Matali Crasset “It is not simple to maintain leadership today.
But challenges are always good for you: they can prompt new ways of thinking, and help you to find a new logic. The system is indeed struggling. Perhaps it needs to put the accent on research and on human beings. There are many opportunities to find new ways to do projects and to conduct research on the added value that comes from being European. Our lifestyles and our ‘systems’ of thought continue to represent a reference point for the world… So the time has come to take advantage of that. Starting with the Salone del Mobile in Milan, which in my view has to remain a cultural event, well beyond the professional sphere. This is why it needs to rediscover a bit of experimentation and informal energy, to continue to be surprising and creative.” New for 2014: “For Alessi I have designed a collection of trays: an essential design, but one that contains concepts that interest me, like transmission and sharing. For Campeggi I have done the project ‘Deep attention and steppe,’ which I have imagined as a temporal ‘space’ in which to make a date with a book, a film, a conversation; finally, there is the new Ikea PS 2014 collection.”
“If design keeps going like this, it has no future. The reason is simple: design exists as long as industrial companies exist, and the companies will continue to exist if they know how to take risks, focusing on creativity, raising the bar. They have to get back to thinking big in the most exposed area of the market and the least exposed one, the high end and the low end. They have to get back to imagining themselves in an updated way, strategically positioned on the market, which has changed visibly. In short, they need their own, original thinking, but instead we are seeing product offerings that are all the same: what is totally lacking is the ability to take risks and to be creative. In other words, Italian design is going where the companies are taking it. Who is still willing to take the intellectual risk of making an important project? Without the creative folly of Giulio, the Cappellini brand would never have existed, and without him many designers would not have the professional visibility they have today. The Salone del Mobile is still a crucial moment, and I say that because it is obvious. But we have to improve, to have the courage to change, and above all to make the right selections. I am talking above all about the FuoriSalone. The foreign press has written that the week in Milan is becoming a gigantic ‘village fair.’ But I think that is rather superficial: journalists too have to discover excellent things and, above all, know how to make a selection; after all, that’s their job. My grandfather said that extremism is a childhood disease of communism. Well, today, we have to begin to be a bit less childish. Everyone operating in the FuoriSalone has to embrace a ‘modus operandi’ that focuses on quality instead of quantity. I like the energy in Milan during the Salone, but we have to get rid of the ‘campground.’ And select, select, select…” New for 2014: “At the Salone I have worked with very Italian companies, like Living Divani and Cassina, doing a new collection of divans for both. Then there is Kartell, and a new kitchen for Boffi. As well as furniture for Desalto, Porro, Lema, Glas Italia… And the exhibition at Palazzo Reale in Milan on Bernardino Luini.
“In Italy design is taken seriously: that isn’t true in some other countries. Obviously for a designer it is interesting to work here, with the companies of Made in Italy, with a very lively spirit of collaboration; not to mention the extraordinary resources of technical and crafts know-how, leading to great results in terms of quality. This is why we don’t think Italian design is weakening, and we don’t think there is a threat to Milan’s leadership on an international level (though there should be more taxis during the Salone, and a wider range of hospitality options, also with an eye on costs!). Is there ferment in Italian design? I think so. You can sense a certain positive change in many companies. Just look at manufacturers like Arflex or Tacchini, to mention two examples where very interesting generational turnover has happened. Or new companies like Discipline, which has managed to address the need for authenticity and ecology demanded by the new generations.” New for 2014: “We have designed for Arflex, Asplund, Capdell, Casamania, David Design, Design House Stockholm, Engblad & Co., Fontana Arte, Italesse, Matsuso T, Offecct, Paola Lenti, Skandiform, Swedese, Tacchini, Wonderglass, Wästberg. And we have many architectural projects around the world…”
“The leadership of industry Made in Italy is being challenged? No, we don’t think so. First of all due to the cultural heritage and charisma of Italian brands. We also think the companies in your country know how to take more risks and to be more ‘visionary’ as opposed, for example, to Scandinavian brands, which are very tradition in their way of thinking and working. The same is true of Milan, which is still an important cultural reference point on the international design scene. The city, during the week of the Salone del Mobile, welcomes people from all over the world: you can meet colleagues, clients, find new inspiration, and make your products known. During the Salone all kinds of things happen: you can suddenly find yourself face to face with your favorite designer or with the president of a company you’d like to work with, maybe when you are simply ordering a Negroni at Bar Basso… ”. New for 2014: “We continue to work with Porro, also at this Salone: we really like long relationships like this one, because after a while you get to know each other very well, and you can work well. But this year we have also started a new journey with Gebrüder Thonet Vienna, an Austrian company with a fascinating history and great craftsmanship.”
