Enkei is born, the light design that recovers construction waste and transforms it into (beautiful) lamps. The co-founders tell the story ​

They are called Miriam Bichsel and Lovisa Sunnerholm and they launched their circular light design brand Enkei during the Stockholm Design Week 2024. Theirs is a beautiful story, full of twists and encounters that seem orchestrated by fate.

The happy ending is a lamp called Reminder 001, the protagonist of a showcase of the Nordiska Kompaniet, the Swedish equivalent of Rinascente.

To immerse yourself in Enkei's plot, it is best to start from here: a night-time window of a department store whose protagonist is a lamp surrounded by the waste material of a demolition.

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A story of light and waste

Miriam Bichsel says: “When we came to prepare the display case, the Nordiska Kompaniet employees showed us the garbage room, convinced that we had a lot of things to throw away after finishing the work. of setup.

Instead, that was really the showcase for Enkei's first lamp, which the department store asked us to display as soon as possible shortly after seeing it for the first time."

And this is just one of the funny and vaguely surreal anecdotes that punctuate the story of Enkei's birth.

Enkei's first product is a table lamp

Reminder is a sculptural and essential object made with 90% recycled materials from the construction industry, covered with an upcycled waste fabric (high fashion).

The development of green ceramic was possible thanks to the collaboration with the Coatings & Construction laboratory of IMCD, led by Alena Simunic.

“The first reaction to our collaboration proposal to create a new material made almost exclusively with construction site waste was disbelief. They told us very clearly that they didn't believe it was possible and that, if it were possible, it would take a long time.

After a few months, here is Reminder 001, a shop window right in the center and the waiting list for orders on our website", says CEO Lovisa Sunnerholm strong>.

The gaze of the apprentice

Power of intention. And a good dose of visionary naivety. The two partners come from professional paths that touch on design but are not in the profession, they have never developed a product from A to Z.

Theirs is the gaze of the apprentice: an eye that has no preconceptions, a mind that treats every problem as a solvable obstacle. Whether it's called disbelief, whether it's called the process of development.

Lovisa Sunnerholm continues: “Every part of the product has contributed to opening up new questions and new solutions. We had the great advantage of being a brand that was born directly from the transition to sustainable design.

Our project was born from a common and shared thought. Before leaving Miriam and I discussed at length what we wanted to do, what type of values would be essential. Once we had verified the conceptual basis, we thought about how to bring the brand to life."

From fashion and robotics to design

Starting from scratch, with solid work experience in the world of fashion (Hermès and Bottega Veneta) and in the technological industry (Electrolux) to arrive at a design product.

Quite a challenge. “We first mapped the quantity, the type and the impact of the materials that are typically disposed of in landfill without being reused.

The construction industry is responsible for a third of CO2 emissions in Europe. A good starting point and an area little frequented by product design."

Developing new materials from post-use waste is always a high-risk operation, but the two founders of Enkei had a good intuition: they turned to the source: those who produce construction materials and those who manage landfill flows.

“The industrial expertise helped us a lot, having overcome the initial mistrust. Each player was won over by the idea and got to work enthusiastically."

This is also thanks to the eclecticism of the Enkei team, which in addition to high fashion also involves a designer who has worked for Fontanaarte and the danish Frama, as well as professionals from the robotics industry of Einride (which develops self-driving electric trucks).

Recovering means not giving in to the status quo

Reminder therefore has a solid base of ceramic produced from building waste. The lampshade rests on a curved sheet of steel from sustainable sources, which allows it to slide transversely to change shape and brightness.

The cables to bring electricity to the light source will be soon also provided by recycled waste "Another challenge: the rules that regulate the safety of electrical appliances are very strict and, also in this case, we found ourselves faced with a refusal motivated by a simple and depressing word: impossible". And Enkei is looking for the right solutions.

The record time for the development of materials and technical solutions makes you dream, if you consider that a large design company normally works on two-year development and research programmes.

Here too we can perhaps speak of beginner's luck, but above all of goodwill and an open and confident mindset.

Miriam Bichsel, creative director of Enkei, comments: “The most common attitude when faced with a proposal for change is almost always one of renunciation. The costs of transitioning to sustainable production are very high, both in financial terms and in terms of time and research work. Our idea was facilitated by the total absence of production background: as happens more and more often, new brands are born already sustainable. The dominant theme is to convince the surrounding world, including consumers, that change can be done."

The launch from Nordiska Kompaniet: the Swedish Rinascente

In December 2023, a few months after the meeting between Miriam Bichsel and Lovisa Sunnerholm which took place thanks to a shared taxi at the Milan Design Week 2023, Nordiska Kompaniet sees Enkei's first project and launches the idea of dedicate a showcase to it during Stockholm Design Week, a few weeks from now.

This time it is the Enkei team that is overcome by distrust: impossible is once again the watchword.

And instead on February 18, 2024, after a quiet launch a few days earlier, we found ourselves at seven in the evening in front of the windows of Nordiska Kompaniet. Miriam Bichsel and Lovisa Sunnerholm are enthusiastic and happy. Their only wish is to celebrate with a small group of international journalists.

Plans for the future? "I would like Enkei to continue working on the idea that a sophisticated aesthetic can also be achieved starting from recycled materials and that, despite the urgency, the formal aspect of the project it can and must have an incontestable dignity".