycled canine hair, called Chiengora, and assist with the implementation of her radical design.
The German student that made the trainers from dog hair and mushrooms believes that the circular use of biological resources will become increasingly important in the future
The Chiengora in the shoe’s upper balances stiffness and flexibility while allowing air circulation. The transition to the sole is made of bio-rubber and bio-plastic that is water repellent. And the sole is made of mushroom mycelium cultivated in a mould.
She said the intersection of digital design and generative manufacturing like 3D knitting are exciting possibilities for me to research future materiality.
And she added: “Today, I am particularly interested in how material design can contribute to a more responsible use of resources.”
Trainers are among the clothing products with the shortest lifespan but Emilie’s shoes are biodegradable so when they reach their end of life they can return to the Earth – a fact that she takes comfort from.
She continues: “The complicated construction and the use of different materials make it almost impossible and unprofitable to disassemble and recycle a pair of trainers after use.
“I believe that the circular use of biological resources will become increasingly important in the future.”
She is now teaching at the Institute for Material Design but has ongoing plans for her concept shoes.
She said: “I am currently developing Sneature further so that it becomes a marketable product.
“There is no exact date when a finished prototype will be available, but I assume that it will be in the course of the next year.
“With a small team, we are testing the materials. We hope to launch a crowdfunding campaign in 2022 with a prototype and start marketing Sneature.”
The student has plans to make more projects such as the trainers made from dog hair and mushrooms. “I hope to be able to continue to drive forward and implement the development of sustainable materials.
“I would like to contribute to a more sustainable world of materials, not only in research projects, but also in practical projects.”
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