It's a Material World
July 7, 2011,
Material ConneXion’s New York library
Recently purchased by Sandow Media, parent company of Home Textiles Today, Material ConneXion is a physical and virtual library of materials used in product design, development and packaging of a huge variety of consumer products, including home textiles, but ranging from fashion to shampoo to automobiles.
"Our library is like a playground for the designer," said Michele Caniato, who remains as president of Material ConneXion following the sale. He ran the company along with well-known home furnishings impresario George Beylerian, who founded founded it in 1997 and will continue in an advisory role going forward. "We have over 6,000 materials in our library and we're adding 40 to 60 new ones every month."
Here's how Material ConneXion works: Individuals or companies can sign up as members, paying an annual fee that ranges from $450 for a single membership upwards to $15,000 for large corporations with hundreds of users. Membership gives access to the company's physical library in New York City, just north of Madison Square Park, which contains the actual material samples, arranged by composition rather than end use. Users may also access the resource online or at the company's worldwide locations in Europe, Asia and now in China, where 10 offices are slated to eventually open.
The library includes an extensive offering of fabrics but also metals, woods, plastics, tile and just about any imaginable material used for consumer products and the packages they come in. "We go from automotive to jewelry to apparel, from Victoria's Secret to Motorola," said Caniato, who is Italian by birth but is based at the company headquarters here. "The beauty is that we're not just focused on specifics, but on the materials themselves. We specialize in material innovation in any industry. And we can help people navigate the library." Material ConneXion has a number of prominent success stories under its research belt. When designer Sandy Chilewich was looking for a new material to make home products out of, she went to the library and discovered the material that would be at the core of her namesake rug, placement and decorative accessories company. The lattice-like synthetic had been employed in agricultural use, but Chilewich found the alternative use that made her company one of the most innovative players in the home space.
Caniato also recounted the results athletic footwear company Puma achieved doing research on packaging through the Material ConneXion library. "They saved more than $2.5 million in packaging costs by finding better materials through us."
He estimates Material ConneXion has some 15,000 users worldwide.
A sister company, Culture & Commerce, was also part of the purchase by Sandow. That company, which Caniato also runs, acts as an agent connecting designers with companies looking for new programs and products. "We're like a coach, trying to push the creative, to show designers how to create the right product at the right price.
"We want to create the William Morris [the well-known talent agency in the entertainment industry] for designers."
Culture & Commerce has worked at all price levels. One of its earliest triumphs was bringing Philippe Starck to Target for a landmark program of home goods in 2002. More recently, it has connected Mexican design Sami Hayak with Springs Global for a total line of home furnishings goods.
Adam Sandow, chairman and ceo of Sandow Media, called the purchase of the two companies "a pivotal step" for Sandow. "The synergistic opportunities are exciting and limitless."
Caniato says both Material ConneXion and Culture & Commerce can be valuable resources to the home textiles business.
"There's a lot we can bring to the industry. It's about how design can create a better product at the right price to create a better life for the consumer."
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