Profiles in Regeneration: Matthew, 25, South Africa

Keep being critical of our consumption habits.

Sports equipment can quickly become expensive to upkeep. Repairs and replacements are frequent and costly, making sports less and less accessible over time.

For Matthew Edwards, an avid football player (not the American kind), he noticed this as he had to frequently get his sneakers repaired from playing on hard surfaces. All the trips to a shoe repairer and his time as a design student pushed him to design a shoe with repairs built-in.

He hopes his design will not only make sports more accessible to young people, but also foster a new local industry in South Africa.

Regenerative Futures: How are you feeling right now?

Matthew Edwards: Good, hopeful, and a little burned out.

RF: What’s a secret your search history can tell us about you?

ME: I’m constantly learning new things, so many YouTube videos and how-to articles.

RF: What are you reading/learning about at the moment?

ME: Prismatic Ecology, Ecotheory beyond green by JJ Cohen(Ed). It critiques how “green” dominates our view of sustainability or the natural, proposing instead that we start looking at the possibilities of our ecology through the spectrum of multihued phenomenons. Oh, and Murakami on what he talks about when he talks about running.

RF: Who is your favorite human and why?

ME: Tom Sachs. Besides the Mars Yards, his approach to making things, aesthetic sensibilities, and documentation of his process are all so cool. He is like a low-tech rocket scientist. I think his materials and the way he handles them is really interesting in terms of the future of making — what our objects will look like, hacking tools, decentralizing production. But also shoutout to Dave Haakens for inspiring me a lot too. He is always worth mentioning.


RF: Which key moment inspired you to start your project?

ME: I played football in Johannesburg, South Africa for 17 years. There were many moments when I noticed how quickly my boots got damaged to an unplayable point. I think the moment I realized that repair was such an important part of footballers’ ability to play in South Africa was when I took a pair of Adidas Copa Mundials to a shoe repairer in my neighborhood to fix them because I couldn’t afford to buy new boots. I started noticing how a lot of my teammates had evidence of similar repair on their boots. I started a design degree and the idea of design with repair or disassembly started to stew in my head and the football boot seemed like a great output for that.

RF: In two years' time, what would success with your project look like?

ME: I think realistically the development of something like this takes time. I would think success in two years would be a developed boot that is being tested in South Africa. I think there are a lot of potential spin-offs that are more accessible in terms of time, like creating systems of football boot repair or 2nd hand boot markets to create more access to boots in the interim. It depends on access, though. If there is enough support and backing to design a product like this, success would be rolling the boots out in communities around South Africa through football initiatives and clubs.

RF: If you could focus a large percentage of government funding to one industry or project for the next five to ten years, which you choose and why?

ME: This is really difficult to answer but I think there is definitely space to increase our manufacturing capabilities in South Africa. This would create skilled jobs which are needed in South Africa with our Youth Unemployment rate sitting at 40.2% (StatsSA: 2019). Footwear design schooling and manufacture would be an industry I would like to see increased in the country. There is a huge need for locally produced footwear to increase accessibility.

RF: What are the best and worst things about the education system in your country?

ME: South Africa is a very unequal society with some people accessing good quality education and all it comes with (regarding access to books, sport, quality of teachers, nutrition, etc.) while others don’t have access to any of those things. This disparity continues through life with access to opportunities. The best thing about our education system is that there are a lot of world-class institutions with the most incredible facilities across the board. However, for a large part of the population, these institutions are inaccessible for various reasons, including their fees.

RF: Do you have a message for anyone your age living in the year 2060?

ME: Keep being critical of our consumption habits. We haven’t done enough for people and the environment, unfortunately. I hope when you are reading this some things have changed, that there is an undivided view on how our actions affect the environment and our people. Be resilient, think about how your access can help others and the planet. We have so much to learn from various communities and the environment about how to combat our global problems, be curious.

RF: What inspires or frightens you most about the future?

ME: There is so much to frighten us, from misinformation to climate change denial, mass consumption, and the economic aftermath of the Coronavirus pandemic. Even through this, I think what’s inspiring is the diverse approaches to these problems from material science, design, research, and policy change that is happening in some places in the world. The networks that are forming are so important and our connected world is making cross-collaboration possible even during a pandemic. We will only become more connected in solving our global problems.

RF: Regeneration is…

ME: Extending a material’s life beyond it’s extractive cost. Regeneration is building with local, grown materials but also maintaining or repairing durable alternatives.

To learn more about Regenerative List finalist, Matthew Edwards, click here.



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Regenerative Futures

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Regenerative Futures is a Gen Z-designed model for a world built upon the principles of equity, fluidity, and sustainability. An Irregular Labs initiative.