The concept is simple—connect expertise with creativity by bringing together manufacturers with designers. Founded by a group of textile industrialists looking to foster innovation, French network R3ilab helps bring new products to the market with 10 such alliances made each year.
In the three years since the project began, R3ilab has forged 30 partnerships between traditional, often narrowly focused manufacturers and young designers with fresh talent. The network supports the annual group of 10 pairs from the concept development stage to prototyping and marketing, and recently showcased its ouevre at the 2012 Maison et Objet in Paris.
For the familial Societe Choletaise de Fabrication, which specializes in weaving everything from shoelaces to industrial packaging, famous designer François Azambourg has imagined a jaw-dropping stool made with a composite strand of metallic wire and polyamide threads. The item is sold flat, with the strand wound on a cardboard frame. By plugging the strand into a power source after unfolding the frame, the composite thread is heated through the wire causing the polyamide to solidify. The frame can then be removed to reveal a solid strand stool.
Lace and embroidery specialist Broderies Bacchus and Normal Studio also created stunning lamps. The designers came up with the idea for the monumental suspension pieces when they visited the factory and saw the company's exceptional large embroidered strands and phosphorescent, reflective ribbons.
Designer Solenne Morigeaud conceived a new decorative window shade inspired by an Asian fan, and reminiscent of birds' wings for Toiles de Mayenne, maker of traditional luxury fabrics. At once lightweight and solid, the aluminum-frame panel can be attached to a window frame and manually operated to open and close by a unique folding system the duo has licensed.
With creative insight from Mathilde Bretillot, the sock brand Collegien expanded to the children's market with a menagerie of playful puppets, as well as baskets that transform into huts and decorative rugs.