Vienna Design Week: Sustainability at the design festival

pamstag afternoon on Mariahilfer Strasse. Tightly packed, people stroll along Vienna’s biggest shopping street. H&M, TK Maxx, Pull & Bear, Zara or C&A: Many clothing chains have a department here. In the middle of the consumption-intoxicated waves, three young women stand at a table. They talk to passers-by, hand out flyers and work on pullovers with a lint shaver. Above them flies a flag, black like that of the pirates. But instead of the skull, it shows a sock pierced by a sewing needle and thread.

Because designers Alexandra Fruhstorfer, Giulia Fabro and Nina Sandino have prioritized more conscious use of textile resources. They are in favor of maintaining, repairing, exchanging. “Dare to Wear and Share, Mariahüf!” is the name of their project with which they are participating in this year’s edition of the “Vienna Design Week” festival. They converted a cargo bike into a mobile exchange and repair station, including a hanger bar and changing room. They use it to go shopping – and to talk to people where fast fashion is sold.

“Dare to Wear and Share, Mariahüf!” is typical of many of the projects that can be seen in Vienna during Vienna Design Week. While other events in the annual design calendar celebrate consumerism with product innovations and lavish stagings, Vienna Week, together with “Dutch Design Week” in Eindhoven, is one of the dates where critical, experimental and unconventional design projects can also be seen. Against the background of the magnificent K.-und-K.

Designers with different cultural backgrounds

But participation and communities are also recurring themes. The exhibition “Liquid House” addresses the fact that migrant communities continue to be marginalized in design. Workshops by designers from different cultural backgrounds aim to open up what is often an elitist discipline. The “Department” group in turn declared Vienna’s 6th district to be a World’s Fair and explored the existing shops, institutions and service providers for their “Expo” project. During the festival, they handed out a map of the streets of the district with everything on offer, from restaurants to taxi ranks to senior citizens’ clubs.


As expected, sustainable management is ubiquitous.
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Image: Vienna Design Week

It sounds trite at first, but even long-term residents are often unaware of the potential in their neighbourhood. And “Expo”, like “Dare to Wear and Share”, shows that design doesn’t just have to mean creating products. Services can also be designed.

A lot of conventional everyday objects and furniture can of course also be seen during Vienna Design Week. But alternative production or consumption models are often behind it. Students at the Vienna University of Applied Arts, for example, have built umbrellas from solar modules to generate electricity – with solar panels that have already been used.

Alternative production or consumption models

Architecture students from Ferrara, on the other hand, have developed simple outdoor furniture and made the construction plans available for replication in line with the open source idea. Designer Jutta Goessl has designed a reusable packaging system together with a delivery service for vegetable boxes. Instead of cardboard boxes, groceries must be delivered in foldable, reusable plastic boxes. Tailor-made covers and sleeves made from recycled tarpaulins protect the goods during transport.

The funny, cheerful and bizarre always have their place at Vienna Design Week.


The funny, cheerful and bizarre always have their place at Vienna Design Week.
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Image: Vienna Design Week

And on behalf of Vienna Design Week, the design duo Ante Up explored a Viennese place that was as urban as it was inhospitable, the intersection of Ottakringer Strasse and Wattgasse. To give this corner more quality of life, Ante Up has designed small parasitic furniture that can be fastened to the lanterns or signposts, such as a seat, a shelf or a holder for plant pots. Design that serves society, but with a charming twist.

Because the funny, cheerful and bizarre always have their place at Vienna Design Week. With designers exploring the different properties of instant noodles. Or turn discarded vases into candlesticks and toothbrush holders with new accessories. It would be boring if design was always dead serious and improving the world.

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