From those who, at their first experience, bluffed with a client by saying they already had work under their belt, to those who crashed an event to make contacts. The ways, even the least orthodox, to trigger collaborations and get noticed

The world of design is increasingly crowded and young people struggle to get noticed by big companies. But how did the designers, now established, take their first steps and find work?

“The most complex issue to resolve at the beginning of your career is how to establish relationships with companies”, explains the designer Alessandro Stabile, "only one entrepreneur in ten responds, so planning is needed that must be refined over time, also in the way of approaching and, above all, a lot of energy and patience are needed".

There are those who, like Elena Salmistraro, started with self-production, who, like Francesca Lanzavecchia, after a couple of unsuccessful interviews he opened his independent studio "with great enthusiasm but totally unaware of the uphill road", and who, like Antonio Aricò, after the conversation with EckartMaise, former CEO of Vitra , he sensed that, perhaps, the most revolutionary choice for him would be to return to "his" Calabria and design the furnishings with his grandfather, a "back home" interpreted by the international press as an ode to the return to the origins of design.

“My advice for young people,” says Elena Salmistraro, “is to be yourself, to continue to do and above all to show your work”.

“Don't be afraid to knock on doors to seek answers and propose your own ideas”, they add Giorgia Zanellato and Daniele Bortotto. “Cultivate human relationships and broad-spectrum interests”, suggests Diego Grandi.

“Be cheeky with grace, proactive, and be your own entrepreneur”, advises Marco Lavit. “Knowing how to tell your story”, says Antonio Aricò: “Today you have the opportunity to show your work on social media to a global audience. It's not about learning to use the Instagram algorithm but knowing how to arouse curiosity using your own personality."

Never give up, concludes Alessandro Stabile: "At the beginning the no's and failures, and the projects that get lost along the way during development, are clearly greater than those that come to fruition".

Francesca Lanzavecchia

“I often smile when I think back to the few interviews I faced with the hope of being hired after my master's degree in Conceptual design in context at the Design Academy in Eindhoven. Thirteen years ago, both Giulio Iacchetti and Paola Navone didn't hire me because they were looking for someone to train, while, in their eyes, I already had a clear identity as a designer, and they advised me to open my own studio.

So I undertook the adventure as an independent designer, with great enthusiasm and totally unaware of the uphill road I would have to travel. Understanding how to manage a studio without having ever worked in one before wasn't easy at all, but I'm proud of what I've built over the years and the work I've accomplished.

What advice would I give to young people? It took me a long time to understand this myself: you must always ask, with a humble and curious attitude, ask for advice, a hand, ask to be put to the test; just by asking will the doors open."

Giorgia Zanellato and Daniele Bortotto

“We started from SaloneSatellite, in 2013, a fundamental moment for our work which marked the birth of our studio. Before arriving at this appointment, we looked around and started knocking on the doors of companies, laboratories and suppliers in our area.

We were working on the Acqua Alta collection and as luck would have it, one of the first doors to open was that of Rubelli, we went to them a bit unconsciously and their creative team supported us in creating the fabrics which we then exhibited in Milan.

The first piece of advice is therefore tonot be afraid and knock on doors to seek answers and propose your own ideas.

Chance then plays an important role, and one of these is that Patrizia Moroso stopped by SaloneSatellite and fell in love with those fabrics developed with Rubelli, thus a relationship was born of collaboration but also human which last year gave birth to a new project: Mangiafuoco.

Hence another piece of advice: much of the work is born from a relationship of trust, mutual esteem, dialogues that are cultivated over time.

Most of the projects we have carried out in recent years were born from meetings which then gave rise to requests from companies and jobs which have matured over time. The project without history sent via email is unlikely to work, at least for us.

Last piece of advice that worked for us: cultivate interests and research independently, and with them stimulate and arouse the attention of a customer. So don't wait for input to arrive from companies, but propose ideas, ideas and tests to launch challenges to face together."

Elena Salmistraro

“I graduated in 2008. Like all young people, I had no contacts and I didn't know where to start. So I decide to go to the various stands at the Salone del Mobile to ask for the art director's address, and then go home and send an email, a solution that personally has never led me anywhere, only a lot of people haven't.

So I started on my own with self-production, with ceramics and papier-mâché, the materials I knew best, and with difficulty I made vases in raw earth, lamps and a sofa in papier-mâché, anticipating, if we want, the latest trends.

I was looking for a place to exhibit them during the design week and in 2011 I found an exhibition in the Basement of Superstudio, I sent the photos and was selected by Giulio Cappellini. > Also on this occasion I don't make many contacts and I don't find work, but I am noticed by Andrea Branzi and Silvana Annicchiarico who were curating the exhibition The new Italian design and ask me if I had enjoyed participating. Obviously I accept and at the Triennale I present my works to Silvana and talk to her about myself; a few months later she asked me to participate in the 2015 Animalità exhibition, where some designers discussed the topic with objects created by Bosa.

I spent the whole summer drawing Khepri and Loricato, my real first step into the world of design. I advise young people to be themselves, to continue to do and above all to show their work".

Alessandro Stabile

"The most complex issue to resolve at the beginning of your career is how to establish relationships with companies and entrepreneurs, only one in ten responds, so planning is needed which must be refined over time also in the way of approaching , and then, above all, it takes a lot of energy and patience.

I've always thought that the only weapon at my disposal to get noticed were projects, and thanks to those I tried to make my way. But at the beginning the nos and failures, and the projects that get lost along the way during development, are clearly greater than those that come to fruition, ideas which in any case after a few years could prove to be a success if presented to another company.

