Proposal by: Verena Michels

Trash, Plastic, Noise & Bad Wheater

Project proposal: Compostable raincoat

Trash, Plastic, Noise & Bad Weather draws inspiration from the compost as an un- expected place to bury used, damaged or no longer wanted products.

The current fashion system promotes either Fast Fashion, characterised by dispo- sable, cheap garments or Slow Fashion, a niche of expensive and not always aest- hetic clothes. This project follows its own Dynamic Fashion approach promoting garments designed with the highest quality and fair standards,. They won ́t stay in your closet forever nor get burned on landfills. They do not rely on fossil fuels and biodegrade without toxic residues.

This field research in Amsterdam focuses on plant based plastics and pushes forward eclectic, creative strategies for sustainable innovation. In dialogue with experts, locals and the local compost system, I would like to celebrate the decay of my biodegradable raincape called CAPEBAG in the ecosystem of Mediamatic, possibly under an almost breaking, grey sky.


Rainwear made of plants - By Weather Underground Weather Underground makes contemporary, 100% biodegradable rainwear based on plant based plastics. The first edition of CAPEBAG comes in a 2-tone signature look and in monochrome White or Black.  Verena Michels

Names and links

Artist Verena Michels
Website, Instagram 

Sound designer Tamara van der Laarse

Website, Instagram 

Description of the project

In my independent practice, I deconstruct themes of sustainability by exploring and experimenting on various levels with craft, technology and collaborative in- novation. My work addresses the waste of resources and pollution caused by disposable items. It suggests, instead of ugly virgin plastic ponchos, a stylish, con- ceptual, biodegradable raincape (CAPEBAG) for mobile lifestyles. It comes in a black and white signature look and fits everyone. It is based on an ongoing, ex- tensive research on the current state, potentials and risks of plant based bioplas- tics and combines the best possible value chain and material composition with a reasonable durability available at present. In other projects, I have explored the prospects of using and beautifying leftover (deadstock) materials from the luxu- rious fashion industry (e.g. (Trümmerfrau, Veronica Shiitake, Kissaire editions). All together forms a vivid interplay between organic fibres, bioplastics and repurpo- sed virgin vintage plastics (e.g. Blessadvanced Appelbag).

Trash, Plastic, Noise & Bad Weather aims to push further the different strategies and bring the topic of sustainable ideas in practice to a debate by inviting experts and general public to speak up and with each other. The media representation

of sustainable design is extremely black or white these days and it is time to ref- lect with all nuances, fleetingnesses and micro and macro perspectives. During a field research in Amsterdam I want to build up a local network with progressive representatives of the circular value chain. The Netherlands are a leading example within Europe, because bioplastics are already being composted in the industrial cycle, which encourages the growth of the (bio) segment. Currently, only 1% of all plastics are bioplastics. I aim to give an incentive to research and think further nearby and further away outcomes. Berlin waste disposal company BSR still re- fuses bio plastics in their brown bin, because successful degradation requires to operate in slower composting cycles, and therefore demand a reset of traditional processes which costs money and more time.

I want to create a walk-in studio and workshop program within Mediamatic, where various processes are combined: research on bioplastics and natural dyes, ex- ploring everyday tools for welding (e.g. hair straightener), as well as weaving (e.g. wool yarns, socks, scraps) on a household sewing machine. The outcome would be an updated, local research to be conducted and shared with the public. It will result in a fashionable presentation of the results of the ongoing workshop com- bined with industrially produced Weather Underground raincapes. The idea of the fashion show on Mediamatic`s very own compost system was already born be- fore COVID and lockdowns kicked in, and I imagine it would be an incredible way to share these themes with the Amsterdam public, with a sound composed by Ta- mara van der Laarse, who I worked with for my show at Amsterdam Fashion Week in 2016 and who deeply understands how to create an unsettling, yet energising atmosphere.

How does your project fit in with the current interests of Mediamatic?

Sorry, We are Trying! was the slogan used in my collaborative MA thesis (Crafting Plastics!) in 2015 and referred to the ongoing feeling of having started with the best intentions and lacking perfection and truth in the process, due to shortco- mings or unfortunate constellations and yet undiscovered, blind spots, e.g.:

The purest, most “eco” bioplastic qualities (2015) have been much more fragile and more difficult to implement in production, compared to those which are also labelled “bio”, but still partially petrol-based (e.g. BASF ecovio) and already perfor- med much more brilliantly.

Or: while we, designers, are trying to save the planet from plastic pollution and reduce fossil fuel dependency, bioplastic made of regrowing recourses can cause a competition with the food chain. On the long run, a perspective would be that agricultural and bioplastic production will work closely together and byproducts from the farming sector would be used as recourses, instead of e.g. newly grown potatoes,.

My biggest communication challenge today ist the fact that disposing of my own products made of certified compostable bioplastics is not officially possible everywhere. As already mentioned, Berlin is a place where CAPEBAG can not be thrown in the bio bin after use. I tell users to check their local waste separation rules and recommend to compost in a big plant pot instead. This in not the clarity I would like to convey.

Why I released CAPEBAG anyways? I have observed that every few years, the- re is a movement in formerly rigid policies, e.g. the minimum quantity of custom bioplastics production had been 10.000 kg in 2019, and changed into 1000 kg in 2020, which was a game changer to kick off with my idea. I hope that by produ- cing the best version of a compostable raincape today, I can challenge and con- vince policymakers to create better conditions for sustainable innovation in a near future. This is what designers can do: take a risk of making mistakes or creating unwanted side effects on the way.

Mediamatic will be an ideal testing ground for composting my custom made bio- plastic sheets and CAPEBAG as a product. It would be helpful to come up with a Weather Underground How To Composting guide, more specific than my current communication.

For all these reasons, I love the topic of Fake-Eco in Mediamatic`s plan and ab- solutely identify with the urgent desire to celebrate our doubts together. Also, fashion as a medium is ideal to have a talk about uneasiness: since I have studied at the Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam, I have been part of a caring environment that feels alienated by the system outside and has always tried to shift things from the inside. As a matter of fact, the Rietveld fashion team is discussing this further right now and we have exchanged ideas recently.

How long do you need for the project?

- 3 months to prepare and communicate beforehand with desired (interview) part- ners
- 3 months on site at Mediamatic
- 3 months to conclude, communicate, possibly produce afterwards

Optional: a longer display of the decay of CAPEBAG in Mediamatic`s compost, as the degration timeframe varies, depending on the local conditions


First row: Weather Underground CAPEBAG 2-tone and compostable repair stickers

Second row (left to right): Trümmerfrau Collection made of shreds of the fashion sector; Kunst = Kapital mask edition in collaboration with Janina Vöcklinghaus made of Gucci deadstock silk; Blessadvanced Applebag in collaboration with BLESS

Third row: Taz bag made for a leftist newspaper and distributed to supporters of online journa- lism, made in collaboration with Lars Paschke and Evelyn Sitter (Veronica Shiitake)


This plan is published in the context of the Penny for your Thoughts program 2021. Read more about it here.