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James Cropper’s take on molded fiber for luxury

Alissa Demorest

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James Cropper’s take on molded fiber for luxury

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James Cropper Colourform, a division of the British papermaker, has been a major player as the luxury packaging market increasingly moves into molded pulp fiber alternatives. In the upcoming Autumn 2022 issue of our sister publication Formes de Luxe, we are publishing an exclusive interview with Colourform Managing Director Patrick Willink. Read on for a sneak preview of the full interview.

What was Colourform’s initial branded product?

PW: Our first project was for Floral Street, a London-based fragrance company, which showed us that Colourform could be used as outer packaging, in addition to being a replacement for trays. Other projects followed, but the one that really put us on the map was Ruinart’s Second Skin, a collaboration with Pusterla. Ruinart expressed what they wanted to communicate with this new pack­aging and Pusterla brought a deep understanding of the practical aspects. 

What can you tell us about your molded pack for Ruinart?

PW:  It’s called Chalk Wrap and is a much more sculpted version with numerous facets as compared to the first product, Second Skin. I see it as a true design feat that highlights the potential of molded pulp. The product was developed for the Dom Ruinart 2010 vintage; the brand wanted the packaging to recall the chalk cellars where the wine is aged. When we started out on the project, one of our designers [Colourform has a four-person design team] created a packaging from scratch using different natural materials, and this opened up the field of possibility to create a texture, shape and contours that were aligned with what we found in nature. Colourform has devised specific ways of working the surface of molded fiber to provide the desired finish and texture, but exactly how we do that is confidential. Suffice it to say that our designers’ creative input is at the heart of these developments. 

What about bottle protection: do Second Skin and Chalk Wrap provide as much as the previous generation packs?

PW: The impact protection is not the same, and there are ways to build that into the design, but it was not part of the brief. If that was a compromise, it was one worth making: Second Skin is nine times lighter than the original pack, it is entirely made of cellulose, and it offers the same UV protection. It’s arguably more elegant; there isn’t such a thing as the perfect packaging solution, there will always be compromises to be made.  

With every new project Colourform seems to push the boundaries of the technology. What are some recent breakthroughs?

PW: There are novel aspects to just about every design we have launched. The mechanical snap closure for Second Skin, or the Ruinart clasp as we call it, was a breakthrough, and we patented the concept. The clasp can be used in a variety of applications and take on different guises. It snaps shut, holds shut, and can be opened and closed repeatedly and retain its form over time. The texturing on the surface of the Lancôme case is another example. There are several textures on the rose petal portion, an embossing instead of a label on a very smooth surface and a sandstone type texture on the back. The clasp operates in a similar fashion to the Ruinart clasp with 2?hinges and a little click effect. 

What market observations first sparked your investments in molded pulp solutions?

PW: More and more mainstream organizations were look­ing at how they could remove plastic from their packaging. Colourform may not be a perfect substitute, but it is an alternative to plastic, and for many of the markets we are serving, fiber can perform as well if not better than existing solutions. 

Read the full interview with Patrick Willink in the upcoming issue of Formes de Luxe.

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