Karen MacLeod

“There is no better designer than nature”, said the late prolific fashion designer Alexander McQueen. McQueen’s thoughts portray nature as the ultimate creative project that exudes perfection and immaculate, seamless procedures. The relationship design shares with nature has evolved since, as the industry has been vying dedicatedly to be more responsible in their processes and products in order to reduce the threat caused to the environment. The Principal of the Academy of Design (AOD), Sri Lanka’s future‐ready design dynamic in partnership with Northumbria University UK, Karen MacLeod, discusses the crucial connection between design and nature and the manner in which local design has embarked on a journey, incorporating the visible and invisible forces of the environment. Karen, a fashion designer herself, does not undermine the influence of nature in fashion stating “fashion and nature have always been intertwined. The inspiration you can find in nature is limitless.” Inspiration is not the only manner in which design is interwoven with nature. With threats to the environment in the form of global warming, greenhouse gases, pollution and urbanization, a consciousness towards sustainable design is well on its way in transforming the industry towards progressing it to one that is environmentally friendly and responsible in its production processes. “This eco‐consciousness has led to brands, manufacturers, retailers and design houses taking steps to limit the impact their businesses have on nature, in both large and small ways.” Karen also notes the change in the modern consumer behaviour. She states that there has always been conscious customers who care about the impact their actions have upon the environment. Over recent years, with the availability of information having exploded with social and new media, these customers have evolved. The industry has now reached the point that it can no longer simply offer a product and she states that it needs to share an ethical story that contributes to the consciousness of the consumer. Sustainable outputs, mentions Karen, are becoming significant over time, which propels the design industry to perform, by revitalizing their procedures to minimize the negative impact on the environment.

As a practising academic, Karen does justice to her protégés by inculcating an awareness of the damage to nature caused by unsustainable procedures in design and apparel. She has faith in her position as a guide to emerging designers in the industry. “I think this is where you can really make a transformation, you are breeding a new group of designers, those who want to go out in to the world and make a difference” she states. Karen visualizes designers as ‘problem‐solvers’, who need to be moulded to understand and critically engage with how their practise affects nature and the environment. Approaching these critical factors from an academic level give students the opportunity to create new ways of thinking, which in turn allow future designers to form environmentally conscious movements that preserve and protect nature, articulated Karen. Raw talent is transformed into informed skill by design education, while paving the path for emerging designers to prosper with novel perspectives that enhance sustainability.

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9th October, 2018 Applied Art