BUENOS AIRES — An ambitious plan for an innovative idea. Five Argentinian design firms have agreed to boost each other and export their products without competing among themselves. The idea began months ago with the Associative Exporter Management program (Gerenciamiento exportador asociativo), wherein the country's export promotions agency, like a reality show, gave the new partners 26 months to progress toward set objectives.

On July 2, the partners presented their associative firm, SUR Design, at one of the day-long events organized by MICA, the Ministry of Culture's Argentine Creative Industries Market. Sur Design aims to transcend national frontiers and place local designs on the international market.

The designers agree there is renewed interest in local crafts, identity and materials. Their products include pure wool carpets that enshrine the traditional skills of weavers from 12 provinces (Elementos Argentinos), handwoven cotton blankets (Cosa Bonita), wooden and fabric lamps (Objetos Luminosos), ceramic tableware with geometric designs (MeMo) and personalized accessories (Designo Patagonia).

Banquet — Designo Partagonia

The items chosen for exportation meet a triple-impact set of social, economic and environmental criteria. "We've solved the most complex part," says Manuel Rapoport of Designo Patagonia, namely that "we understand each other, there is a positive energy flow and empathy among ourselves." "The first challenge was to set up internal rules," say Fernando Bach and Pablo Mendivil of Elementos Argentinos, including the functions of each participant, actions to be taken and who was to do what. The rules also define the group's profile. "We do design that speaks about us," says Carola Moris, who runs MeMo with Patricia Mezzadra. They had to think before joining SUR, she says, as "we found it difficult to decide how to add the Argentine DNA to our products. But interacting with the group opened our head."

We understand each other, there is a positive energy flow and empathy among ourselves.

The firms had to find a coordinator to set deadlines and handle marketing, promotions and meetings with design outlets, like the giant Tok&Stok, the Brazilian version of Ikea. "We have planned four trading excursions to Chile, Paraguay, Uruguay and Peru. In October we are presenting our products at the High Point Market, a design and furniture fair held in North Carolina," says Gonzalo Sallaberry, the coordinator. The collaborative format is new in Argentina, though already tried and working well in Brazil with the Raíz Collective, which has brought together 35 firms. With support from the government and from the private sector, Raíz Collective has been touring the world since 2012 and is now a reference in the international design market.

The working format is based on association without competition. "We take care of everything: the design process, following up with suppliers, promotion material, sales and positioning," says Magdalena Boggiano of Objetos Luminosos. The partners work as a network, aim to project the Argentine identity abroad and forge common strategies. All very much in tune with the new practices inspiring innovative businesses today.

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