Having first been established in 2013 as a product-stewardship service incorporating after-sale care of Cult’s products, Cultivated has since undergone significant development. In 2021, the model now represents a complete sustainability program that offers buy back, refurbishment and recycling services for aged Cult products. Pieces that would once have been considered at the end of their life are afforded greater longevity under the model, which allows for a positive contribution to the circular economy of authentic design.
The impetus for the model came about after Cult shared case studies, anecdotes and advice from industry leading figures. These conversations eventually led to the short film Sustainability Stories, which premiered at Melbourne Design Week alongside the revamped Cultivated program. The film reached out to a number of design industry professionals, who each offered a glimpse into the vast arena of sustainability to tackle the overarching question “what can sustainability in the design industry look like?”
If the film provided the necessary kickstart to the conversation, the underlining figures behind the furniture industry’s contribution to Australian landfill reinforce the serious issue facing the sector more broadly. Authentic Design Alliance estimates that each year in Sydney alone, approximately 50,000 tonnes of furniture is discarded. The figure translates to the equivalent of 800,000 three-seater sofas, 1.65 million dining tables or 3.5 million coffee tables, emphasising the scale of the problem. Through Cultivated, Cult Design is able to extend the life of its products, minimising the contribution they make to the aforementioned figures and opening up authentic design to an audience that may not previously have been able to access it.
To demonstrate the workings of the program, Cult offers up the example of a recently restored Louis Poulsen PH Artichoke pendant. Having been designed by Poul Henningsen in 1958, the piece was recently acquired by Cultivated from a private residence in New South Wales. First purchased in 2008, heavy exposure to sea air meant that the leaves on the light were badly patinaed and oxidised. Working with an experienced team of Sydney based metal workers, the leaves were individually removed, stripped to their raw state and brushed, polished and lacquered. The light frame was also stripped and re-chromed, before a replacement light fitting was added and the leaves reassembled by hand.
With Cultivated, Cult is able to deftly engage the network of craftspeople connected to the business to champion authentic design and improve the longevity of much loved pieces across the design industry. The program is a culmination of evolving sentiments from businesses and consumers alike and suggests that going back to the future may be one of the answers to what sustainability in the design industry truly looks like.