Miniwiz head Arthur Huang talks to Moneyish about Al Gore, upcycling and how your yoga pants could be killing you
Getting him angry turns garbage into cult sneakers.
When Arthur Huang was an architecture student at Harvard in 2002, the self-professed slacker heard an Al Gore speech about the environment. “He was inspiring but I was pissed off because everyone is doing all this talking,” Huang tells Moneyish. “I’m an angry, jumpy guy…one day I thought, ‘f—k all this. Let’s do something real.’”
Huang, the co-founder and CEO of Taiwan-based design and engineering firm Miniwiz, turned his rage into becoming a master of upcycling, or reusing discarded materials to create new products — and has even used the process to create $250 Nike kicks made mostly from waste. The all-black NikeLab Air Max 1 Ultra 2.0 x Arthur Huang is billed as the lightest pair of Air Max kicks ever and launched in China and Taiwan last week. Miniwiz even redesigned the packaging, creating a stackable shoebox produced entirely from upcycled materials such as coffee lids and milk and orange juice containers. They’ll be on sale worldwide in mid-April.
Miniwiz’s first product was a solar powered-fueled phone charger made from recycled paper and its success—sparked in part by the introduction of the iPhone in 2007—allowed Huang to invest in developing upcycled building materials. The company’s greatest hits include factories and restaurants made from bricks of PET plastic—also used for water bottles—as well as a colorful webbed pavilion crafted from Nike’s Flyknit material for the 2012 Beijing design week. “When you zoom into the molecular structure, shoes, plants and building structures look like the same thing,” the 39-year-old says.
Today, his clients include companies like Starwood Hotels & Resorts as well as tobacco giant Philip Morris, for whom he built a pavilion from cigarette filters. But for the most part, Huang—who spent most of his childhood in Taiwan, an island-nation known as one of the world’s best recyclers— isn’t impressed by corporate green fingers.
For instance, a recently released study disclosed that yoga pants and other athletic clothes often shed microfiber plastics that end up polluting the ocean, though many of these clothing labels have cultivated a hip, eco-friendly image. “Microfiber feels ultra soft but it’s just technology that tricks people in feeling a sensation,” he says. “There’s lead, chromium and other carcinogens in your bright red leggings. This is the stuff that kills people.”
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