PARIS — “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 on 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.
To wit: A collaboration with Spanish leather specialist 247 Innova 24H allowed Paris women’s wear label Jacquemus to realize its first series of handbags. They boasted twisted and geometric shapes, representative of the brand’s quirky universe, while Munich-based men’s wear label Boulezar teamed up with Belgian textile developer A+Z Design to create innovative fabrics which the brand would not have ordinarily thought of or be able to afford.
“Nobody in our company is older than 30 years old, so there is a lot to learn,” conceded Boulezar’s business development manager Philipp Albert, pointing to a PU-coated fabric which gave the label’s laid-back silhouettes a unique, couture-like effect.
Simon Porte Jacquemus praised the partnership for providing his label with a more strategic, down-to-earth vision. “This will be a long-term collaboration. We are already developing the next winter collection,” he noted.
The projects went beyond predictable uses. Consider the music shoe, a joint venture between Dutch design studio Popkalab, specializing in wearable technology, French tech startup Phonotonic, and Stéphane Gontard, a French bootmaker since 1835.
The pair of sneakers contain 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,” mused Nicolas Rasamimanana, founder and chief executive officer of Phonotonic, while Popkalab’s Ricardo O’Nascimento 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.
The Worth Project is named after Charles Worth, billed as the world’s fist couturier.