What remaining traces will there be of us in two hundred years’ time? The seats of power, possibly, and major roads in our cities, museums and ancient ruins. Many people are certain that the archaeology of the future will explore our consumerist lifestyle through what remains of shopping malls, the enormous “non-places” of Marc Augé, just as today we see in cathedrals the symbol of ecclesiastic power and in the in great boulevards of Baron Haussmann the expression of Napoleonic grandeur. Yet alongside the architecture there will be another type of archaeology with which to study our age - that of waste. We are submerged in waste and most of it will not disappear within the next thousand years.
The idea that waste constitutes interesting archaeological materials comes from a group of anthropologists from the University of Arizona led by William Rathje who in the Seventies started to excavate urban dumps and skips to seek out the most authentic document of our lives on this planet. The project is based on the idea that the objects people have owned and thrown out are able to narrate their lives much more completely, eloquently and sincerely than the people themselves could ever do. Nowadays museums all over the world display daily use objects from ancient civilisations. In fact they are items of refuse recovered by archaeologists and transformed into precious artistic artefacts to be displayed in a glass case.
Christopher Ræburn is, in his own way, a postmodern archaeologist, able to transform waste into artwork. He began his “digs” by drawing on some of the waste most difficult to dispose of, that of the textiles industry. Fascinated by military clothing and a utilitarian style, in 2010 Ræburn created the REMADE line and made his debut in his London with the first AW10 PREPARE collection, produced using stocks of items from the army, deconstructed and made up again. Every REMADE item is a limited edition piece, cut and sewn in England according to very high sustainability standards. Alongside REMADE, Ræburn produces another two lines with reduced carbon footprint: REDUCED, which uses surplus materials processed by local manufacturers in small quantities, and RECYCLED, which uses outsourced resources which observe the same sustainable standards as Ræburn.
In 1973, before Ræburn was even born, a small outdoor footwear firm was opened in Boston in 1952 by Nathan Swartz. Now headed by his son Sidney, it created a waterproof leather ankle boot in the distinctive yellow colour. With the work boot Timberland officially came into being and is still today one of the best loved and popular urban outdoor brands in the world. Timberland boots are made to last a lifetime and to be used outdoors and as an integral part of nature, as demonstrated by the tree-shaped company logo. More than 270 million recycled plastic bottles are currently used in the work boots production. In 2016 Timberland achieved a waste diversion rate of 75% and the goal is to achieve 95% by 2020, so as to no longer produce any kind of waste. It was inevitable that sooner or later the two roads would cross.