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Showcase 2023 Student Spotlight: Joss Nichols

Student Spotlight featuring BA (Hons) Product Design student, Joss Nichols and his project, the most sustainable mules on earth.

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The project

This project has been focused on the subject of sustainability in the footwear industry. Through this, Joss has been aiming to explore the concept of sustainability and the many definitions that are attached to this word, all whilst aiming to apply this to the scope of footwear design.

He has been focusing heavily on traditional materials and footwear techniques to frame sustainability through the lens of durability and versatility. This project aims to bring the consumer a mule which they can wear year-round, year after year, negating the need for replacements.

A particular success of this process has been the focus on waste stream materials, particularly offcut leather from English tanneries and shoemakers, which reduces the emissions associated with creating virgin leather. This project focuses as much as the silhouette as possible on the principle of Mono-materiality, in particular using waste leather.

Overall, in some senses, this project is aiming to change the perception of sustainability simply just being based around biobased and biodegradable products.

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The inspiration behind the project

Joss has always had a real interest in footwear and the fashion industry, his placement was with a footwear designer, and he worked in the Nottingham Dr Marten’s shop, so he have had a lot of exposure to footwear and footwear design. Alongside this, he thinks sustainability is something that is on the radar of every design student, and has become very interested in the many aspects of sustainability, he think it’s fascinating, as well as it being a timely and important ongoing topic. Combining these two felt like a very natural direction for his Major project.

This project has been really interesting for Joss, it has definitely pushed him to expand on everything he has learnt so far and explore some areas of design I have never encountered before. Having the opportunity to visit Dr Marten’s HQ and get feedback from the design team throughout this project has been invaluable, Joss is extremely grateful for their time and energy through this period. This project has caused him to reframe how he approached a brief and how I respond to setbacks and changes.

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Excellent Support

"Dr Martens supported this project through mentorship in the area of design for sustainability. Joss made several design studio visits where he worked with the innovation and sustainability design manager to understand and explore different approaches to sustainable design such as: Design for circularity, made from waste, dematerialisation, impact at end of life. There was also an opportunity to meet different members of the design team and learn about the product creation process at Dr. Martens. Joss shared his designs and prototype explorations which demonstrated innovative thinking and encapsulated some good sustainable design principles"

Being part of NTU

His time at NTU has been eye-opening. University has changed how he thinks creatively. Joss has met really good people who he enjoys working with, and has gained a new way of thinking towards design and the way in which he approaches working on a project.

Final year has been the best and the most memorable year for Joss. He thinks that creating a mini studio at the back of 006 in Arkwright with his friends has been extremely valuable. Coming into university every-day and working on his project with his friends around has relieved a lot of the stress and has kept the project fun.

NTU has a great Product Design course and really good staff that want to see you succeed. Swapping ideas and learning to take both positive and negative feedback is really beneficial for your progression as a designer.
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Closing remarks

Don’t be afraid of asking for help or asking the “stupid” questions, a problem shared is a problem halved. And make sure you call dibs on the tables at the back of Arkwright 006 in final year.

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