Slow/D is an Italian design "brand" that links designers and artisans, so that customers anywhere can buy products locally, even though the designer may be on the other side of the world.
The designer uploads their design to the directory, along with all the photos and details you’d expect from a high-end furniture store, only when you decide to buy the piece, the order is sent to a fabricator near you. So instead of shipping that beautiful Italian-designed coat-rack all the way from Milan, you get the same thing made locally by a Slow/D-approved artisan. Everyone is a winner—designers open up their market, customers get a way better choice and pay only local shipping, the planet suffers less thanks to decreased transportation, and you support local businesses. Even Slow/D benefits, due to its 10% cut.
As a part of the terms, Slow/D requires artisans meet its working requirements and commit to "improving the environmental impact of [their] processes." Designers, who also need to be approved, can work with the artisans behind the scenes to collaborate of prototypes, putting together the people with ideas and the people who know best how to implement those ideas.
The designs are mostly easy-to-assemble, and wouldn’t look out of place in Ikea—there’s a lot of slot-together plywood furniture in the store. But there are also some rather specialized pieces, like this laser-cut steel or aluminum table lamp which, despite its complex manufacturing requirements, goes for a rather reasonable $136. There are also several open-source furniture designs available, with the option to download and make them yourself, although just buying the wood for something like the RJR chair is likely to cost more than an Ikea flat-pack chair.
The idea is still in its early stages and will have to work through things like the differences in labor costs from country to country, but Slow/D again shows the power of the Internet in matching people up across otherwise impossible distances. It’s not exactly cutting out the middleman, but at least that middleman is now useful.