Though he's not an automotive designer, product designer Joris de Groot has been exploring the materials and manufacturing techniques used with car interiors. He began investigating Colback, a family of non-woven material used as the unseen backing for carpeted interiors; if you look at the bottom of your bathroom mat, you'll recognize the stuff. The ever-experimental de Groot, while visiting the facilities of Colback manufacturer Low & Bonar, was struck by inspiration:
"In the research and development center of Low & Bonar, the quality of the [Colback®] material is tested in order to minimize irregularities within the interior. A linear pattern is applied in this moulding process, to monitor the ways in which the material behaves when it is formed. Inspired by this process, Joris appropriated the technology in a new way by converting it to form shoes.
"During this process, he explored the tufted Colback® material by playing with the linear patterns; the details and inconsistencies that emerged constitute the aesthetic character of his collection. These reveal the techniques as well as the materials behind the design."
The resultant creation is called the 2000N Pressed Shoe. I'm not sure precisely how this collaboration began, though the project page says it was initiated by Low & Bonar. I think it's a great idea for manufacturers to reach out to designers from different sub-industries, and whether or not projects like the 2000N have any commercial viability, I'd love to see more cross-specialty experiments like this.