There are a Swede, two Frenchmen and two Poles who have founded three design companies and succeed very well. This is not the classic incipit of Italian jokes, but the portrait of a new generation of design brands: they are called The Kovac Family, Tiptoe and Noo.ma.
We have rarely seen them at work at Design Week, because their community is above all digital.
If you go to Instagram and search for the words #design and #furniture, you might discover a world. And, above all, you would realize that something is happening: Europe is full of new companies. They are not fragile businesses, but on the rise. And it is clear that they were founded by a generation of entrepreneurs extraordinarily different from that of historical design.
Their founders have quite similar stories, they were all born in the world of design (some by training, some by familiarity). They all have a very clear idea of the type of brand they want to work on. Said imprecisely but very succinctly: they produce locally what is needed to furnish a house, at reasonable prices and they use design to plan every part of the industrial system, not just the product.
Social media: the (Pulcinella's) secret to the success of new European design brands
They all equally have a founding criterion based on sustainability, transparency and dialogue with the digital community.
They use social media intelligently and effectively to talk about themselves and sell their products online, as well as to build a direct relationship with customers. Nothing new so far: any marketing manual describes a contemporary company in the same way.
But they do it very well, because they spontaneously include in their products all the values that under 40s consider their own: humanity, honesty, dialogue, narration of the object and the ideathat it generatedand, at the base of everything, a project that has the face of the people who created it because they smile at you from an Instagram reel.
Products? Yes, but the novelty is no longer a sufficient drive
Camilla Kovak founded Kovak Family in 2012, in Sweden. At the time she was a young and talented designer, with a beautiful lamp by Rotaliana awarded by the ADI.
“I realized that carrying out projects for other companies was not satisfying. We honestly didn't feel it was necessary to design another chair for an already overcrowded market. Our thought was: a sensible product must be sustainable, both for the environment and in its impact on the territory and on users. And, just as importantly, it must have a purpose, not simply be a beautiful object to look at.”
Sustainability is a given
Kovak Family was clearly born from a personal project shared by a large family involved in the business. The key to understanding is research into sustainable materials, simple shapesand a high degree of simple customization, with an insistent look at the history of Scandinavian design.
The strength of this choice is the transparency of a brand that does not struggle in any way to clearly communicate the project path and does not give up on explaining what the new material created together with the Institute is. Swedish by Biomimicry.
So I don't just buy a Kovak Family lamp, I buy a substantial idea. A purity of thought that reassures and helps to spread the value of design as a useful discipline, as an expression of intelligence and ethics.
Customers are free to customize
Another fundamental point of these companies is to give the public a free hand in defining their purchase. The color charts of Noo.ma, a Polish brand founded in the London apartment of two young design students, are endless.
The forms simple enough to be defined as typological hybrids. And here too the communication is different from mainstream design: there is the patina of Instagram, certainly. Which, however, keeps pace with its spontaneity, with the irony and lightness of a brand idea which is instead substantiated by an explicit vision: to produce timeless, useful and long-lasting objects. Scandinavia docet.
Entrepreneurs put their face, a name and a surname
What matters in design are once again the people, the users, who transform a well-made chair into an affective and warm object because from the beginning they choose the finishes, they assemble it, they are happy to participate in the intelligence of the overall project.
The paradigm of novelty is replaced by less invasive research on materials and colors and by the idea that only a product in which aesthetics and function naturally overlap truly makes sense today.
You will not find the cover product in the Noo.ma catalogue, but the desires of ordinary people, the normal people who represent a sophisticated but not high spender, rational, aware market.
Optimism, simplicity, transparency for a design that is closer to man than ever
Of all Tiptoe it is the brand that most has an approach of design invention.Matthieu Bourgeaux and Vincent Quesada tell us: “We created Tiptoe (which means: on tiptoe) in 2015 with the ambition of producing furniture that is well thought out, well produced and designed to last.
Year after year we revisit the most common objects infusing them with our share of optimism, creativity and modernity.
These requirements are based on the quality of 100% European production combined with the know-how of our specialized metalworking factory created three generations ago near Chamonix”.
Rationalize formal quality in favor of reuse, flexibility, repairability
The starting idea is simple: a table is made of four legs and a top. Why not simplify and make the construction part more customizable by designing a steel leg that lives on its own, indestructible and colourful, which can be fixed with a simple rivet to the surface of your choice?
From the point of view of the Italian design tradition it is frankly an unheard of thought.
The point is that Millennials and GenZ appreciate the clarity of an easily understandable solution. Especially if it means being able to reuse, disassemble, repair, modify and, above all, stop buying products whose history, origin and end are unknown.