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As the reality of the end of summer hits, and the anxiety of a busy fall looms, we’ve decided to look back at a few highlights from Whitewall‘s summer 2014 Design Issue. One of our favorite conversations on design took place with ABC Carpet & Home‘s CEO and Creative Director, Paulette Cole. Below is our interview, which focuses on the merits of “slow design,” the contemporary customer, and creating a sacred space.
WHITEWALL: You moved ABC Carpet & Home toward a green, sustainable mission in 2004. Now, ten years later, what do you see as the next step in this movement toward sustainable design?
PAULETTE COLE: What we try to do every day is really speak to slow design. Slow design is aligning with the human spirit and the hand, recognizing the five thousand years of indigenous design DNA, intelligence, and quality that are being threatened by globalization and industrialization. We need to find ways to be inspired by nature, to tap in and pay attention to the deeper intelligence, the science and genius of bio-mimicry, the solutions offered to us by the natural order.
The first thing that has to happen is that we all have to recognize and amplify how loud the calling is from the planet and from the customer demand. Business is a leader, culturally. Business has the power to influence the consumer. And the consumer voice and the consumer demand can help push back to create legislation. Legislation is huge for us to create a green industrial revolution and to integrate renewable energy into our manufacturing. We with our platform try to inspire that cultural shift.
WW: Last October you hosted and spoke at the CFDA/Lexus Eco-Challenge lunch, speaking of a call to action for the fashion industry to adopt more sustainable practices. How do you see the fashion industry moving toward a more ecological and socially responsible future?
PC: I really believe that we are hardwired creative beings and it is in our nature to express ourselves creatively. To create that bridge with the fashion industry where, through beauty, people can really express themselves, is such an opportunity to deepen at that level and to offer value with the product. For me, the designers have a loud, influential voice in inspiring a critical mass. So when you ask, “What’s next?” What’s next in fashion is for the designer to step up as a metaphysical ambassador for the vision to change, a change agent to lead. So if it can’t happen through legislation, it’s got to happen through that cultural alignment. And for designers to source responsibly, to inspire people about the toxic consequences—for example, understanding that cotton is a great offender to the earth (it drinks more water than any other plant and takes more chemicals to produce it), so how could we not be educating ourselves and increasing the demand, and therefore lowering the cost for organic cotton? It’s the power of our collective voice to get this together.
WW: The consumer mindset has changed in the past decade as well, and now really has a different set of expectations in terms of wanting to know where what they are buying comes from.
PC: The past decade has completely seeded and witnessed this cultural shift. We try to invite and inspire our customers (we like to call them our participants) to take action, look within, and choosing their own power, their own urgency and accountability, for being part of creating that collective future and to be that solution, to vote with their dollars. At ABC we see our role as a bridge, to source beauty without compromise; that is the task as hand, and we can’t always meet it. For us that’s where the continuous improvement and collective struggle to create at that level come in: to inspire the design communities, the academic curriculums, the manufacturers and business at large. The new millennial customer, well, it’s becoming part of the fabric of their DNA; they were born into it and raised through it. Its super-hopeful for where it’s going.
WW: You are passionate about creating a sacred space—that our inner vision and values should be reflected in our outer life, the objects that surround us. How have you seen the ABC Carpet & Home customer embrace this idea?
PC: We always say that our homes are our mirrors, and our collective home is our collective mirror. And the state of the planet is such a mess, and that’s a reflection of who we are and our collective vision and as a result of how we’ve treated this planet.
Creating your own personal home, that sacred space, transformation happens when home mirrors your passion, your values, spirit, and vision. The idea of the sacred space can be quite literal in that way, reflecting back not only your vision but your state of mind: When we are chaotic, our space will reflect that back to us; when we are nurturing ourselves and our space, our space will also reflect that wellness back. When you recognize that and are in service to creating intentional space, channeling your own creativity and creating home as your canvas, design doesn’t become a modality but an extension of your being.
WW: Right, design as not strictly objects or architecture. So how do you define design?
PC: For me design is felt deeply before it is seen or learned. It begins within oneself, a connection to higher self at the source. I often contemplate how to articulate my perspective on the blurry lines between art, our vision and design. For me it’s having the access to intuitively plug in to the collective consciousness and its creativity. And when you get there, that knowing and trusting that knowingness is vision. And after accessing that energy, being a vessel through which that energy flows—personalizing, internalizing, interpreting, and translating individual vision into perspective. And then it’s expressed through mixed modalities: design, synchronicity, art, connection, vision—all defining design which can influence and impact cultural shifts and inspire the magic and the change.
This article was previously published in Whitewall‘s summer 2014 Design Issue.