Elissa Brunato previously worked in embroidery design and production, where she witnessed some of the global and environmental implications of distantly-made design choices. While overseeing production sites and artisanal workshops in India, China and Italy, she learnt that whilst design decisions are made primarily in regard to aesthetic and economic values, the consequences often create unnecessary waste at multiple stages of manufacture, damaging the environment and exposing workers to hazardous materials.
In 2017, Elissa returned to study Materials Futures at Central Saint Martins, and since then has engaged cross-disciplinary to develop bio-technology solutions that address textile pollution. In 2019 Oxfam reported that 33 million sequinned garments and accessories would be purchased (UK) over the festive period with 7 million ending up in landfill and ultimately contributing to microplastic pollution. In response to this, Brunato produced iridescent sequins made from wood-cellulose – the most abundant plant-based polymer.
She has also engaged with the issue of single use takeaway packaging by developing compostable alternatives out of waste bran from the baking industry, and proposed the manufacture of recyclable Circular Socks, in which different fibres are clearly distinguished from one another in order to be separated. Alongside her physical experimentation and collaborative approach to designing materials, Elissa finds it important to consider surrounding systems and the wider social, political and geological context of materials. The goal of Brunato’s practice is to combine both research and design to innovate the material landscape more holistically.