Maison/0 is the Central Saint Martins – LVMH creative platform for regenerative luxury. As we begin its new phase, we talk to the partnership’s Director Carole Collet about the highlights so far and future focus.
Maison/0 began in 2017. Can you reflect on your highlights from the last four years?
The key, for me, was that Maison/0 become more than the sum of its parts. The partnership was structured around student projects, scholarships, and a sustainable innovation programme and together those strands have helped establish an ecological lens through which we see our work across all disciplines.
One of the first projects for the partnership was the Green Concept Store. We worked with Spatial Practices students, graduates and architects from LVMH all collaborating together. I remember intense working sessions with a great mix of exquisite technical expertise with unbound creative provocation. Also, I’m proud that Maison/0 Green Trail has become part of the College’s graduate show. As a Professor in design for sustainable futures, I was regularly asked what were the best sustainable graduating projects, so we set up a trail that captures and celebrates the variety of emerging environmentally-engaged practices across all the design disciplines.
I’ve also loved spending time with LVMH and its Maisons, which has been a highlight in terms of witnessing how such a large group delivers environmental targets. I remember a very special workshop in 2019, where I was invited to take part in a two-day session dedicated to brainstorm targets, values and goals for LVMH’s next environmental strategy, what became LIFE 360. This included participants from the corporate and social responsibility teams across all the Maisons. I was impressed by the level of commitment and passion in the room. And that, for me, was a beautiful moment.
Moving into the next phase of partnership, what has changed?
Well, years go by quickly. We now have nine years left to meet the targets set out in the Paris Agreement to limit global warming to a 1.5C degree increase. And how do we do that? It’s this generation of students that will have to completely integrate radical new ways of designing and manufacturing because of climate change and biodiversity collapse. These challenges are also incredible creative opportunities to redefine what we mean by design and luxury.
One of the things that's shifted is the understanding that the degradation of the world will carry on no matter what ‘sustainable’ principles you put in place. The definition of ‘sustainable’ is vague but its focus is generally on ‘doing less bad’: cutting down CO2 emissions, reducing water usage or using fewer toxic materials. As our world population is growing and with it our consumption of natural resources, the sustainable approach is leading nowhere. It’s no longer good enough to do ‘less bad’, we need to actively design to restore biodiversity and the climate.
How do you design for carbon capture
How do you design to support biodiversity?
These are quite radical questions for creative practice. We need designers to think not simply about reducing their impact but how they can design to replenish our ecosystems.
The shift in emphasis is reflected not only in projects and curricula in the College but new courses as well?
We developed the world’s first MA Biodesign and its inaugural cohort will be graduating this year. Biodesign is a niche discipline so it’s really exciting to introduce LVMH to it. How can we design for, and with, nature, as opposed to exploiting natural systems? How can biodesign lead new paths for luxury? That’s exactly the kind of creative tension we want.
With the next phase of the partnership we’re also announcing a MA in Regenerative Design planned for 2022. For so long, we've looked at nature as a source, as something we can continuously tap into. These new courses are part of the radical shift at Central Saint Martins: repositioning our creativity can lead to a more holistic connection to nature.
There are huge challenges ahead to confront climate and biodiversity emergencies. Are you optimistic?
I have to be. I read a lot of dreadful reports on biodiversity collapse and climate crisis; they're hard to read. But what keeps me optimistic is working with our highly imaginative and provocative students and with Alexandre Capelli, (my creative conspirator at LVMH).
I see a lot of committed designers ready to face this. What is happening on the ground is true and real.