The story of the Oto Chair is representative: with Vittorio Venezia, after a couple of meetings in which the companies they said "nice idea but who knows if it can be done", we decided to take charge of the technical development and initial prototyping and to communicate the work as an industrial research project. D

fter some publications, at the end of 2020 five Italian and foreign companies called us and, in the end, we had to choose who to continue with, reversing the roles a bit. In reality, not even that choice turned out to be successful and definitive and only a year and a half later, thanks to the meeting with the entrepreneur Alex Pegoraro, the project took off.

Compared to my beginnings, projects now most of the time no longer arise independently in my head but first I develop a relationship with the companies and the project comes to life from dialogue".

Antonio Aricò

The geode is the studio that Antonio is building in Calabria, the ruin behind it is the place that he is restoring as his future residence.

“After studying at the Polytechnic of Milan, in 2009 I started working for one of my professors in a Milanese studio. Suddenly, however, the desire arrives to begin the great adventure - the most intimate and at the same time the most revolutionary - of becoming an independent designer, and I begin to look for the work of my dreams.

An anecdote that changed my view of job research? My first interview at Vitra, with the then CEO Eckart Maise, who told me: “Antonio, you are very good and you have great taste sophisticated when it comes to colors, you could work in fashion. But do you know how to build furniture with your own hands?”.

I reply: "I don't, but my grandfather is a carpenter!". At that time, Vitra did not hire internal designers and the color aspect was followed by Hella Jongerius, so I started to think about the idea. that perhaps the greatest revolution would have been to return to Calabria, my country of origin, to make furniture, or rather to design with my grandfather. And so it was.

I exhibited my pieces in Berlin at the DMY festival including a watering can later produced by Seletti. In 2012, with my first earnings from my collaboration with the Barilla group, I designed and created the Back Home collection with my grandfather, interpreted by the press and in particular by the Dutch Lidewij Edelkoort as an ode to returning to the origins of design.

When I was very young I crashed the design week parties: at a Stefano Giovannoni party I met Veronique Cellier, my first PR, and the studio Marcel Wanders. In 2016, in Australia, while I was teaching at RMIT, I was contacted by the president of Bialetti, who invited me to be part of an ambitious design driven project. In 2017 I began to follow the artistic direction of the brand , also designing the coffee maker La Chicca.

At the beginning, when you are looking for your own path, it is difficult to immediately focus on your identity, your place in the world is the destination of a long journey, some people get there first, some come later. The important thing is to be adventurous, not to be discouraged and to follow your own evolution, with ambition and voracity but sometimes stopping to take the time to observe yourself calmly.

I immediately launched myself as a curious and enthusiastic young man, my insecurities of the past today give way to a more confident vision, but the journey of a creative is always in motion and characterized by changes.

An example is my initial return to my origins and then returning to work with big brands, today I make these very distant worlds my strong point: on the one hand the spontaneous, genuine and "artisanal" universe of the territory in which I grew up , on the other the hyper-sophisticated panorama of Milan and industrial design. I'm still building my place in the world, but I've found it: it's called Campicello, it's a green triangle overlooking the Ionian Sea under the sky facing Etna, but I continue to travel and collaborate with international entities.

My advice for young people is to study the past but communicate in and with the present, know how to tell your story, today you have the opportunity to show your work on social media to a global audience. It's not about learning to use the Instagram algorithm but knowing how to arouse curiosity using your personality. I managed to arouse the curiosity of Stefano Seletti, Alberto Alessi, Domenico Dolce and many others, today I am mainly requested as an author and not as a professional, and this is what I wish for those who have a true passion for this work".

Diego Grandi

“After graduating in architecture in 1999 at the Polytechnic of Milan, I began first as an intern, then as a collaborator at Sergio Calatroni, a multifaceted and enlightened multidisciplinary studio that had some fashion brands among its various clients. At the same time, in my free time, I carry on my research on surfaces and some small set-up works for internal presentations and press previews for Brunello Cucinelli.

In 2001 I personally met Brunello who, having appreciated the work done, proposed that I design the showroom of his brand, a space of hundreds of square metres. At the time I didn't have a studio or even collaborators, I called Fabio Calvi, my dear friend, who was also practicing for another well-known Milanese designer at the time, and I proposed a collaboration.

In a few days we designed our logo and showed up at the first meeting with Cucinelli, handing over our business card which shows the address of a shared space in via De Amicis.

In September 2002 we inaugurated the showroom and the following year I opened my first studio.
Although meeting platforms have changed, cultivating human relationships and broad-spectrum interests I think is fundamental in both personal and professional growth. And as Castiglioni said: if you're not curious, forget it."

Marco Lavit

“In 2015, at a dinner in Paris, the city where I moved to at 18, I met some guys who had launched themselves into the tree hut business. They offer me to work together. At the time I had a degree in architecture but I wasn't yet registered, I didn't have a registered studio or a portfolio, but to avoid losing my job I bluffed and proposed a sketch.

The project comes to fruition: in 2017 we present Origin, a nest suspended twelve meters above the ground in the Château de Raray, a wonderful castle near Paris , a project published by the international press. Almost ten years later the collaboration continues, we have created around twenty lodges immersed in nature and floating huts on lakes and we are now completing an eco-hotel in Piedmont.

On the design side, after various experiences with galleries, my first important collaboration was in 2021 with Living Divani: a few years earlier, in 2018, Carola Bestetti, CEO of the brand, had noticed my work with Nilufar and had talked about it in a German magazine.

I jumped at the opportunity and showed up at the company not for a simple introductory meeting, as Carola expected, but with the ready and finished prototypes, made with the artisans, of the Lemni armchair, produced in 2021, and of the Ad Astra lamp, presented this year at the Salone del Mobile.

You have to be cheeky with grace, proactive, not wait for the input to arrive from the company but get involved without fear of feeling out of place, and be your own entrepreneurs".