vogue: “‘n*thing is possible’ by potato head is an empowering look at the future of sustainable design”
Presented in collaboration with design firm OMA, the exhibition showcases Potato Head’s journey to zero waste. Vogue speaks to founder Ronald Akili and architect David Gianotten to learn how sustainable design contributes to regenerative hospitality.
N*thing is Possible begins by unveiling the alarming reality of Bali’s landfills—that the eight disposal sites on the island are overflowing with 3,800 tonnes of rubbish generated daily. The exhibition, presented as part of Singapore Design Week by lifestyle brand Potato Head and design practice OMA, quickly contextualises itself to remind us why it is so vital that we pay attention to the environment here and now.
Offering a glimpse into what Potato Head has been working on for the past decade, the exhibition is an empowering dive into what conscientious care for the environment can look like. Joining hands with long-time collaborator OMA, an international design firm focused on urbanism and cultural analysis, Potato Head has transformed its renowned Potato Head Beach Club into the new Desa Potato Head, a creative village in Bali where music, art, design, food and wellness come together to inspire. All the while, an ambitious but worthy goal has shaped this journey. Bringing sustainability to the forefront of the brand, Potato Head has made it its mission to achieve a zero-waste operation.
As an extension of Potato Head’s quest, N*thing is Possible celebrates the fascinating possibilities the brand has chanced upon on its way to accomplishing its goal. Step into the main atrium and you’ll be greeted with colourful islands of plastic bottle caps, styrofoam packaging and various other discarded materials. Above each pile sits a unique piece of furnishing or decor, thoughtfully repurposed from the waste material. The display also features a line-up of renowned collaborators—including the likes of Catalan industrial designer Andreu Carulla and Japanese architect Kengo Kuma.
The landscape of waste, with its accompanying repurposed objects, showcases the potential that discarded materials can hold—if only we make the effort to take a closer look at how they can be used. In giving these materials a new lease of life, N*thing is Possible asks us to reexamine what we think of as waste.
“Being in Bali, we are faced with significant environmental issues coming from waste,” shares Potato Head’s founder, Ronald Akili. In 2017, the province declared a garbage emergency, and while Akili has long incorporated sustainability into his brand, this served as a wake-up call for him to do even more. “This is happening in my backyard. I would go surfing with my son and literally be swimming in plastic.”
Determined to be part of the solution rather than the problem, Akili envisioned a way for the hospitality industry to be a force for good. Together with David Gianotten, managing partner and architect from OMA, he worked on a new model of tourism which could enrich both the destination and its visitors. His commitment to regenerative hospitality, he hopes, will inspire change within the industry as a whole. Gianotten shares: “Just as how we’ve started to see shifts in food and fashion, I hope sustainability will become the minimum standard in hospitality.”
At Desa Potato Head, everything you see—from the furniture to food and the daily processes that keep the place going—is carefully crafted to be regenerative. But Akili is also careful to do so in a way that does not compromise on the creative village’s holistic experience. He explains, “We find ways to make it such that the product remains beautiful—it just so happens to also be more sustainable.” The result, then, is a unique hospitality experience that is as luxurious as it is rooted in the brand’s zero-waste efforts.
N*thing is Possible, which tracks Potato Head’s journey across the years, is therefore a platform to both inspire and empower. Oftentimes, discussions of sustainability come hand in hand with notions of sacrifice—which foods do we need to give up, how many creature comforts do we need to forfeit, and what changes do we need to make to our daily lifestyle? But in sharing the challenges faced and creative solutions used to build an entirely eco-friendly village, N*thing is Possible offers a more promising outlook.
“It’s not about telling people that they’re doing it wrong,” says Gianotten. “It’s about saying, ‘We have found a solution in which we can create a very comfortable environment, and at the same time, have a zero waste policy—and we could share with you how to do the same’.” Each repurposed object created and regenerative practice employed adds up to paint a hopeful picture of what thoughtful design can do for the future of sustainability. “You don’t have to change much, you just have to be open to it.” Gianotten concludes: “Sustainability can be extremely gentle, pleasant and very beautiful.”
N*thing is Possible runs from 16 September to 25 December, 2022 at the National Design Centre. Find out more about the exhibition at potatohead.co, or explore Desa Potato Head Bali at seminyak.potatohead.co.
Original article by Jesslyn Lye. Published on 30 September 2022 (Vogue Singapore).
BY Desa Potato Head