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Design news: the best of Braun, gingerbread cities and grow your own wedding dress

This month’s news features all sorts of unusual manufacturing materials from mycelium to gingerbread. There’s also the opportunity for students to get their design projects 3D printed by London company Batch.Works. Hopefully there’s something for everyone.

The bride wore fungus

Choosing a wedding dress is a special moment. Some brides go for a family heirloom, others dream of designer gowns. Dasha Tsapenko is probably one of the very few to actually grow her own dress. The bio-textile designer is fascinated by the shared connections and production issues of fashion and agriculture, and the Atelier Dasha Tsapenko investigates ways to make material from farming byproducts and plants. The atelier has made fur from bean pods, textile dyes from crop waste and fungal felt. For her dress, Tsapenko was inspired by the custom from her Ukrainian homeland for women to wear hand-embroidered wedding blouses.

Tsapenko sourced vintage linen lace from Ukrainian flea markets and seeded them with fungal spores before placing them in a nutrient-rich growing environment. Over a fortnight the mycelium fused the lace into a fabric as it grew, which could then be tailored into a fungal dress. She envisages a new wedding tradition where the gown is buried after the wedding.

“It felt good not to treat the wedding dress with caution, worrying about making it dirty, wet, dusty,” says Tsapenko. “Knowing that the dress would go back to earth after the wedding in the neighbourhood forest made it easier to run, jump, and turn cartwheels. A wedding is an emotional moment that you want to experience deeply. When that moment is over, you want to preserve it in your memory, not in your closet.”

For more information, contact Dasha Tsapenko through her website

Written in black and white

Back in 2016, Washington DC-based graphic designer Tré Seals was browsing online for inspiration. He felt like everything he looked at seemed monotonous and, after he read that over 85% of practicing designers in the US were white, he started to think how these two things are connected. As he says on his website: “You could argue that it’s because of our obsession with grids and perfection, but the truth is there was no culture, no character.”

He decided to found his own diversity-driven type foundry, and Vocal Type was launched. Seals uses inspiration from the culture and history of under-represented communities to create custom typography. Examples include his VTC Garibaldi type, inspired by anti-fascist posters and pamphlets produced during the second world war, and VTC Du Bois which came from the infographics produced by civil rights activist WEB Du Bois, showing how African Americans were affected by racism.

This year Seals has been shortlisted for the Emerging Designer prize in the annual Dezeen Awards, the winner of which is announced this week. As he says: “Everyone needs to have a seat at the table. The world is getting more and more diverse, and our industry needs to catch up with it.”

For more informatin on Seals, visit Vocal Type. The 2023 Dezeen Awards winners are announced on 28 November

Streets paved with sweets

The Museum of Architecture’s (MoA) Gingerbread City has become a tradition in London over Christmas time, but this year the charity has opened for the first time in New York. MoA aims to get the public to engage with the buildings around them and how they are used. Each year the charity asks leading architects to create gingerbread buildings to celebrate the festive season – and also to make visitors think about the challenges of the built environment. The New York Gingerbread City includes the work of over 50 architects and shares the theme Water in Cities with its London twin. There are daily gingerbread-making workshops and NY restaurant Balthazar has made sweet treats to take home. Melissa Woolford, founder and director of MoA and the creator of The Gingerbread City says: “We use this to showcase design and the impact it can have on our towns and countryside, considering climate change and how we will live in the future. Creating a metropolis using sweet treats allows us to make complex ideas accessible in a welcoming environment that smells delicious!”

Visit the New York Gingerbread City up until 7 January

Simpe. Useful. Built to last

Braun is one of those few brands that is ubiquitous yet also groundbreaking. The electronic goods company was founded in 1921 by Max Braun in Frankfurt, just as the boom in radio took off. First Braun and then his two sons, Artur and Erwin, kept the company at the forefront of technology and design for decades, thanks to a commitment to aesthetics and functional design. Now a new monograph by Klaus Kemp, professor of design theory and history at the HfG Offenbach, Germany, tells the story of the company that combined philosophy, technology and design to become a part of history. Braun: Designed to Keep features over 500 images and catalogues Braun’s defining moments.The Braun brand is known by happy customers for stereos, kitchen appliances and electric shavers. But it’s also admired in design circles for a work practice influenced by Bauhaus and for providing a launch pad for some of the world’s greatest product designers. Dieter Rams, Gerd A Müller and Roland Weigend are just some of the names associated with the company. Designer Virgil Abloh even helped mark Braun’s 100th anniversary. The company motto is, unsurprisingly, apt: Simple. Useful. Built to last.

Braun: Designed to Keep by Klaus Kemp (Phaidon, £59.95)

Making the cut

“Without pattern cutting,” says designer and teacher Monisola Omotoso, “no clothes would make it onto a catwalk.” As a creative who’s worked in every area of fashion, Omotoso certainly knows what she’s talking about. In the 1990s, her innovative Jac Sac design – a combination rucksack and jacket – was emblematic of the creative streetwear styles in the UK at that time, and it was sold at Paul Smith and Duffer of St George. Omotoso went on to produce womenswear and accessories collections before she grew weary of the constant turnover of the fashion industry and pivoted to working as a pattern cutter – Alexander McQueen and David Koma are among her clients – and training as a teacher so she can pass her skills to a new generation of makers. She’s also produced pattern kits for people to try at home. “Pattern cutting is a fundamental skill in the fashion industry that combines creativity with technical expertise,” says Omotoso. “It plays an important role in turning concepts into wearable, functional products.”

Omotoso’s iconic Jac Sac is currently on display at The Missing Thread, an exhibition about Black creativity at London’s Somerset House. The pattern kits are also on sale in the pop-up shop.

Omotoso has sewing and pattern-making courses coming up at the V&A. See her website for details www.patterncuttingdeconstructed.com

Next-generation printing

Batch.Works is a British manufacturing company focused on local and circular production using recyclable materials. In collaboration with design consultants Seymourpowell and the Design Council, the company has launched a competition for design students, called Products for Planet. Batch.Works needs to train an AI-powered 3D-printing machine. “To do this, we need to print approximately 10,000 parts on our pilot machines in Brighton,” says Milo Mcloughlin-Greening, partner and head of R&D at Batch.Works. To turn this into a genuinely creative exercise, it is offering students the chance to suggest items that should be printed for their schools or communities. “This competition takes advantage of this amazing production opportunity to make objects that are designed to solve real problems,” says Mcloughlin-Greening.

Batch.Works is looking for a product idea with the themes of food, materials, mobility or energy and the item must, obviously, be suitable for manufacturing using a 3D printer.

“So many young people have fantastic ideas so we’re delighted to be able to support making some of them a reality through this competition,” added Cat Drew, chief design officer at the Design Council. “By asking students to design products with communities, we can train the AI-enabled printing service in a really inclusive way.”

Send entries to competition@batchworks.co.uk by 15 December. For more information on how to present your submission, go to Batch.Works