Pierre Westerholm shares the journey on taking regenerative down-like biomaterial to the runway
The Beckmans School of Design student describes himself as being very sceptical of almost all companies out there today. That was until he received the material.
By JOHAN MAGNUSSON
February 12, 2024
Pierre Westerholm is studying his last term in the fashion program at Beckmans School of Design in Stockholm. Last week, he participated in the school’s show, Beckmans Unveiled, as part of its annual Fashion Collaboration project, together with established fashion brands.
— The theme for the project has focused on physical and environmental pressures and how they affect us personally, the social sphere, and our surroundings, he says. Being in my fifth year of studying fashion, I’ve definitely experienced these types of pressures in different ways.
— So, with that in mind and with my collaborator Ponda, it felt entirely natural to develop an outerwear collection. I wanted to play with the senses and create hybrid garments that can withstand our pressured climate while also influencing the wearer. I wanted to reinforce the garments with some association to calmness and recovery. So, when I was watering my dead monstera plant supported by a bamboo stick, I had the idea of wind chimes. Wind chimes are such beautiful objects in themselves and advocate so much. They create harmony and happiness; some believe they ward off evil spirits. But above all, they create sound. A garment that can respond to itself. I quickly noticed in the process that you become very aware of the garments when standing beside or wearing them, and it truly became a strong driving force for the entire project.
Photography: Peter Håkansson
You mentioned your collaborator, Ponda — which is a highly innovative company.
— Yes, they have developed a product that is not only a substitute for bird down but also restores wetlands when cultivating the product. Personally, I am very sceptical of almost all companies out there today. But Ponda’s product is genuinely sustainable; it gives more than it takes from our climate. The substitute they have developed is called BioPuff and is simply cattail down that they cultivate in wetlands and then ’harvest.’, Westerholm explains, continuing.
Previously known as SaltyCo, Ponda’s textiles for the fashion industry are made from plants that can heal damaged wetlands. General textile supply chains are of course highly degenerative, from damaging lands to high carbon emissions, and Ponda aims to transform these into regenerative ones. The first product, BioPuff, is a plant-based alternative to goose-down for outdoor-wear insulation.
— I was truly impressed when I received the material because it has the same characteristics as bird down, says Westerholm. It was a bit tricky at first when I didn’t understand how much volume the material itself took from the pattern pieces. But I quickly understood how to structure the constructions to get what I wanted. I think this project has been the most educational for my part. Especially learning to handle quilted constructions but also working with an external partner like Ponda.
Photography: Fredrik Andersson Andersson
What happens to the collection now?
— Right now, the collection is hanging in storage at my place. I’ve received some inquiries from people who are interested, and it’s really rewarding to get this compensation from all the early mornings and late nights. But if I were to do something with this, I would need to find a business partner who can handle the non-creative work and maybe my tempo. We’ll see what happens.
Will you continue to work with BioPuff?
— Absolutely. Their product is so incredibly strong, so I’m more than happy to be part of their journey. Right now, I’m in the middle of my graduation collection, which will be shown this spring, and I will certainly use Ponda’s substitute for that. We’ve had such a good dialogue throughout the work and will continue to have it in the future. Nothing is set in stone yet, but we have talked about certain projects. And I’m always looking for new interesting materials to work with.