“I believe Milan still plays a leading role in international design culture. But the city, the Salone del Mobile and the FuoriSalone, should work more on the background, conveying the value of design as a cultural factor that is part of life and evolves with it. It is not a problem of taste, style, status to be displayed. Of chairs or tables. There are also sidewalks, streetlights, airports… the way of living the spaces of the city. In spite of it all, foreigners still see us as bearers of savoir faire and quality of life (and the fact that my studio is doing 80% of its work in the Far East, skyscrapers 200 meters high, bears this out). I am disappointed, though, not to get the sensation of a new Renaissance. Has Italian design culture lost its force and identity? The historical conditions have changed. Yesterday, in the 1950s and 1960s, there were a few small Italian companies and a small number of architects open to experimentation with materials and technologies in the furniture design sector. They made crafted products, almost one-offs, for their clients. They moved in an international panorama where America and the research of the Eameses were models of reference, and Scandinavian design represented the democratic culture of a country. These personalities created the phenomenon that reflected a winning moment for Italy, sustained by the positive encounter with the system created by sector magazines and fairs. Today it is different: there could also be new masters, but amidst thousands of Italian architect-designers, joined by many others arriving from all over the world. A mass that also makes it hard to make a name for yourself. The quality of design thinking is not connected to a geographical factor. It is simply a question of numbers. Italy, as Oscar Farinetti has said, represents 0.8% of the world market. So it is easy to do the math. As for why all the designers in the world want to work with the brands of Italian design, the answer is that it offers a stage: for a designer to be on hand at the Salone or the FuoriSalone is a bit like going to the fashion shows of haute couture. The added value of the visionary force of Italian business? A certain degree of positive ingenuousness, which can also become a wager. Italian producers are always ready to believe in an idea, and in innovation in general.” New for 2014: “I have worked with the same companies for years: B&B Italia, Vitra, Flexform… and others. My products are free of short-term goals, they don’t have to prove themselves in one year, or after just one Salone. In this phase I spend more time discussing distribution, not products. I am more interested in contributing to the design of corporate strategies.” (Antonella Boisi)
“It seems like today everyone, everywhere, producers and designers, are looking for talent on the international market. This is a very natural reaction to globalization; the ‘buffet’ has gotten much bigger, and it is hard to resist the temptation to taste it all. For now it is fun, given the fact that the approach to design is still rather closely linked to geographical factors: so it is possible to see where the different products come from, and this is interesting. But the more the borderlines get broken down, the less varied will be the produced results. In a not too distant future we will all be desperately looking for our roots. That is why the roots of design made in Italy should be conserved, not globalized. If I were Italian I would wear more cashmere, and I would sip up the rich nectar of history of my country every day, to keep faith with the only word on which Italians have the copyright: (the great) ‘Beauty.’ Your country is the European cradle of the most sublime arts, of passion. I would say it has quite an advantage. Finally, since you asked me for my opinion of the Salone del Mobile, I think that today it has taken on the proportions of an overgrown organism. But I would not be in favor of rigid control: in fact, I think maximum freedom should be granted. The unpredictability of the event is still its real charm.” New for 2014:“I have designed for Georg Jensen, Royal Copenhagen, Kvadrat, Mr. Perswall, Louis Poulsen, as well as IMM Cologne, which left me the greatest freedom this year to design my ‘Das Haus,’ opening up a true Pandora’s box of ideas.”
“In Italy companies have to cultivate what they have always done until a few years ago, namely innovation, research, risks. I know that these are goals that are hard to achieve today, but history teaches us that things, ideas, concepts, products are often born in difficult periods, periods of crisis. What is certain, in my view, is that in Italy know-how has to be protected and helped, protecting those who run the biggest risk of extinction. Design and designers can only find stimuli if businessmen are still curious and capable of believing in new things. This is how the era of the legendary ‘great masters’ began. Unfortunately, their greatness can often overshadow the ‘smaller masters’ of the present, who could grow if they had more space. In short, we have to trust in the talent of all, no matter what their age. Fortunately there is a lot of evidence that ‘new masters’ do, indeed, exist. But do the Italians win, over the foreigners? I can talk about my own personal experience: I am French and I studied design in France; then I completed my training with experience ‘in the field’ in Italy, thus getting the chance to establish a dialogue with two different cultures, two different worlds: the encounter between different spirits, the mixture of life experiences, can lead to interesting, new projects for companies. From this viewpoint, the Salone del Mobile and the FuoriSalone are very important. Surely Milan is still an outstanding reference point on the international design scene, but it has to continue to offer surprises. The goal is always the same: to make design more democratic, involving sector professionals but also all curious people.” New for 2014: “I have worked for Hermès, Kvadrat, Caimi Brevetti, Marsotto, with beautiful Carrara marble, and Venini. And also with the Milan Triennale, in the seventh exhibition-edition of the Triennale Design Museum”.
