If you’ve ever wondered what it feels like to sit on a cloud, wonder no more.
Two Icelandic designers have created a pair of stools using recycled puffer jackets. Each stool is made of a sinuous metal rod and three parkas threaded around it like sleeves. Called Erm, Icelandic for “sleeve,” the project was recently displayed at DesignMarch, a design festival in Reykjavik that usually runs in March but was postponed due to COVID-19. Erm is part of a larger exploration of the circular economy and the potential to turn discarded clothes into something completely unrelated. It’s a promising endeavor, considering the fact that the United States generates about 25 billion pounds of textile waste per year and only 15% of that gets donated or recycled.
Ever since it was invented in the 1930s, the puffer jacket has grown into one of the most utilitarian status symbols of all time, but the garment isn’t without flaws. Puffer jackets are typically made of polyester, which is made from petroleum (a fossil fuel), and it takes a lot of energy to produce, though recycled polyester is becoming more common. Historically, puffer jackets were also filled with goose down, which raises ethical concerns, though more and more brands are using synthetic or recycled down.
That puffer jackets are the star of this project isn’t all that surprising, given Iceland’s obsession with the item. “Puffer jackets are a huge part of Icelandic identity,” says Arnar Ingi, who created Erm with Valdís Steinarsdóttir, two independent designers who are also a couple. “At this point, it’s a national wardrobe,” he adds.
These particular puffer jackets were sourced from 66°North, an almost 100-year-old Icelandic brand that makes outdoor clothing. Ingi says that to prolong the lifespan of its products, the company typically offers repair services–but some jackets just can’t be repaired, so they get donated to organizations like the Red Cross. Ingi and Steinarsdóttir saw the potential for something a little more creative.
First, they deconstructed the jackets: The sleeves were left as is, and the middle of the jacket was sewn in the shape of a sleeve as well. The parts were flipped inside out to conceal any wear and tear that may be visible on the exterior, and then everything was stitched together to form one long tube that was threaded around the metal rod. To make the stool even puffier—and comfy as a cloud—they used leftover parts like collars or lapels as extra filler. (For now, the stools aren’t for sale, but the pair is hoping to make more on demand.)
Ingi explains that a stool felt like a natural starting point, but the designers have more products in mind, starting with chairs with backs. Whatever the final collection looks like, the designers are hoping the project will inspire companies to think about recycling and upcycling beyond their immediate industry. “Everybody is trying to close the loop of their product cycle, but how can you expand it?” Ingi asks. “This ceased its function as clothing, but it doesn’t mean it ceased its function altogether.”