There is love and there are robots. We can think of nothing better than combining the two though whether that is part of a dickie bow and cuff link combo or a scarf and earring one. This is 3-D with glee. Emer O’Daly from Love & Robots tells us more about the concept and their pop-up shop.
Photo credits: Killian Broderick
Can you tell us a bit about yourself and the origins of Love & Robots?
I originally trained as an architect. I worked for several years in architecture and did a masters in the States. There, I learnt a lot about digital design and 3d printing which was the starting point for Love & Robots. With Love & Robots, we started thinking about how products are made – how they are designed, manufactured and distributed. Ordinarily, brands are these monolithic things. They predetermine what you buy without taking unique people and tastes into account. They also produce vast quantities of identical products – it’s estimated that 10% of all fashion items end up as landfill. What we wanted to create instead was this new type of brand that is interactive, responsive and co-creative. All of our products are only manufactured on-demand so there is no waste or surplus product and each product is personalised to each and every customer so it is created uniquely for them.
How important is the input of the purchaser in developing a unique product?
The input of the purchaser is incredibly important – the idea being that a product is only complete when it has been personalised by the customer. So, the last 10% of every product is determined by the customer – there are multiple options, tweaks and personalisations that can be make to each design range which means that the products are fluid and exist as families of products that evolve in response to the customer rather than singular designs. It’s a different way of thinking about things! It means that the purchaser is much more active in the product creation process.
What has been the biggest development in the 3-D sphere this year?
Probably the expiration of patents in the 3d printing industry. FDM and SLS 3d printing technologies are now out of patent which is exciting becuase it means we will see lots more companies starting up and the cost of the machines reducing.
Is there a resistance from people still to the idea of 3-D printing and design?
I suppose with anything new, there is some wariness which is understandable. People want to know whether the materials are of a high enough quality, comparable to other finishes and techniques. But I think once they see that the quality is identical and you can in fact achieve many things that you cannot create in any other way – like 3d printed chainmail – I think this interests people.
Is the pop-up shop a means of informing and reassuring your customers?
Yes – the pop-up shop has been a way for us to make the whole process and the pieces very real for people. So, visitors to the shop can play with the jewellery and accessories in 3d and personalise them on-the-spot. We can then make your customised design, usually within the hour. So, you can go off, have a coffee and come back to collect your unique piece.
What has proven to be the most popular products in your range?
The Map Bow Ties and cufflinks have been very popular – especially as personalised gifts for men. With them, you can choose any map of anywhere in the world, at any scale, and have it engraved onto cherry wood bowtie or cufflinks. Other popular ranges have been in the fine jewellery – our sterling silver Helix range and our personalised Name Necklaces which come in acrylics as well as sterling silver and 18k gold, have been very popular.
What has been the biggest challenge in 2015 for you?
Trying to innovate at every stage from design to manufacturing to shipping has been very challenging. There is a lot of juggling involved when you add in accounting, payroll, fundraising, marketing, shop design, fitout etc! It helps that the Love & Robots team is multi-talented and crosses lots of disciplines from software engineering to carpentry to graphic design to 3d printing.
How important is funding regarding the development of Love & Robots?
We couldn’t have started a highly intensive technology business without funding in place and it has enabled us to assemble a really great team.
What has market growth been like in 2015 and is the key being a dominant player to capitalise when it takes off?
We only launched Love & Robots in October 2014 so the past year has been a crazy mix of developing the platform, the tools and the products, growing the team. It has been a good year in terms of growing the brand, making sales and delivering products. The ambition is to be at the forefront of these innovations in design and manufacture .
Given you were a winner of the Spark of Genius award at the Web Summit, do you have any opinion on its decision to leave Dublin?
The Web Summit has been really fantastic for us – we have attended the last 3 Summits and we can trace back a lot of the great things that have happened to us, back to these handful of days in November each year. It’s a pity that it has left Dublin, but that doesn’t mean it’s the end of the story. Hopefully it will return.
Love and Robots Pop-Up Shop is at Fumbally Exchange on 5 Dame Lane until December 24.