How are technological advancements shaping or informing the design of Soft Goods? Michael DiTullo, our Jury Captain for this field and Creative Director at frog in San Francisco, shares his observations and predictions on the paths that soft goods designers and manufacturers are taking plus tells us why he picked his jury.
Core77: Tell us a bit about your jury and why you chose these individuals.
Michael DiTullo: All four of us, Greg McNamara, M. Coleman Horn, Chris Gadway and myself, are very experienced in bringing a variety of soft goods, footwear and accessories to production for large corporate brands as well as start-up lifestyle brands. I looked for partners on my jury who are excellent designers, have a firm understanding of brand, a deep passion for craft and experience in factory development.
What qualities will you be considering when evaluating each entry?
We will be looking for products that really represent the full package. Winning entries will have a desirable and unique brand position. They will be meticulously crafted and executed. They will be striking and iconic in their own right. On top of all of that, they will have brought an innovative twist to the industry. One of the amazing things about working in soft goods is that you are building on literally centuries of craft. To be able to pioneer a new technique or put a twist on an old one is an achievement. We are going to be looking for that twist.
What are you most excited about discovering while judging the entries?
There are a couple of global trends occurring right now in soft goods, which, on their surface, seem very disparate. The first is a return to old world craft. We are seeing products made again in the old world traditions with painstakingly hand tanned and tooled leathers, cut and stitched by hand. In some cases, these products are being made in places like the United States. It is exciting to see a broader acceptance of this type of work again!
On the flip side, we continue to see the mass implementation of high tech innovations like laser cutting, stitch less seam welding, and the integration of molded hard and semi-rigid components within soft goods. It is exciting that both of these trends exist at the same time, and are both at their core rooted in craftsmanship. I'm looking forward to see where the bulk of this year's entries land, and if a few of them even blend those trends.
Where do you see the future of the Soft Goods field heading?
An exciting future lies ahead. Some of the most exciting possible innovations have to do with advances outside of the soft good industry. Just-in-time manufacturing technologies and order management are leading to more and more factory side customization that is initiated and determined by the end user. The ever-cheapening and dispersal of processing power is leading to digital components integrating into soft-goods. A digital component in a shoe was almost unimaginable a decade ago, and now every Nike running shoe is compatible with Nike+. The opportunity to integrate technologies that relate to quantifying our actions the way the Philips fitBit does or acting like an input to our other devices, such as some of the Burton coats that have stitched in smartphone controls is amazing.
The challenge for designers in this category will be coming up to speed with all of these new technologies while remaining versed in the techniques of the industry to create soft goods that are innovative and desirable.
Learn more about the Soft Goods category and jury. The deadline for entries is Tuesday April 10.