India Matters -
Leather from Production to Co-Design

    Activity: Academic Talks or PresentationsOral presentationResearch


    This research, an investigation of communities working with leather in India, is based on case study research consisting of tanners, artisans and entrepreneurs. Beyond a polluting industry where child labour is considered to be rampant, the research offers approaches to ecologically and socially responsive design. This is informed by a recent survey of the leather trade in India and current interactions with the subcontinent, including a live client project with a partner institution in the United Kingdom. Focusing on a particular material and trade, the research shed light on the contribution of design networks in the transformation of the Indian and British shoe and leather industries, by means of mapping the interactions. It is found that designers work with artisan collectives in an effort to remake traditional objects such as footwear and fashion accessories, and, in doing so, stimulating local economies. These makers display entrepreneurial behaviour and are incorporating innovation, collaboration and networking. The research, in conjunction with the British School of Leather Technology and a footwear manufacturer based in Chennai, India, enabled the author and his student cohort to co-designing footwear for the poor. In doing so, it equipped undergraduates with skill sets to realise appropriate and practical solutions that can move people out of poverty. In response to real needs, the students were encouraged in negotiating research across disciplines, shadowing podiatrists within clinical practice, and in creating prototypes of shoe and sandal parts. While students learnt to develop their own designs into feasible samples, they were also encouraged to apply the relevant design and production methods, with consideration of appropriate technologies suitable for manufacturing in an Indian community or ‘cottage-industry’ context.

    The research attained internal funding and chancellor’s funding for two participating students and fieldwork in India undertaken, aiding further development and commercialisation.
    Period1 Aug 2013
    Event title5th International Congress of International Association of Societies of Design Research
    Event typeConference
    LocationTokyo, Japan
    Degree of RecognitionInternational