The New Life of Traditional Know-How

At the 2014 Maison d’Exceptions show in Paris earlier this year, a couple of foreign exhibitors combined the three notions of innovation, craftsmanship and industry to demonstrate their unique know-how. In some cases, the use of machines which had been originally designed to manufacture industrial products was twisted to create new fabrics for example, such as polymer lace.

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Belgian-based atelier A+Z Design “combines an alphabet of inventive processes that juxtapose manual painting, transfers and laser-cutting to offer a made-to-measure production service for fashion and interior designers.”

Italian company Ligneah patented an alternative material to leather goods in the form of articulated wood that can be used for bags as well as for sneakers: “the surprising treatment […] consists in adhering fine sheets of wood, micro-engraved by laser, onto a textile support with an environmentally-friendly glue.” These examples embody a form of hybridization between artisanal crafts, industrial steps and innovations from advanced industries – such as the chemical industry – or more traditional industries such as the wood industry.

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It is very interesting for brands to be confronted with the reality of techniques which are not based – or only partially based – on traditional know-how and integrate a strong component of innovation while crafting most items by hand.

Preparation for yarn, courtesy of Tamiya Raden

Some techniques or know-how naturally require more inventive skills than others to evolve though and only the best craftsmen are able to take them to a whole new level. Japanese atelier Tamiya Raden has been combining for a couple of decades three separate traditional techniques – washy paper, marqueterie and weaving – to weave mother-of-pearl patterns and fabrics, which is an astonishing achievement.