Fernando Laposse on using design to find value in new materials

The design graduate explained how he used design to change perceptions, changing waste into a new profit system.

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Central Saint Martins graduate and Future Food Award winner Fernando Laposse is changing the way we see a traditional Mexican staple, corn.

Traditional corn farming is ingrained in the agricultural, social and economic makeup of Mexican people. So much so that there’s over 60 native varieties of various colours and shapes.

But the traditional way of farming has all but collapsed as a result of Mexico’s trade agreement with the USA.

To keep up with the industrial quantities of corn flooding into Mexico, which radically decreased the price of corn, Mexican farmers turned to modern methods – agrochemicals and mass production – to increase their yield. This has eroded the land and left many farmers destitute.

Laposse’s project, Totomoxtle looks at a sustainable way to revitalise this industry by turning an otherwise discarded material, corn husks, into veneers.

Naturally colourful, the veneers make unique furniture and interiors. “So the idea was to create something with the power of design to increase its perceived value,” the product designer explains.

For more, watch the interview above or see his Design Talk at the inaugural antenna, a global scan of design the world’s best design graduates.