“As trendsetters, the high-fashion industry should be searching for solutions,” Peters, a 15-year industry veteran who has worked with the likes of Dries Van Noten and Bottega Veneta, told Ecouterre. “Yet, most fashion houses tend to focus on formal developments, rather than on process and material innovation, giving sustainable solutions the cold shoulder.”

Her research led her to create a modular shoe that integrates sustainable design elements like recyclability and repairability, the use of waste materials (for instance, sawdust), and local production. She calls it “Alice.”

Peters is also a fan of technologies such as three-dimensional printing, which can eliminate the use of non-recyclable materials such as glues while ensuring a bespoke fit.

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“I wanted to show that this technology offers much more then just printing gadgets and crazy shapes,” she said. “With this technology, you can customize the product, avoid producing overstock, and recycle the raw materials within the techno-sphere when no longer in use.”

A customer who actively engages with a product is also less likely to throw it away, Peters said.

“When you involve the consumer, you increase the satisfaction and you accomplish a new way of ‘consuming,'” she said. “We can even offer more as designers than a tangible, fitted product, by co-creative and user-centered approaches, we can design for the needs and desire of the consumer.”

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Designing for modularity also allows for a certain flexibility in design. Components can be mixed and matched to switch up the shoe’s look, for instance. A broken part only needs to be reprinted and replaced.

“By offering this kind of repairing/printing service, we have a longer use and more styles with less materials and components [which equates to] less waste,” Peters explained.

Most intriguingly, Peters is experimenting with self-assembling, bio-based materials—think: growing your own shoes. Among them? Fungal mycelium, whose filaments can “knit” together into a dense material not unlike cowhide.

“I’m attracted by tactile materials and materials turned out of waste. I love the idea that people recognize a material, but that they can’t define what it is or where it comes from, for example, mushroom leather, my favorite due to its tactile character,” Peters said. “It surprised me how you can easily shape this material like leather but it misses the strength property.”

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Peters says she strongly believes in “the potential of materials coming from the world of fungi.”

“My preference goes to vegetable and bio-based materials such as hemp, bark, and mycelium,” she said. “They are interesting because you can find and grow them locally, they have a low impact, and some are even self-sustaining.”

Mycelium-based variations of the Alice are currently on display at Universiteitsmuseum Utrecht in the Netherlands, where they’re part of an exhibit on Fungal Futures.

“It is our responsibility as designers to show the world the existence of these new materials, to make, and use it in an attractive way in order to convince and shift to the direction of sustainable consuming,” Peters added.

+ Je Suis Alice

+ Fungal Futures