PLANE’s debut luggage and bag collection is made from 60% reclaimed aircraft material, such as seat textiles and metal from the fuselage. The rest of the components are made from ethically sourced Italian tanned vegetable leather. The products are repaired for free – future plans include a leasing model. The clocks are reworked window sections cut from the fuselage of old Boeing 747 aircraft.
Weekend Bag, Clock. PLANE Industries (Airplane waste, vegetable leather England, 2016)
Interview with Ben Tucker of Fallen Furniture.
Could you tell us a little bit about your professional background(s) and how you got interested in the Circular Economy?
Ben Tucker: Our backgrounds are relatively unorthodox, Harry was a former model and I (Ben) worked in the city for a few years after my degree in business and economics. We both grew up on a farm, so were constantly tinkering with machinery and odd bits and pieces when we were young. I think that is where our love for repurposing came from, there was always so much rubbish lying around that we could turn into interesting things with our imagination. We both strongly believe in reusing more instead of constantly making new. There is so much waste, it’s overwhelming, but with a bit of effort, it really doesn’t have to be waste.
Could you describe your process of developing the business model for your luggage? How did you move to more closed-loop thinking?
Ben Tucker: We spent a year or so identifying exactly what the problem parts are when it comes to recycling a plane, because in fact, around 80% gets efficiently recycled. The seating fabrics were a problem area, few were recycled, some incinerated and some sent to landfill.
Desirability was key when developing the business model, so often with up-cycled goods the emphasis is on reuse and repurpose, and unfortunately with all the good will in the world the end product tends to be ugly which = undesirable and expensive (due to the man hours required) which = few buyers = little to no recycling.
(Courtesy of PLANE industries)
If we were going to go to the efforts we are to save this fabric from landfill, our mantra is to treat it with the upmost respect by pairing it with some of the world's finest materials in order to create a beautiful, desirable piece of luggage that the buyer will keep for the long run, instead of it going straight back to landfill within no time at all. By creating something desirable and beautiful you stand more chance of closing the loop.
How would you describe the different mindsets of Circular Thinking/Design for the CE versus traditional linear thinking for the linear economy?
Ben Tucker: Simplified, I guess one looks at waste as an end point, the other looks at it as a potential starting point. The linear economy works under the assumption that resources are unlimited - we all know that is not the case, human population is increasing exponentially along with the demand for luxury goods. Our relationship with the things we throw away and confine to the ground will have to change over time. Waste is still such a huge issue in our society, but there is so much potential there.
How important is product design in the overall design of the process?
Ben Tucker: It’s key, because we aren’t sitting down with a blank slate, we are starting with an existing piece of fabric, so the design of these goods needs to be tailored around reusing as much of that fabric from each seat cover as possible, without compromising on the final aesthetic and functionality, because they have to work and perform equally as well as any high street competitor in order for the project to stand a chance of succeeding. We set out to create timeless looking pieces that won’t look outdated within a few months.
What has been the most challenging part of the process?
Ben Tucker: Figuring out how it can become a scalable business. Tonnes of this fabric goes into the ground every year. We want to change that, and in order for us to stand a chance of doing so, we need to build and sell hundreds or thousands of bags, just as any big high street name would. The production process is extremely laborious and we are developing a method whereby we can process and prep this material efficiently so that we are able to compete.
(Courtesy of PLANE industries)
Do you think customers will have a different relationship to the luggage than traditional consumer goods? Have you done any research around this?
Ben Tucker: Really interesting point, and we haven’t really considered that or asked people about their relationship with their luggage. It has now been added to my to-do list!
Ben Tucker: Having produced the MVP - minimal viable product - now we test. Kickstarter has given us some feedback and was a good learning process, however now our prerogative is to take it to the world and see what the world thinks of it. Understanding people’s perception of luxury will be interesting and seeing how they feel about our product compared to another £200-£300 piece of luggage on the shelves. We will continue to tweak and perfect to see if what we have created has a place in the greater market place and can be seen as a viable alternative to luxury goods on the high street.
For anyone interested in this field, what books or articles would you recommend to read?
Ben Tucker: The most obvious one is probably Cradle to Cradle, great read. To anyone who is looking to start a product line that turns waste into something desirable, learn how to position it and tell its story, for that I recommend Marketers Tell Lies by Seth Godin and Why brands with a purpose do better and matter more by David Hieatt. One of the team’s mum wrote the Green Consumer Guide – Julia Hailes so that one definitely comes recommended!
Click for PLANE Industries