By Vicki Matranga, Design Programs Coordinator
Get to know the people behind the stylish, thought-provoking designs that will be exhibited in Discover Design. This series of conversations will give you a glimpse of the inspirations, influences and ideas that go into creating the exciting products that you’ll see at the 2013 Show.
The appealing monbento® lunch boxes blend Eastern traditional meal time rituals with Western food culture. The modern interpretation of the bento box combines elegant materials, convenience and refinement with contemporary flair for busy on-the-go lifestyles. Monbento encourages users to “eat wherever you want.”
Emilie Creuzieux, a physiotherapist and a fan of Japanese culture, discovered the bento box through a design project her husband was working on. The little Japanese box soon demonstrated its usefulness in her daily life for quick lunches at the office or when visiting patients. Since the product was difficult to find in Europe, she had to order her first boxes through a Japanese website. The enthusiastic reaction from family and friends moved her in March 2009, when she was 26, to partner with product designer Fabien Marret, also in his 20s, and a web project manager to create monbento. The company grew rapidly and by 2011 offered 500 items—boxes and sets in varied colors and shapes along with a line of accessories including bags, chopsticks, cutlery and sauce cups. And in 2011, the word “bento” officially entered the French language with inclusion in the 2012 edition of the Larousse dictionary.
We’re speaking with Fabien Marret, monbento co-founder and head of design
Fabien, where do you find inspiration when designing new products?
I find my inspiration in everyday life and my travels. There are also many references to one’s childhood in the monbento universe.
Are there any specific designers, places or eras that influence you?
Although I have a great deal of respect for other designers, I do not consider them to be my main influence. Japan is a place that inspires me, especially the Japanese mentality, way of life and their ability to seamlessly blend tradition and modernity. Simply put –simple things.
How do you choose which idea to take to the next step — to product development?
I observe people’s behavior and needs as well as consumer trends.
How do you identify the key user audience for your products?
There are no established rules. We listen to our clients and strive to know what they desire. More than anything it is the brand’s identity that sets the tone.
Is there an approach or look that joins the functionality, form or emotional appeal of your product line?
The functional aspect is of course indispensable, however I do not believe that our clients purchase our products solely for their functionality. They love them because the products stir up their feelings, remind them of their childhood and give them pleasure. I try to create an emotional link between the object and the user. For example, the monbento® Original bento box is soft to the touch and has a rounded shape that builds an emotional relationship.
How do you see design’s importance in our industry as it moves forward?
I think that housewares are globally undergoing a transformation and that we represent a part of this “Design” movement. Previously elitist, original and creative designs are within reach of the public at large and at its service. This movement brings pleasure to the forefront to go beyond the sheer functional approaches that we all know.
For my part, I try to simplify as much as possible and go straight to the essential.
Where are your products manufactured?
They are manufactured in large part in China. We are also studying the possibility to manufacture a part in France.
How does Discover Design help to expand your brand?
Being selected by Discover Design gives the brand professional recognition. The Discover Design label reassures our clients in their purchase given that a prestigious organization also granted us their trust.
What advice can you offer to designers working in the home goods field?
My advice is to first and foremost enjoy yourself, have fun, and avoid taking yourself too seriously because your positive attitude will resonate with clients and make them happy as well. In sum, putting the human being at the center and using design to form a vehicle for economic and social success.
Thank you, Fabien, for sharing your perspective on how design informs your business. We’re happy to see you return to exhibit with us this year. Wishing you a successful Show as you grow your presence in the U.S. and Asia and continue your European expansion. We look forward to seeing your latest presentation in your Booth S3474.
Learn more about monbento’s products at www.monbento.com
Discover Design is the premier design destination at the International Home + Housewares Show. Located in the South Building, within the Dine + Design Expo, the invitation-only category features more than 100 exhibitors from around the world. Companies driven by innovation and inspired by design present distinctive products and collections in Tabletop, Gift, Textiles and Home Décor categories. Exhibitors are selected to participate by a panel of industry experts comprised of retailers, design journalists and peers. Some exhibitors appeared here last year, many are new to our Show. The Discover Design Gallery, accessible to buyers and media, features select products that are entries in the Global Innovation Award (gia) for Design. Learn more about Discover Design exhibitors and their products by checking Housewares Connect 365 at www.housewares.org