- Entrepreneur, Designer and Founder of Slash Objects
- August 3, 2020
We live in an age where the hyperbolic ‘Armageddon’ predictions are now a stark reality. We need radical change, but we are at a crossroads in our lives and as a society as a whole. The choices we make now will be profound and last forever, engaging people with the subject of sustainability and how to behave is the most important task of the modern age.
Nothing is more important, so where will change come from? Who will lead the way? How should we behave? And why does it matter?
Today we are talking about FOREVER with Arielle Assouline-Lichten, founder of Slash Objects. An award-winning design studio based in New York, their work is rooted in a fascination with materials and how they are brought together. Using unexpected juxtapositions and thoughtful design, creating beautiful pieces that transform the way people experience the world. Their process begins in the material, with an interest in exposing the very tactile nature of making, while creating pure forms bound together by geometry and precision. The materials they use are recycled and long-lasting, breathing new life cycles into materials otherwise relegated to waste.
HOW DO YOU SEE DESIGN AT SLASH OBJECTS SHAPING A HEALTHIER FUTURE FOR OUR WORLD AND FOR GENERATIONS TO COME?
It’s so important, now more than ever, to see design leaders and brands be the change-makers in society. People are looking for leaders. My personal take on the role of designer as change-maker is to take on the decisions that are rooted in the status quo. My work at Slash is to question what materials we value in society and to reassign them new meanings through the power of visual culture and mere aesthetics.
Our work puts into question the lifespan of a material in order to engage consumers with that lifespan themselves, to put into contemplation the notion that once purchased, a product has a life with them. It has a life before it came home, which started when it was extracted, manufactured, processed – and it has a life beyond them, where it is disposed of. I want to pull consumers into the cycle, whatever it might be. I think that cognition is as powerful as an agent for change.
We need a new relationship with materials, we can no longer lay the blame on consumers.
HOW CAN CONSUMERS BE EXPECTED TO TAKE THE TIME TO THINK DEEPLY ABOUT THEIR IMPACT WHEN WE LIVE IN SUCH A FAST MOVING WORLD?
COVID essentially created a pause and we are seeing the start of a revolution come out of it. There is a change in consciousness and it is global. I’ve been thinking a lot about the early adopter curve – how the tipping point you need to reach for an idea to become fully adopted in society is not at the midpoint or even beyond. It is 18%, so it really falls in the early few. If you think historically, we can see how ideas shift over generations where words, customs, laws, etc, all evolve with culture to reflect a specific moment in time – a collective consciousness. Each time, it takes innovators and activists to convince the early adopters, who sway the early majority, the late majority, and finally the laggers. We can’t expect consumers to lead.
Personally, when I began Slash and started working on the objects and using these recyclable materials, I could feel that the language being used around sustainability was not positive. Being recycled or ‘eco’ meant that something was going to be unattractive or dull. Sustainability has since gone through a reframing in order to contrast preconceived notions that consumers had.
For my own products, I felt it necessary to reclaim the word recycled, and contradict any connotations by going hyper glam and hyper beautiful. I think beauty can sway mindsets and enable change.
DO YOU REMEMBER A MOMENT WHEN THE PENNY DROPPED AND YOU THOUGHT, THIS IS SOMETHING THAT I SHOULD DO?
I remember the moment which really took place over the course of a few months when I had discovered the material and I was marinating over what I could do with it. I saw so much untapped potential and had an inexplicable assuredness that others would share in my vision. The idea that I could salvage something as hard to destroy as a tyre and turn it into something beautiful became my mission.
When I started, of course, I couldn’t see all of the challenges that lay ahead. There is a blissful naivety of that part of the project where your excitement and creativity drives you. Soon enough you realise there are real challenges to facing the status quo. In every choice that I make in the business, I have to consider the impact of this mission. I want to hold myself accountable as much as possible and that is not always easy.
It’s really hard to make the choices that are in line with the mission in a world that is not built for that mission yet. It requires a lot of resolve in an entrepreneur to bring about change.
As entrepreneurs and business owners we need to stand up and lead the new revolution.
HOW ARE YOU DEFINING SUCCESS AT SLASH OBJECTS NOW AND FOR THE FUTURE?
Success for me is about building the mission and seeing it proliferate in culture and society. I think the media has a huge impact on swaying culture, so seeing my products design publications affirms that I am moving in the right direction. I would love to extend that into partnerships and collaborations to test the limits of where we can put reuse to good use. I want to create a material revolution that shifts the way we think about materials and waste. Slash is about working towards greater mastery of reclaiming waste in the aim that society follows suit.
HOW DO YOU CREATE A TIMELESS DESIGN THROUGH A RANGE OF OBJECTS IN A WAY THAT CONSIDERS TIME DIFFERENTLY?
Simplicity is always the key to a timeless design. I work to pair form down so that we are left with the essentials. I like to think of the forms in complete contrast to the materials themselves, in order to hyper-accentuate the “man-madeness” of the objects. A marble in the shape of a perfect cube makes your mind ping pong from a mountain to a saw, and you know that there was work involved. To me, that brings connectivity between the consumer and the material. They are forced to think through an origin point, and thereby a lifetime, and finally an endpoint.
HOW DO YOU SEE YOUR RESPONSIBILITY AT THE SEAT AT THE TABLE OF CHANGE AS A PROGRESSIVE DESIGNER AND ENTREPRENEUR?
My responsibility is to propose new ideas and bring them to life. Each collection or piece starts to take on another process or evolve a current process, continuing to push the world into the future and grapple with new materials. I imagine a future where we won’t have enough refuse to work with because products will be produced so thoughtfully. I think the path there is to encourage more points of view. Allowing for new and different ways to address sustainability is key; there is no one way to contribute. I believe that collective knowledge contributes to a better future.
HOW DO YOU ENVISAGE THE WORLD 100 YEARS FROM NOW, WHAT WILL DESIGN AND VISUAL CULTURE MEAN TO THE GENERATION OF THE 2100S AND BEYOND, FOREVER?
I think we are near a tipping point that will determine how the future unfolds – and I’m hoping it takes off in a direction that changes the course of history. There is a lot of passion to make change now more than ever, as we re-evaluate the choices that have been made for us by a select few without enough foresight. The inadequacy of our current systems has never been more apparent. I think that our younger generations are more cognisant of these systems and how they can actively shape them. I do believe that the more voices participating in the creation of culture will yield more thoughtful results.
Humans connect to visual culture as a way to feel interconnected with one another, as a way to express their values – and I think that this reckoning with our own mortality, and the incredible power that nature holds, has changed our course for the better.
Design and culture will be the stewards of change.