I’m nearly at 15 whole years of running my micro business and it’s only really in recent years that I’ve started to get to know other designers both in the area and further away. I’m not sure why it took so long as I’m finding them to be such a supportive and interesting group of people!
I’ve met lots of local designers through Design Brighton (old and new versions), through networking such as Property Smarts, also further away via the British Institute of Interior Design, through the vegan design community. Even the interio designer community on social media has been a support to each other. There’s a lovely group on Instagram especially. We are by now means the same. We all have different specialisms and ideal clients. It’s really interesting how many variations there are and we have lots to learn from each other.
One is Angela Cheung. I’ve known about her since I started. At that time there really weren’t nearly so many designers in the Sussex area. She was working mainly in residential and I was working mainly in commercial. So our paths didn’t cross.
Earlier in the year I heard she was now specialising in Biophilic Design - which is our need for a connection to nature. It’s an area I am very interested in as well as it’s all about occupant health. I’ve written about it a fair bit. I am nowhere near as knowledgeable as Angela is about it. Healthy building design really is the way forward for the built environment - more than ever in this time of pandemic. Like me Angela has continued studying throughout her career and you’ll hear about her exciting new learning adventure during our conservation. We both love to learn.
Angela contacted me suggesting we recorded a conversation about interior design. I hope you enjoy the chat!
Watch to find out more about Biophilic Design, Human Centric Design as a whole, Sustainability and Vegan Design and we both share tips to help anyone watching who might be interested in improving their spaces.
Sustainability is the place where People, Planet and Profit meet. As I said last week, this is known as the Triple Bottom Line. Sustainability lies in the intersection where PEOPLE, PLANET and PROFIT meet.
I wanted to talk more about the PEOPLE part of sustainabilty.
What is the interior design industry doing to address inequity?
DESIGN FOR DIVERSITY
Rukmini Patel and Kate Watson-Smyth have devised an initiative and community called Design for Diversity. Listen to Kate’s The Great Outdoors podcast with Sophie Robinson for shocking and saddening insights into racism in the interior design industry, including one from my friend Jecks Stone of Persona Abode.
Kate says: “We do not claim it as a solution. But we offer it as the start of a conversation. A sign that the door is open…… It’s our sincere hope that the presence of this sticker on a design website or social channel will give those who see it the confidence to take a step forward, while offering reassurance that their interest will be received with positivity and fairness.”
To pledge support, designers and suppliers should post the badge so all can see it and make a relevant pledge.
I have signed up to Design for Diversity pledge. You don’t have to be an employer to be involved.
Things even a micro-business like mine can do:
I’m always seeking out products (sustainable especially!) to use and I would especially like to support BAME businesses who produce them.
I would be really happy to mentor a student or designer from a BAME background too.
I've been listening to LuAnn Nigara's A Well-Designed Business podcast for interior designers for years and I’ve learnt very much from them. This recent one is for everyone to listen to. She and her friend, Arianne Bellizaire talk about racism in and out of the interior design industry. They discuss Ibrahn X Kendi’s book 'How To Be Anti Rascist’.
I’m also concerned what lies deeper into the supply chains the interior design industry uses.
We all now know about what lurks in fashion industry supply chains thanks to brilliant campaigns like #whomademyclothes? ran by Fashion Revolution. I know when my queries to suppliers are unanswered that there is little transparency in my industry as well. Just doing the Made In A Free World’s surveytells meof your own purchases to know more than 200,000 children are forced to work in India's carpet belt of Uttar Pradesh.
Here in the UK I occassionally see suppliers displaying the Living Wage logo - but they are few and far between. There are certifications that cover social and economic wellbeing of people involved, such as Cradle To Cradle, Forestry Stewardship Council and Good Weave.
Many people have no idea that child labour, human trafficking and slavery is part of our industry. The Modern Slavery Act is law here. Some suppliers have Modern Slavery statements clearly published - many don't. But what do we know about goods we buy from outside of the UK? Very little. How many of us ask questions about the supply chain? The BIID have written this useful guide on Modern Slavery.
Want to learn more? Start by looking at your own impact.
Take the Made In A Free World’s survey about your own purchases - it's completely eye opening.
You may as well see what your ecological footprint is as well using this footprint calculatortoo! Find out how many planets are needed for your current way of living. Plot spoiler: it's much more than one.
It's a learning process for us all as we become more and more aware. When starting to build sustainability into the way you create an interior, you just have to start somewhere. Asking questions of suppliers is a great way to start and puts pressure on them - especially as the same questions are asked by more and more of us.
Sharing knowledge is so important to this learning process. Below are some resources. Please share any learnings and resources you have with me and others as well.
Sustainability is the place where People, Planet and Profit meet. Being sustainable interior designer means awareness of the impact on nature as well as being equitable and having awareness for people in the industry & the supply chains we use - it’s not only about planet.
I’m extremely fortunate in that Sustainability has been a part of how I work since early in my career in the mid nineties. I was lucky to be a designer in the retail design team at The Body Shop International’s head office. The company’s retail spaces had to match up to the values and ethics of the brand & it’s products. And so began a wonderful learning experience for me in sustainable and ethical design. We worked closely with the company’s Business Ethics team who vetted the suppliers and materials we used. As well, the company set up Trade Not Aid (now Community Fair Trade) to ensure people in the supply chain were fairly treated too.
My industry is slowly realising it’s huge impact on nature and the part we play in the use of materials and manufactured goods. The word Sustainability is used more and more and I am really happy there is now so much more awareness. But my concern is that the people factor within Sustainability is not front of mind.
How can I help you to be more sustainable?
I won’t pretend it’s easy - there is not an abundance of choice. There is not a wealth of Fair Trade products for interiors to choose from - but there are some so seek them out. Even if an item or two could be swapped in.
There’s lots of small producers that directories like Blue Patch can direct you to (UK and Irish makers).
Labels are another useful way to navigate through, I use Cradle to Cradle, Good Weave and Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC) for reassurance of the people element of sustainablity.
Being a Living Wage employer is being adopted more and more - so look out for suppliers displaying this logo.
I’m very happy to share with you this guide on the labels and directories I use. You can download it here.
I know the whole area feels daunting and sometimes a moving target as there is an element of greenwashing going on. But I feel we need to increase our knowledge and awareness and reward the more conscious suppliers who look after more than bottom line profit.
Let’s use sustainable products and materials that have been ethically sourced. As I am often saying - we all need to ask more questions of suppliers. That action alone on mass will push demand and encourage better.
As always - I am here to help if needed. I have built a large product libray and have over 26 years experience,