Studio Can-Can: “We All Have a Responsibility to Make Ethical Decisions”

Emily Turnbull
©Studio Can Can

London-based Studio Can-Can  is a vegan interior-design practice founded by Creative Director Emily Turnbull, who has over 20 years in the design industry.  Emily’s vegan design experience includes retail environments, cafes, hotels, sculptures, hostels,and community spaces.

Emily has been meat-free for 32 years, also runs Battered vegan fish and chips, and is a member of the Vegan Design Council. We were very grateful to Emily for taking time out to provide some interesting insight into the vegan interior design industry.

First of all please introduce your organization and what you do.
My name is Emily Turnbull and I’m the Director and owner of Studio Can-Can, a vegan interior design company.

What are some interesting or innovative developments in vegan design?
Sustainability and careful consideration of materials and construction and how this affects the environment is an important part of being a vegan designer, so I’d still avoid some faux leathers, made from plastic and prefer to go for Pinatex (made from pineapple leaf fibers), which also has a low environmental impact. Also, check out Zoa who are producing a bio-leather grown in laboratories from collagen.

Personally I’m pleased that there are groups designing products that help reduce the amount of micro-plastics that go into the ocean, so this isn’t anything that makes a difference to a visible environment like a store, or a home
as such, but will make a difference to our future, it’s called the GUPPYFRIEND, by STOP!

Will vegan design products become as popular as vegan food?
Yes, I’m sure they will. It’s just a matter of time till products are labelled ‘vegan’, like food. I’m seeing more and more Instagram pages from vegan designers!

Can you give us some examples of what services your clients request?
I would say that vegan interior design is still in its infancy in the UK, but this is changing fast. For the past few years whenever I typed in ‘vegan interior designer’ to Google, there would only be two ladies in the US and me over here in the UK. This is no longer the case. Vegan fashion design has changed massively in the past year and I think/hope that interiors will follow shortly.

It has to really – as a shop selling vegan/eco aware clothes or food, should itself be a vegan environment. But, we need more progressive thinking clients that work holistically through the whole  process…vegan food + vegan fashion + vegan home + vegan interior.

There is still a bit of greenwashing going on within the industry, but I’m sure in the coming year, this will start to change. A range of things need to happen. We need progressive clients, who aren’t just greenwashing, but
taking the environmental impact of design seriously.

Studio Can Can
Coal Drops Yard, Image by Mick Simpson

What are some typical hidden animal ingredients which consumers may not be aware of?
Vegan design means using materials that don’t include any animal products, here’s a list of typical animal derived ingredients and what they would be listed as…
-‘Natural Hair’ from hogs, squirrels, camels, goats and ponies are often used in paint brushes.
-‘Shellac’ is a resin like secretion from the female lac insect, used to give a glossy finish and as a binder.
-‘Cochineal’ comes from various types of lac, scale insects; its secretions are used to make a strong carmine dye.
-‘Bone black’ made from the charring of bones to produce a very dense black.

-‘Ox gall’ is a watercolour medium based on the animal protein from gall bladders of cattle, which improves paint flow.
-‘Tempera’ paints use egg to bind the pigments together.
-‘Gelatin’ is obtained by boiling skin, tendons, ligaments, and/or bones in water. It is usually obtained from cows or pigs.
-‘Rabbit skin glue’, also called ‘hide glue’, made by rendering an assortment of animal parts. Traditionally used in the preparation of gesso, as a sealant (size) on canvas (and wood panels) underneath gesso.
-‘Casein’ is an adhesive binder made from the proteins in cow’s milk.

>> page 2: Advice for vegans decorating their homes & Influence of veganism on interior design in the future