Article (print & digital) for The Korea Times


Works from 15 finalists of the Dutch Design Awards on display at the Dongdaemun Design Plaza in Seoul

Design, whether referring to fashion design, graphic design or industrial design, has often been acknowledged as a form of art, pleasing to the eyes. But Dutch designers have offered another perspective: design does not necessarily have to focus on the aesthetics, but the crude process of reinvention and experimentation demands just as much attention.

Works from 15 finalists of the Dutch Design Awards are on display at the Dongdaemun Design Plaza through Nov. 10 as part of an effort to present some of Netherland's finest designs. Established in 2003, the Dutch Design Awards have been rewarding talented Dutch designers through a committee of experts in the field.

A project titled "Last Season" by talented Dutch artists Lernert Engelberts and Sander Plug displays three balls of yarn — white, sky blue and orange, each with a label of a luxury fashion company Chloe, Prada and Celine respectively. Above the yarns are three pictures of different sweaters.

At first glance, this seems rather abstract. But a screen next to the project shows a film of the designers during production. The designers take apart high-end sweaters, unweaving them layer by layer. The once fashionable and wearable sweater disentangles into a mere ball of yarn on display.

Through the process, the designers tried to show that clothes from past seasons do not have to be tucked away in the closet, but can be reused to create new clothing.

Under a similar theme of recycling and reinventing, Dave Hakkens' "Phonebloks" project, which has already gained international acclaim, presents a phone built with blocks.

The project attempts to create a modular smartphone, taking different parts from old phones to create a new phone. Owners can play around with individual components from old phones to create a new, personalized phone. The project has been collaborating with Google to release a modular phone.

Bram Burger of La Bolleur, a design studio in Amsterdam in charge of designing the exhibit at DDP, said the exhibition was about "going over the edges of category."

The works are not confined to a specific field within design, but each work ventures to make a broader statement. A high-end, fashionable sweater from the autumn/winter collection can be simplified into a ball of yarn to be recycled and reused. An old phone can be disassembled and reassembled as a new phone. Raw materials from fake shoes can make new shoes, just as designer Sander Wassink shows in one project on display.

Many of the works comes with films showing the design process. Burger labeled the projects as "performances" that highlight the production process, not just the outcome. While some Dutch designers maintain the traditional, aesthetic approach to design, a new breed of Dutch designers seem intent on making a bold statement through the rawness of recycling and reinventing.