These designers turned old puffer jackets into extremely comfortable c

If you’ve ever wondered what it feels like to sit on a cloud, wonder no more.

Two Icelandic designers have created a pair of stools using recycled puffer jackets. Each stool is made of a curvy metal bar and three parkas strung around it like sleeves. The project, called Erm, Icelandic for ‘sleeve’, was recently showcased at DesignMarch, a design festival in Reykjavik that normally takes place in March but was postponed due to COVID-19. Erm is part of a larger exploration of the circular economy and the potential to turn discarded clothing into something completely unrelated. It’s a promising venture, given that the United States produces about 25 billion pounds of textile waste per year and only 15% of it is donated or recycled.

[Photo: courtesy Arnar Ingi & Valdís Steinarsdóttir]Since its invention in the 1930s, the puffer jacket has become one of the most practical status symbols of all time, but the garment is not without its flaws. Puffer jackets are usually made from polyester, which is made from petroleum (a fossil fuel), and it takes a lot of energy to produce, although recycled polyester is becoming more common. Historically, puffer jackets have also been filled with goose down, which raises ethical concerns, although more and more brands are using synthetic or recycled down.

[Photo: courtesy Arnar Ingi & Valdís Steinarsdóttir]It’s hardly surprising that puffer jackets are the star of this project, given Iceland’s obsession with the item. “Puffer jackets are a big part of the Icelandic identity,” says Arnar Ingi, who created Erm with Valdís Steinarsdóttir, two independent designers who are also a couple. “Right now it’s a national wardrobe,” he adds.

[Photo: courtesy Arnar Ingi & Valdís Steinarsdóttir]These specific puffer jackets come from 66°North, an almost 100-year-old Icelandic brand that makes outdoor clothing. Ingi says that to extend the life of its products, the company usually offers repair services, but some jackets simply cannot be repaired, so they are donated to organizations such as the Red Cross. Ingi and Steinarsdóttir saw the potential for something more creative.

[Photo: courtesy Arnar Ingi & Valdís Steinarsdóttir]First they deconstructed the jackets: the sleeves remained as they are and the middle of the jacket was also sewn in the form of a sleeve. The parts were turned inside out to hide any wear on the outside, then everything was sewn together to form one long tube that was strung around the metal bar. To make the stools even thicker — and comfortable as a cloud — they used leftover parts like collars or lapels as extra filler. (For now, the crutches aren’t for sale, but the couple hopes to make more upon request.)

Ingi explains that a stool felt like a natural starting point, but the designers have more products in mind, starting with chairs with backs. Whatever the final collection looks like, the designers hope the project will inspire companies to think about recycling and upcycling outside their direct industry. “Everyone is trying to close the loop of their product cycle, but how can you extend it?” asks Ingi. “This ceased its function as clothing, but it does not mean that it has ceased its function altogether.”

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