Qualy’s Founder and Design Director, Teerachai Jai Suppameteekulwat, shared with us how his eco-friendly brand strived and thrived long before the green movement started, how creativity became an antidote to environmental issues and much more.
Cute, fun, and quirky, Qualy’s everyday house products bring smiles to everyone. Yet, what gives them respect is their manufacture from recycled materials, which has also gained the brand of 17 years worldwide recognition in the plastics design world and design excellence awards. It was long before the green mindset was fully embraced, in 2004, when Theerachai Suppameteekulwat took a step towards revolutionary eco-friendly plastic by setting up a subsidiary brand of the family’s OEM manufacturer. The initiative drew on his background as an architectural student majoring in industrial design at King Mongkut’s Institute of Technology. To pioneer sustainable practices and products when the green movement was still a far-fetched idea wasn’t an easy ride. That’s when creativity and design took precedent: he knew that products must be enjoyed and marketable whether customers know they are eco-friendly or not. It took Qualy more than a decade of slow but steady growth to reached business stability.
Using plastic as the primary material in green products raised a few eyebrows. It took Theerachai years of experimentation with his background in plastic manufacturing to redefine the stigmatised material. The curse of plastic durability sheds some light on Qualy being able to make products that last longer than other commodities. “We don’t create newer versions to devalue what our customers already purchased and to stimulate the temptation of buying more. Over-consumerism is also the cause of environmental issues,” said Theerachai. Thus, Qualy products are built to last, varied in material types used to extend product life and based on ease of disassembly. They can also be repaired, and parts changed. Qualy seeks to bring smiles and happiness to customers, and says: “To inspire or inform customers about current environmental issues doesn’t have to make them look apocalyptic”. Qualy products look cute but have been designed with a serious commitment to a sustainable world, and each product communicates gently – not loudly – about being environmentally conscious through their shapes and choice of materials. The packaging however, made of bio-grade material, does speak straightforwardly about the challenges and is a declaration on how to fight the environmental crisis.
Qualy has always taken new steps to bring more unusual waste materials in compliance with the circular economy. Since 2018, the brand has been making announcements that all materials used are 100% recycled. “We are concerned about the product life cycle and effect after their ‘death’ on the planet,” the green entrepreneur said, and mentioned the importance of upcycling in the design process. This risk-taking is an attempt to create a surge of consumer demand for greener goods and to open doors to newer markets. Theerachai said: “It’s inevitable that our activities cause some environmental risks, and we want to encourage others to take that risk of investing in things in order to avoid global breakdown”. Qualy’s founder pointed out that Thailand has been ranked as one of the worst marine polluters in recent years. “Despite the statistic, we’re doing things to cause changes,” he said. Qualy has collaborated with the Net Free Seas project of Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) by purchasing discarded fishing nets collected by local fishing villagers. “We invest in them so the clean nets can be upcycled into new products.” The brand continues to look relentlessly for more opportunities to expand into new markets such as furniture, jewellery as well as art and crafts objects, and provides extensive action to generate jobs for local artisans.
The designs of Qualy products reflect the friendly character of the Thai people, and the brand’s eagerness to collaborate with organisations both local and international reminds one of the Thai trait of helpfulness, which is amiable and admirable in equal measure. The green mindset that Theerachai has elevated to an ethos, a way to conduct business without taking advantage of Mother Earth is, in his words, “… deeply rooted in being compassionate and empathic like Thai people are.” It is this consideration, as well as the belief that environmental security is a common human right, which makes Qualy fully committed to supporting changes for the greater good. So, Qualy products aren’t just cute – they’re full of grace.
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