michael phelps, a little black dress, and ecodesign


This little column of mine here, “Reduce, Reuse, Reimagine,” is a column about the ways in which creativity and ecological concerns intersect. I’m interested in the ways in which designers, artists, and makers impose constraints on themselves when they choose to be eco-friendly, and I’m interested in the ways in which these constraints promote real innovation and creativity.

And I feel like I probably should be quite pleased with the tidbit I’m bringing you this week, except I’m sorta not.

If you will, think back to 2008 when Michael Phelps destroyed world records in his fancy-schmancy Speedo LZR swimsuit. Oh, you know. The one that kind of made him look like a wet seal, or maybe Aquaman?

Well, those suits? They’re no longer allowed. The world governing body of swimming, FINA, said no go. And there sat poor Speedo with a pile of amazingly fast swimsuits and no pool to put them in.

Rather than simply toss them into the waste bin, Speedo teamed up with British design collective From Somewhere, a fashion label known for its use of textile waste in its own production process. The result? A sleek little black cocktail dress that debuted at London’s Estethica Fashion Week this fall.

And the thing is? I actually kind of love the dress. There’s something extremely appropriate about it – using swimsuits to create a cocktail dress. There’s also a bit of irony — making the almost-universally flattering LBD out of the equally almost-universally unflattering swim suit. And I do like that Speedo and From Somewhere are going to actually manufacture and sell the dresses in order to use up the excess LZR suits – I mean, if you’re going to come up with a concept like this, you better actually follow through.

But what I’m stuck on is this: it’s kind of driving me nuts that Speedo commissioned a cocktail dress for a big-time fashion show when there were probably much more useful ways to deal with all that excess. It seems much more like a publicity stunt than a real attempt at, well, anything. It doesn’t change anything about Speedo’s own manufacturing practices. It doesn’t encourage responsible reuse of their waste products. It doesn’t use the excess suits to create anything that might solve a problem or fill a need.

Am I crazy for being so critical? Am I just being cynical?

2 thoughts on “michael phelps, a little black dress, and ecodesign

  1. I agree with this article about giving not only this holiday season, but in future gift giving. We all have way too much stuff. Look around and there is an abundance of things in this country waiting to be upcycled, reused, and used. The quote from Gibran was very appropriate. Wonderful ideas for giving, and a wonderful shop the “Up Up Creative”, very mindful business.
    We all could use more encouragement to think outside the box, when it comes to giving. thank you

  2. I totally understand your point about changing their end waste etc., but I guess we should be glad they are making an effort with the swimsuits. I do love the dress! Maybe this might be the start of their awakening environmentalism. Time will tell.

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