How can we grow shoes? | Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, Jerusalem

How can we grow shoes?

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Until the industrial revolution of the 19en century, most of the design was handmade and personally tailored to the customer. For example, when a British man wanted a suit, he went to the tailor that made it to his measurements. With machinery an automation developed in the 19en century, design was produced by machinery in mass-production and therefor suitable for general and average sizes of the population. In the 21st century many companies started giving the customer the feeling of product uniqueness as part of marketing effort, and switch from mass-production to mass- customization, like Nike firm that created a project "Nike ID", where the customer can design his own shoes (or at least change few elements in the mass-production).

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The firm Rayfish Footwear took this idea even further, when promised to grow catfish in different colors so that each customer can order personal shoes that its leather was predesigned in a genetic form. The shoes were designed by Jan Jansen, a Dutch shoes designer that explains in their site, why catfish skin is great for shoes production. The firm declared its use in Bio-Design technologies in order to change the skin color of a catfish, just like the engineered Zebras in glowing colors that we can find in any pet store. That is how this company became a pioneer of Bio-customized products, growing raw materials in a lab with biological means, according to personal order in order to create a unique product for a customer.

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The company was mentioned in every design magazine, blogs and TV nets were very excited and promoted the advertisement. The high priced shoes (1800$) did not stop 10000 clients from ordering their own pattern and send it to the company to grow the fish in the desired style. Although the company promised to treat the animals and workers in a human way, a big media storm started by activists and organizations of animal rights Security cameras showed masked activists breaking into the lab and freeing all the fish back to the ocean. The president of the company's reaction was fast and first. He explained that the real exploiting that takes place today in the world is the one done by western companies like Nike, that employs children in slavery conditions in the far East and violates human rights and not animal's rights.

The power of design

In the first weeks after the break to lab, pictures of colored fish cats were seen in the ocean, that planted doubts in people whether or not this company is real. And soon enough it turned out that the company Nano Supermarket deliberately planned and created a fictitious firm in order to raise social criticism.
Nano Supermarket acted like that before when presented speculative products like a device that can change one's skin color, or lipstick that increases the size of lips or perfume's pills.
This critical project was planned an operated by a designer's crew, animators, soft wear engineers, shoes designers and writers in order to provoke awareness to the damages done by the culture of consumption and create an ethical discussion about the sage of Bio-Design. The staff created a fictions firm that "pulled people's leg" for two years in order to "design" the new product and distribute in all communications media.
In the Department of Visual and Material Culture we will learn what is Bio Design? what is a speculative design? what is a culture of consumption and showcase society? Can we grow products? Where will our raw materials will come from?


Proph. Ori Bartal
Head of the Department of Visual and Material Culture