The Earth is sick and our habits are changing. For the good of the planet, young people have already revolutionised the way they eat and travel, and are now reinventing the way they furnish their homes. It's therefore no surprise that eco-design is booming, while the bubble of fast consumerism is finally starting to deflate…
Second-hand goods are in vogue among young and old, whether it be clothes through the app Vinted (which has also recently branched out into interior design) or all other items through the well-known pre-loved trading sites eBay, Le Bon Coin and Selency. In this climate, the Label Emmaüs website has been extremely successful since its launch in 2018, and shows no signs of running out of steam. This platform designed as a marketplace similar to the one offered by industry giant Amazon, provides a means of buying products offered by various vendors, including Emmaüs shops throughout France and other social and solidarity economy operators. Online bargain hunters tap into this new consumer trend by circulating pre-used items. They benefit both from low prices and a return to a certain form of authenticity. Similarly, bargaining systems are rapidly developing in a bid to create a new virtuous circle of consumption based on buying – repairing – giving/leasing/lending.
Photo credit : Selency, an online flea market with its humour for the digital age.
The price factor
Consumers often have a distorted view of the monetary value of furniture. After all, the knock-down prices offered by the "Swedish Giant" don't give a true picture of production/distribution costs. Let's not forget that this company alone is responsible for a significant percentage of global wood consumption… Just in France, a quarter of all forests are used to produce IKEA furniture!
It's a fact that consuming sustainably is a luxury. However, initially, there is a clear link between eco-responsibility and the level of motivation for this purchasing argument. Society must therefore be educated, with full disclosure regarding the costs of products, including details of production, composition, lifespan, and justification for prices. Even if a product is produced with recycled materials, its appeal as a greenable item is diminished if it is sourced from the other side of the world. Moreover, shipping costs considerably bump up the price.
Since 1981, Basque furniture manufacturer Alki has stood out from the competition by systematically using local suppliers based close to its production unit, while also promoting its own expertise and craftsmanship. "We always try to use natural, eco-friendly materials such as oak, virgin wool and natural fibre. Another important aspect apart from raw materials and product lifespan is the fact that we work with workshops offering complementary expertise based within a radius of 100 km from our site," says CEO Peio Uhalde. There are even more advocates of local procurement in the interior design sector. The trade has taken designer Margaux Keller’s lead to increasingly embrace a process based on craftsmanship and local production, two conditions that combine to create a genuine "creative booster". Craftsmanship is back in vogue in this new, highly active age that advocates handmade products, artisanal practices, and a deep connection with materials. In short, we are seeing both a literal and figurative return to our roots.
Besides numerous collections currently offered on a seasonal basis, eco-design is part of a long-term approach that is impervious to trends. As Peio Uhalde suggests, objects should be used in a way that gives them a sense of intimacy, transforming them into ideal fellow travellers for everyday life.
Let's end with a final word from this "furniture philosopher": "The market is swamped with products that people get rid of when they get broken or when they grow tired of them. Modern furniture designers and editors are partly to blame for this 'jumble'. It is therefore essential for me to create objects that people can live with on a daily basis and that are somehow low-key or commonplace. They offer highly crafted simplicity. As such, they create a bond with users and earn their respect. To that end, they must be made with the right materials and with genuine attention to detail. This is necessary but not sufficient. They also need personality, a small injection of soul that makes them enjoyable to use and encourages people to use them… a lot."
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