Milan-based materials science brand Balena is probably best known for giving back to nature. Its highly-lauded and totally sold out BioCir™ Slide, created from its own biodegradable BioCir™ material, is designed to return to the Earth the lowest impact possible – disappearing into the ground rather than ending up in a pile on top of it. Balena’s latest venture, though, also takes from nature.
Or, at least, takes its design cues from the natural world.
Created in collaboration with designer and YEEZY alumna Kitty Shukman, the ROOTS concept slide is a showcase for the recently-revealed update to BioCir™ – the more versatile and more flexible BioCir™ Flex material – created in such a way as to be used more effectively and efficiently through 3D printing technology.
An aesthetic representation of the brand’s planet-forward ethos and a testament to Shukman‘s eye for unconventional structure, the ROOTS slide takes the form of gnarled and interlaced tree roots, playfully contrasting the unmistakably organic shape with the next-generation materials created by Balena and the machine-led method of production.
“Partnering with Kitty to create a truly remarkable and circular product has underlined the magic that happens when you put the right material in the hands of the right designer,” said David Roubach, Founder and CEO of Balena. “Our combined creative vision has taken the dream of sustainable, scalable 3D-printing another step forward, and we hope to see leading fashion brands take a step in the same direction in the near future.”
While the shoes aren’t exactly designed with functionality in mind – or, at least, not performance of any kind – they are designed to show what’s possible; in terms of creative and in terms of craft, the ROOTS slide is proof positive that these materials and these processes can be used by the fashion industry at large to create with the highest artistry and responsibility.
And, really, that’s what a company like Balena is all about: creating change through innovation, through technology and through science, without disregard for craftsmanship or creativity.
What Shukman has done with the tools and resources Balena has developed puts the onus on other designers and on other fashion brands. With definitive proof that it can be done – backed up with the knowledge that it can also be done at scale – then refusing to embrace these forward-thinking ways of working is a conscious choice.
Essentially, this collaboration pushes the difficult (yet very much essential) question of, “Why not?”. And that’s a hard one for the industry to answer.