The pandemic really put key segments for the recovery of the European economy to the test, like fashion and design & lifestyle, which are responsible for generating an added value on an annual basis for the European GDP of 680 billion euros (EUROSTAT 2018), characterised by a prevalence of small-sized businesses with a strong artisanal orientation. In a context that seems more challenging and competitive, while requiring greater resilience, the drive towards innovation and creativity becomes more important in meeting the new and changing needs of the global market.
It is with this spirit that the WORTH Partnership Project – Europe’s largest creativity incubator – gave life this past 11 and 12 May to the digital event “The Future of Creative Design”, which with the help of sector experts of international renown and through the presentation of start-ups and innovative projects, took a 360° look at the themes of innovation, sustainability, and competitiveness as key factors for post-pandemic growth. The WORTH Partnership Project is a four-year project funded by COSME, the European Union's Programme for the Competitiveness of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs), which promotes transnational collaborations between designers, creatives, manufacturing companies (SMEs) and tech firms to create innovative and design-driven products. Now, in it’s second edition, today it claims over 350 SME partners from 34 nations.
After the opening of the works by the European Commission and EIASME, the theme of craftsmanship 2.0 was at the centre of the speech given by Assaad Awad – Spanish/Lebanese multidisciplinary designer and artist with an international background, known for having created garments for stars such as Lady Gaga. Awad began from the figure of the historic artisan, in other words he who by definition ‘uses his art to benefit others’, to then focus on how technology has changed and will change this figure in the near future. In fact, in the past, the work of artisans was known and appreciated only in the community where they lived or slightly outside of it, while today, artisans can be found anywhere in the world with access to global information, while also proposing their art to whomever they might want around the globe thanks to new technologies. Over the years, craftsmanship has gone from replying to practical needs (like creating clothing meant to cover and protect), to satisfying the need to express individual status (by proposing fashion and luxury items), all the way up to the present and the possibility offered by new technologies in creating smart products capable of providing information and useful data to the user.
Machines and new technologies, as already seen in the past with the industrial revolution, will not replace man, but rather allow him to further develop his creativity and experiment. Technology, in fact, makes the job of the artisan easier, allowing him to save time and effort in the crafting of said product, while also allowing him to focus more on details, execution, and creativity. Thanks to technologies, the designer concluded, we will take one more step forward in the evolution of craftsmanship, combining manual skill, know-how and innovation to create something unique.
Richard Van der Laken, CEO, co-founder and creative director of What Design Can Do, instead offered an overview on design and how it can help to overcome the current impasse, underlining how it’s possible by replacing the extractive, polluting, and linear system guided by consumerism (according to the ‘Take, Make, Waste’ model) with a new model guided by the concept ‘Take Less, Make Better, Handle Smarter’.
János Keresnyei, expert in creative business development, instead offered participants some insights on the management of intangible assets, underlining how it is fundamental for the designer to “establish and maintain procedures to guarantee that the design of the product (its components and layout) are faithfully represented in production, transferring the design of the product into production methods and procedures, while creating a productive environment that guarantees the compliance of the product with regulations and sector standards”.
The webinar was also enriched by the presentation of 66 successful case histories, projects that combine sustainability, inclusiveness, and innovation, which were all created as part of the WORTH Partnership Project.
PROJECTS WITH A HIGH RATE OF SUSTAINABILITY
Modifiable Vegan Bag Collection by KZENIYA, produced by the Italian Super Company, did its best to provide an alternative solution to overconsumption and the fashion industry’s negative environmental impact by developing a 3-piece bag collection made from bio/vegan leather derived from apple waste, which – through different combinations and the addition of different accessories and jewellery – can be continuously reinvented.
Mocha Split. Not only apple peels. Among the innovative materials used are also banana peels, which is the hallmark of the Italian project Meraky by Emilia Paolicelli, with Portuguese fabrics by Casa Grigi: cradle-to-cradle bags made of banana peel leather matched with interwoven inserts derived from recycled coffee packaging.
Kombucha Tsugi-bag collection instead aims to promote local industry, the circular economy, and sustainable consumption with a collection of bags available in five variants, made of kombucha-based materials, a fungus normally used for producing sparkling beverages, matched with second-hand textiles.
Ventri focuses on materials of animal origins to produce its bags: the cow stomach. A cow, in fact, has four different stomachs, with each one dedicated to a different function, thereby offering different shapes and textures. Starting from this material, considered a waste product by the meat industry, Ventri gives life to three different kinds of bags, each one made of leather with one of the four different stomachs suited to tanning.
Circular Bags instead focuses on the reuse and circularity concept, proposing a capsule collection made up by five bags designed from the start with the second generation in mind, thanks to the possibility of combining the patterns of each bag in different ways, thereby saving resources and making the most of valuable materials, also through a partnership with a small crafter in Greece, a country hit hard by the economic crisis.
LiLO (Link & Lock) by the designer Maria José Zambrano Lopez, which is produced by the Italian company Clic, is instead a signature modular connector for jewellery (but maybe also bags?) made of emerald by-products and recycled metals, which combines beauty with sustainability.
PROJECTS WITH A HIGH RATE OF INCLUSIVENESS
WeAr Design by EITHNE (Italy), AER IT CONSULTING LTD (UK) and DANIELA TANASE aims to involve customers in the creative process, while also building a resilient artist community through the development of a platform where visual artists and customers co-create fashion items, through novel collaboration processes.
STEM instead aims to offer a sustainable alternative to disposable fast fashion with a garment creation and retail system for the 21st century, where fabrics will only be produced after design and purchase, pairing a novel zero-waste digital weaving technique with sustainable garment production and retail approach aiming to radically change the fashion industry.
The Vegan Sheep is instead a digital measurement system for fashion products that helps shoppers identify sustainable products and understand why they are sustainable. It takes its inspiration from existing models in other sectors like, for example, the food industry.
PROJECTS WITH A HIGH RATE OF INNOVATION
EnaOna is a smart shoe system that proposes to give life to high-heeled luxury footwear that is not only beautiful, but also comfortable, wearable, collectible, and upcylcable. The authenticity of EnaOna lies in the innovative design of the shoe’s structure with reusable high heels and in the artisanal crafting of the collection’s jewellery heels. Comfort and technology are combined, thanks to the presence of an ergonomic insole, an ultra-thin and reusable carbon fibre core, and a hidden heel pin mechanism to change heel height and shape.
Silencio aims to develop a smart and technological solution for the art of dancing and well-being, with a shoe sole cover for tap dance shoes made from advanced materials – flexible anti-shock, and soundproof -, capable of resolving problems connected to the noisiness typical of these shoes, the damage they can cause to floors, and above all problems connected to the user’s joints and back.
The Eastern Side of Riviera starts from the assumption that foldable bags are extremely useful for travelling and storage in wardrobes, but above all attractive. From here, the idea to create a collection of foldable bags with an intelligent and striking design made from tulle – to offer flexibility – obtained from sustainable yarns like recycled nylon from old fishing nets or biodegradable yarns, combined with upcycled leather to provide structure.
Minois instead bets it all on technology in order to give life to a smart product: a collection of bags – a crossbody, an iPad sized bag, a laptop-sized tote and a briefcase using new technologies such as 3D printing – characterised by an interior lighting device that is activated when they are opened up, offering also the possibility of charging smart devices, like a cell phone, wirelessly.
BioChromatic, by Loreto Binvignat and Vienna Textile Lab (a start-up that produces dyes made from bacteria) instead tackles the challenge of using biogenic dyes, a sustainable dyeing technique that is still in its infancy, aiming towards the future of sustainable textile dyeing.