We launched UP - a model that aims to increase the value of dead stock through redesign – with collaborating companies Makro, van Gansewinkel, Vlisco and Mediq in 2011. While we are further developing the business model with our partners, we are also presenting the UP concept in other places in the world, exhibiting the first product results together with lectures and workshops.

Home game

The first destination was Helsinki during the World Design Capital celebrations last May. For UP, it was a home game. The whole city is imbued with concern for the environment, and stores already offer products based on the redesign of leftovers. The message was easy to convey with connections everywhere.


The second stop, Doha in Qatar, was a totally different experience. The gap could not be bigger. In Qatar and other Gulf states we meet societies of abundant consumption, of never-ending building activity, with houses due for demolition when they are still brand new and where waste management does not exist. The sky here is the limit.

Presenting UP in Qatar was a real challenge. Advocating the redesign of dead stock and showing how one can upgrade seemingly valueless items, like cheap trays and cutting boards, in this environment of opulent luxury could have been like crying in the wilderness. But to my surprise it worked out very well. When I briefed the students at VCU university — many of which, as I was told, had grown up in context where money does not count — they became immediately enthusiastic. Rather than out of a concern for the environment, it seemed the decisive factor in sparking interest was that they could play with a bunch of products. They didn’t have to start from scratch. They were not asked to make drawings or renderings but to touch the raw materials (trays, medical utensils, cutting boards, cups and saucers) and let their fantasies go wild. They immediately were challenged by it and seemed triggered by these simple, low-style products.

After my lecture, which was very well attended, many people expressed how happy they were with the idea of UP, particularly because of the general mentality in Qatar. Leftovers will be difficult to find in this place because everything is destroyed immediately, but at least there were a few suggestions for things that could be saved, like banners, flags and water bottles. I’m not under the illusion that UP will make a big change in Qatar, but is has brought awareness to a young generation, awareness of what one could do with waste, even with the most simple, seemingly invaluable things. I am looking forward to the results of this workshop, and the next stop that UP will take us.

VCUQatar Gallery presents The UP Factory by Droog
October 15th - November 15th, 2012
Virginia Commonwealth University
Doha, Qatar
More info.

More info about UP.

Image: Shoes by Studio Droog, 2011
Material: carpet (supplied by 2012Architecten/InterfaceFlor), leather laces