Changing the perspective on Chinese design

By Sujata Burman

“We’ll keep experimenting until we make it,” says Yifei Wu, speaking about her start-up WEVE2050, a London-based design initiative focused on the circular economy.

Yifei graduated from Central Saint Martins in 2021 with a first-class degree in Product Design, and is keen to change the narrative around human and environmental overconsumption via WEVE2050. “We want to invite the public to live more sustainably through multi-use accessories,” says Yifei, explaining how she aims to flip the focus from mass production and waste to conscious creation. To do this, she designs multi-function jewellery and bags to encourage users to think differently about the manufacturing systems in place and to make the things they live with more sustainable.

By creating new materials or biomaterials from spare or waste items, WEVE2050 promotes circularity by sharing lesser-known environmental facts from a design perspective. From vegan bio-pearls to eternal plants, Yifei is keen to redefine materials like gemstones in more sustainable and meaningful ways.

At first glance, WEVE2050's classic series of jewellery, Re-gem, might appear to be oysters from the sea or gemstones from nature. But, they are in fact made from plastic bottles that, if they were not recycled or repurposed, would otherwise be polluting the environment.

Jewellery from WEVE2050 can be used to elevate people's existing clothes, too. “It's not only a necklace with a brooch, but also a new way to revive your wardrobe,” she says, explaining why they design “user information guides” to accompany the jewellery.

WEVE2050 takes a hands-on approach, interactive and productive in nature and purpose. So, why did Yifei decide to create the accessories? “I just realised that we don’t need more new dresses,” she says. Instead of adding to the global overload, Yifei found that she was more interested in what could be made and learnt from local resources that already exist.

WEVE2050 is not the only start-up thinking along these lines. Yifei is the founder of a community of emerging sustainable practices that are all taking a progressive approach in the work that they do, looking to positively influence the future of design.