1. ‘To do things differently, we must see things differently.’ So says John Thackara, an author, speaker and social innovator who has devoted his working life to the championing of good design and the pursuit of a sustainable future via his organisation Doors of Perception. In a recent blog post he references the papal encyclical on climate change, Laudato Si, thus: ‘The Pope’s 700-page document tells an alternative story about the relationship between humans and the natural world. At its centre is the concept of “integral ecology”: the text calls on all peoples to be protectors of the environment; states that care for creation is a virtue in its own right; and advocates global solidarity as “a key value to direct our search for the common good.”’
I quote this because it’s all too easy to lament ‘well, what difference will my little bit of recycling really make’, or to dismiss green issues as boring or unduly worthy. It’s also easy for magazines to effectively ghettoise ecological design by dedicating special pages to ‘green’ stuff, as if it’s rare or unique, when, in fact, it should simply be mainstream and intrinsic to what makes something good. Nevertheless, we kickstart our increased contribution to the ecological debate with a Green Living section this month, proving that it can be both sexy and super stylish, and henceforth anything eco will be mixed in with all the other things we consider of note.
2. I have been looking for a simple, black leather rucksack for over a year. Admittedly, not a concerted 24/7 major research offensive, more a keeping-a-constant-eye-out sort of thing. I really didn’t think it’d be so hard to find. I was seeking practicality (a way of closing it that will keep everything inside dry in case of rain), simplicity (no overt logos, big brass buckles or any other unnecessary accoutrements – dangly bits, studs etc) and relative capaciousness (it needs to be able to fit several copies of ELLE Decoration inside but still look like a smart work bag rather than something I’d take trekking). The hunt was on. But everything I saw failed one of my requirements. Too big. Too ugly. Not nice leather. Too many straps. And so it went on. Several times I almost capitulated, so desperate was I to ditch my trusty, but not very Editor-in-Chiefy, Eastpak, but I hung in there, determined that my bag would finally materialise. And it did, four days before writing this, courtesy of a small Italian menswear brand I’d never heard of before: David Naman. My bag has one zip, one clip, the logo is embossed and so tiny that it’s barely visible, the leather is the sort that looks and feels as if I’ve owned it for an age, and it cost £158. Worth every penny.
I’ve deliberately linked these two stories because to me they actually speak of the same thing. Whether we’re talking about brands or ourselves as individuals, we need to acknowledge that daring to do things differently does make an impact. It’s about confidence. It’s knowing that your personal recycling matters, whether by example or contribution. For brands, it’s recognising that shouty logos matter not one jot when it comes to the excellence of your goods.
Certainly, an element of marketing plays its part. After all, it was the jewel-box nature of the David Naman shop that pulled me into it in the first place – great colours (a vivid turquoise for some walls), graphic wallpaper, some marble, no banging house music. Think discreet chic. From fashion to green living, it’s clearly smart to be smart.
First published as my Editor’s Letter in the March 2016 edition of ELLE Decoration UK