The Formary launches Crop Textile at World Expo Milan

Bernadette Casey is creative director of The Formary, a Wellington-based firm that develops sustainable textiles and is currently exhibiting as part of the World Exposition 2015 in Milan

How did the opportunity arise for you to be part of the World Expo?

The theme of the expo is ‘feeding the planet/energy for life’. Our Mibu yarn was selected by France for their exhibition called ‘Textifood: where food and textiles intersect’, which focuses on textiles made from bi-products of food production. It’s a huge honour for our work to be recognised and to be invited by another country to be part of their exhibition.

What opportunities has the experience brought about so far for your business?

The world’s population is predicted to grow by another 2 billion people in the next 40 years, and food production will need to expand rapidly to meet that population demand. In turn, that’s going to result in an increased volume of the fibre waste that’s generated in food production. So solutions need to be developed to deal with this increasing waste stream. It’s anticipated 20 million people will attend the expo, so we hope this exhibition will encourage others to explore resource-efficient projects within their own industries.

For us, this exhibition is great for building our brand exposure not just in Europe but also further afield because the expo attracts visitors from all over the world. Once this show is over the exhibition will be packed up and taken to France where it’ll be on display until the end of the year.

More generally, what role do trade shows and exhibitions play in growing and developing your business?

We don’t usually exhibit at trade fairs; that’s the role of our distributors, who are more market facing than we are. We research and develop new products, trademark and patent those new products then partner with distributors to tap into their customer bases and distribution networks.

However, we do attend as many trade shows as possible to support our distributors because it gives us the opportunity to understand and meet their customers and get a good understanding of market demand and possible opportunities.

What strategies do you have when you go to these kinds of events that you’ve found produce good results for your business?

I think the ground work you do before a trade show is crucial. For high profile events we leverage the opportunity to build our brand awareness through a combination of PR, social media campaigns and invitations to attend the event.

Connecting with people before the event is important. Trade shows and exhibitions are great meeting points, especially when your customers or potential partners are located in different cities and countries. Inviting people who are important to your business to attend, and meeting with as many people as possible during the event I think is key.

What advice do you have for others wanting to get the most out of trade shows or other kinds of exhibitions?

It’s important to attend shows to understand what’s happening within your industry, how the market is responding to your products, and to keep an eye on what competitors are up to. Plus they’re always great networking events.

My take is that it’s all in the planning, so my advice is don’t underestimate the value of good set design for your exhibition space. Trade fairs are highly competitive places and you need something special to stand out from the masses and draw people to your exhibit. And support all your good efforts on the stand with interesting and engaging social media coverage.

Our waste clothes cost crazy money in dumping charges.

Textiles are the closest things to our skin. From within moments of our birth until we are laid to rest, our clothes are a material extension ourselves. They reflect our personality and communicate to the world so much about who we are. Clothes are the most visual identifiers of our clique and social position: they act as a type of code. So why are we dumping millions and millions of tonnes of clothes and what can we do to fix this problem? The solution could be right be here:

Optimism in problem solving – like saving the biosphere.

Creating new and viable fabrics from waste fibres can be challenging, a large percentage of our work consists of problem solving, from technical issues to logistical problems. I have come to believe that optimism is a crucial tool in successful solving problems. As Nelson Mandela eloquently said “It always seems impossible – until it’s done.”

Psychological studies have identified optimism and resilience as key characteristics of creative problem solvers. Research tell us that optimistic children perceive failure as:
‘temporary’ (able to be overcome) and ‘specific’ (to the situation at hand).
They perceive successes as:
‘personal’ (achieved through their own effort) and ‘permanent’ (able to be achieved again). An optimistic problem solver perceives not knowing as temporary, that problems are only beyond their current capability.

Alain de Botton is a modern day philosopher and as a philosopher he does does a lot of thinking. In developing his “Manifesto for Atheists” he has devised “Ten Virtues for the Modern Age” Top of that list, number ONE of this ten virtues he believes are the foundations to a successful life is…RESILIENCE.

Resilience is an individual’s tendency to cope with stress and adversity, being able to bounce back after setbacks. Resilience is related to a combination of higher optimism, extraversion, openness to experience. Plus resilient people are less neurotic – which is great to know.

Taking our two key attributes of optimism and resilience we can apply them to the biggest problem we face today..

Scientists alerted the world to the grim outlook of global warming, it wasn’t news that anyone would be delighted to hear. The enormity of the problem and the calamity it can cause seemed insurmountable. The scientist were raising the alarm, they were ringing the bell as loud as they could to get our bottoms off our couches long enough for us to hear the crucial message that we are in danger. That the very earth on which we stand is facing an issue the size of which we have never encountered before and one that needs immediate attention. The scientists keep ringing that alarm bell.

We are slowly responding. Direction has not come from governments, so far the only cross government agreement is that a 2 degree increase in temperature is the outer limit of safety if we want to remain on this planet. Action has had to come from individual citizens as industry would appear to have an undue influence on Governments, outweighing the influence of citizens. Global warming is not just an environmental problem it is equally a social problem as savage storms decimate homes and droughts threaten crops, it is going to take behavioural changes from society to address this.

The magnitude of the problem can understandably make us feel impotent, overwhelmed even paralysed by the sheer enormity of the task.
But there is reason for hope. Recently Bill McKibbon on a speaking tour presented a solution to prevent us reaching the catastrophic 2 degree temperature rise. His solution is divestment in fossil fuels. Fossil fuel companies have in reserve 5 x the amount of fuel that would take us over the 2 degree redline. His divestment solution along with suspension of subsidies to giant fossil fuel companies is such a powerful tool it could sway things a little in earths favour.

Al Gore has Plan A and Richard Branson recently launched his “B Team” with the concept of putting people and planet alongside instead of behind profit. So that companies contribute to the environment and society, as well as the economy. Business can and should be a force for good. As the major consumer of resources in the world, businesses need to lead way and to be the major responder to resource and environmental issues.

We can be inspired by companies such as New Zealand born Lanzatech whose low carbon aviation fuel has the potential to provide 19% of the world’s jet fuel, with a reduction in greenhouse gases by 50 to 60% compared to standard jet fuel. This is just one example of companies doing awe-inspiring things to address the precarious situation we are in. We can be immensely proud of the new technologies coming through, the rate of their application and transformation is very positive news.

As society we have both the skills and the intelligence to solve the challenges facing our biosphere. We should take pride in our problem solving abilities and practice using them whenever we can and celebrate our successes loudly for that will give us confidence to tackle even larger challenges.
We can face the current environmental challenges with confidence that not only can we solve them but that we will solve them. So lets every single one of us pull up our sleeves and get on with it.

This article forms part of Bernadette Casey’s recent TED Talk.

TED Talk

TED Talk

TED Talk

TED Talk