“We bring together people who normally would not get to know each other — that is manufacturers with a certain know-how on the one side and designers with ideas on the other,” explained Danièle Clutier, professor at the French Institute of Fashion (IMF), about the concept behind the Worth Project, an initiative funded by the European Commission to ignite the competitiveness of small and medium-sized creative businesses based within the European Union.
Following two years of research and development, 34 partnerships, jointly managed by the IMF and the Center for Fashion Enterprise at the London College of Fashion, were presented in Paris last Wednesday night.
The collaborations span various categories including apparel, footwear, textiles, accessories and furniture. “The innovation can either be technological or based on an entrepreneurial level,” Clutier said about the initiative, valued at 1 million euros, or $1.1 million at current exchange rates.
The projects often went beyond predictable use. Here are our top picks:
1. The music shoe:
The prototype is a sneaker containing a motion sensor which, thanks to an algorithm, can detect movement and translate it into sound. “Not everybody will learn how to play the violin, but with this technology we give the power to everyone to make music,” noted Nicolas Rasamimanana, founder and chief executive officer of Phonotonic, a French startup which provided the technology.
The shoe was produced by Stéphane Gontard, French bootmaker since 1835. Ricardo O’Nascimento of Dutch Popkalab, which came up with the design, added: “The main purpose is to have fun, but besides that: imagine a kid in need of physiotherapy. We could use this shoe to stimulate a person to create more movement in a playful way. Wouldn’t this be an enjoyable way to go to physiotherapy?”
O’Nascimento said he is now looking for investors aiming to commercialize the music shoe within a year.
2. Shoe bijoux:
“I see sneakers everywhere in the streets, but they don’t make me dream,” lamented Olivia Cognet, artistic director of French shoe label Apologie. Putting her imagination to work, the designer thought up a quirky line of jewelry to accessorize various styles of shoes, with the help of Italian Les Bijoux, a specialist in metal fittings for leather goods and garments, including Lanvin. Cognet is thinking big: “Why not do a collaboration with a big sneakers brand like Adidas or Nike,” she mused.
3. Heritage sole:
Following a rather discreet existence as a sub-contractor to luxury footwear brands since 1970, French outer sole manufacturer Reltex decided to open up to a new market and create its own collection – with the help of English footwear designer Joanne Stoker. Made from the milk of the Hevea tree, which is grown in South America, Reltex soles are listed in the UNESCO Inventory of Rare Crafts. They are hand-made, eco-conscious and 50 percent more efficient in absorbing shock than regular soles. “We would love to work with brands that haven’t thought about using us to make their products – like sneakers, for instance,” said the company’s president Patrick Giroud.
4. Urban hybrid:
Is it a sneaker or a dress shoe? The answer often lies in the sole. Italian men’s footwear brand Y.O.U. wanted to combine both in one pair. The firm matched its “Made in Italy” savoir-faire with Portuguese Bolflex, a rubber specialist, to save up costs and create a new look. “It’s thermoplastic rubber, very light, but manages to stay true to the harmony of our lines,” explained Alon Siman-Tov, Y.O.U’s owner and designer. And while the brand was sole searching, it also came up with a new upper. “It looks like it’s not stitched at all, when in reality it’s stitched like a bag and then folded – to hide the construction. It is kind of funky,” he allowed.