Natural Material Studio on how to make a biodegradable gift-wrapping experience for retail
”Packaging can easily be an underestimated aspect of a product in terms of budget, which is a shame,” says founder Bonnie Hvillum.
19 Dec 2022

How can we change our understanding, relation and perception of materials? Bonnie Hvillum runs Natural Material Studio, an international design, research, and consultancy studio based in Copenhagen which is exploring that. After collaborating with the likes of Frama, Noma Restaurant, Empirical Spirits, Dinesen and Leeds University, the company now uses Procel, a bio-textile made of ingredients and pigments that are gained directly from nature, in a new project for Calvin Klein. It aims to raise concerns about the current single-use culture, which is elevated during the Christmas period. The biomaterial is formulated through a mix of protein biopolymer, natural softener, and natural pigments, resulting in a texturally rich and visually intriguing surface.

— It is handcrafted and developed in Copenhagen, says Hvillum. It is a living material — texture, colour, and shape are reactive to the material’s environment and change with temperature, humidity and time. We research and design from a renewable and circular point of view, with science, biology, chemistry, design, and art as our building blocks. 

Bonnie Hvillum. Photography: Rebecca Norberg

This concept is available in Calvin Klein’s store in Copenhagen, Have you noticed any growing interest from retail for innovative packaging solutions like this, in order to reduce their own impact and add extra value to the end consumer?

— This is the first packaging design concept we have developed. However, we have been approached about packaging before. We work in a premium sector as all our materials are for now handmade, so with packaging, it has to make sense in terms of the aim and budget. But we can see with this Calvin Klein project how much additional value it adds to the purchase experience, and really, packaging can easily be an underestimated aspect of a product in terms of budget, which is a shame, because packaging plays a big ’experiential’ part of receiving or buying a product. From a creative direction or marketing perspective, I think this gift pouch is a very strong concept and I hope that we in the future will see more empathy and priority on the design aspects of packaging. It shifts our focus away from a fully product-minded consumer culture, to a more experience-oriented one, which could be seen as a more mindful, quality-minded way of consuming.

As mentioned, your work is often based on science. Do you have any other science-related projects coming up?

— Since 2020 we have been researching Danish pine needles as a potential fibre source for a non-woven, leather-like material for upholstery and accessories, says Hvillum. The research is conducted together with the Technological Institute in Denmark as well as the Danish Christmas Tree Association, and supported by the environmental ministry. Furthermore, we are also part of a larger cross-disciplinary research project, running until the summer of 2023 and funded by Dreyers Fond, together with Dinesen and architects Kim Lenschow Office, where we research sawdust as a fibre for interior materials.