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Clariant partners with elastomer compounder to gain a colorful advantage in ski boot market

Thanks to an in-depth research and color-finding project recently completed in partnership with Clariant ColorWorks™, Francesco Franceschetti Elastomeri (FFE), a supplier of thermoplastic elastomer (TPE) compounds now has an invaluable competitive edge in one of its primary markets – ski boots.

“I saw an opportunity to show that our company is more than just a simple supplier of a raw material but also a company that has a vision about the final product – the ski boot,” explains Francesco Franceschetti, founder of the company headquartered east of Milan, Italy. “Clariant, as the color expert and manufacturer, is in a similar position. We operate independently from a commercial point of view, but together we can show this market that we have a very deep understanding of the needs, of its vision and future. This is something totally new for the market.”

Beginning in June 2019, Clariant and FFE pooled their resources to conduct an exhaustive study of the Italian ski boot marketplace and the colors that boot makers use in their products. The outcome of this unique project would be a comprehensive report and guide, including five colors proposed for the 2021 – 2022 ski season, and it all started with fact-finding visits to a total of 13 boot dealers, ski shops and sports chain stores. This way, Clariant and FFE both developed a thorough understanding of the needs of the different types of skiers.

Next, the team visited the websites of 11 ski boot manufacturers, collecting a total of 499 images of individual boots presented in online catalogs. They focused on colors used in four key areas of each boot: the shell, the cuff, the buckles and accent areas and created a 3D color map of nearly 2000 color data points. This analysis gave the Clariant color experts a solid baseline and understanding of the colors present in the market.

Roberto Romanin, Designer at Clariant ColorWorks EMEA, describes the next step in the project: “Based on the demographic information we gathered in our interviews with ski shop owners, and our color map, we created three mood boards to define the different target personalities and match them with colors to be used as a design guide for new boots being developed now for the 2021 – 2022 ski season.”

Each mood board featured lifestyle photos and colors to capture the spirit of the three target personalities. Five colors were presented, each named for a well-known ski resort. The same two base neutrals -- a warm white and a dark silver grey with a greenish metallic effect -- filled the color space currently occupied by black and white. These were matched with a vibrant pure red, a tactile soft green and a tech-inspired metallic petrol blue to appeal to the three target skier profiles.

Today, the team of Clariant and FFE representatives are on the road, introducing boot manufacturers to the research data and the five colors, which are molded into proprietary Spiralis prototypes using the actual Irfran plastic materials that Franceschetti sells for high-end ski-boot applications. Initial presentations have gone extremely well, Romanin and Franceschetti report, with even designers and boot stylist, who already know quite a lot about color, expressing surprise when seeing how color could be explained not only technically, but also as a philosophy and as a story about the people who buy their products. “They told us that they never saw anything like this before,” Francesco Franceschetti says.

FFE and Clariant hope to make their ski-boot color forecast an annual thing in the future, demonstrating that the two partner companies not only supply materials but also understand the ski boot business and the needs of the manufacturers and the personalities of their target customers.