“The Italian furniture industry is feeling the effects of competition from many other countries. Some production processes and technical skills have been exported to international markets for some time now: so the companies of Made in Italy cannot rely only on their know-how, they have to rely on the experience of their technicians and engineers, and their way of saying: ‘We still do not know how we will make that object, but we will manage, because we believe in it!’ People often say that the best way to understand the present is to perceive the future, while at the same time having perfect knowledge of the past: Italian entrepreneurs have this culture, this knowledge and vision: truly an immense heritage! The important thing is not to cling to the identity of Italian design, but to the utterly Italian energy that believes in its own intuitions. The Salone and the FuoriSalone should continue to pursue the goal of opening the spirit and the mind, becoming the international platform of creativity in the widest sense of the term. Milan has to demonstrate what it is and what it will be in all fields: from design to architecture, fashion to technology. It has to become an ‘oracle’ capable of understanding, grasping and advising the world of creativity.” New for 2014: “I have designed for Audemars Piguet, Binauric, Pulman Hotels, Swatch, LaCie, Schneider Electric, Hennessy, Le Laboratoire, Centre Pompidou, Lexon and Carpenters Workshop Gallery. Future works include the Grand Palais in Paris, where I will do the interior design. I will play with the idea of hybrid spaces to reflect the nature of the place (very hybrid), this very beautiful building.”
“Italy has benefited, with its history, from an interesting kind of industrial organization. The coexistence of industry and crafts, thanks to well-coordinated work and know-how exchange, makes Italy the most interesting model, a place ready to generate innovation and creation. The family firm character of much of Italian industry is another strong point, with respect to the needs and power of the financial world. But today it is time for companies to start asking themselves more questions, to take the time to reflect and develop new strategies. Otherwise nothing will really be constructive. They have to create industrial synergies and dynamics based on the group, on the exchange of talents and forms of expertise… Time flows faster today and brings big changes: the ‘masters of the past’ are not the ‘masters of today.’ We need to reconsider the challenges of tomorrow. From this standpoint I think Italy does not have enough faith in its young people. It is not easy for the new generations to find their own place, considering the ‘weighty’ legacy of the ‘great masters’! This also explains the ease with which foreign designers are able to ‘penetrate’ the Italian market (it goes without saying that globalization also does its part). But people like Italy above all because it is ‘simpatica’ and cheerful, in the eyes of the world. It still embodies a Latin, positive dynamic, with an authentic design culture. In many Italian companies designers can find the right balance of history, culture and the desire for innovation, which becomes a motivating factor, of great inspiration. Italy and Milan in particular still have a very important role on the international design scene. At the Salone del Mobile, nevertheless, I think more selection of quality is needed, regarding the brands and the products; I feel the need to develop a stronger critical sense, to avoid letting the event become a ‘design supermarket.’ Designing objects brings with it a sense of responsibility: we have to fight against phenomena of image, against superficial fashions.” New for 2014:“I like to talk about collaborations, that are created over time, thanks to exchanges, listening, mutual respect… This year I am showing new products for Alias, Glas Italia, Driade, De Padova and Cassina.”
“Milan is undoubtedly still one of the most important places for design. Many designers work here; you can visit the homes and studios of the ‘great masters’; there are many good design schools; finally, there is the Salone/FuoriSalone platform, which in spite of what people say is still an international draw. But today, in my view, the password for consolidating this position has to be ‘networking.’ It is a shame that the publications, on the other hand, are being hit hard by the crisis. Because the magazines have played a big role, on an international level. I have no doubts about the leadership of Italian industry, which can now rely on alliances of production, design and logistics – the strong side of decentralization (which frightens some people).” New for 2014:“The companies with which I have worked are my historic partners, who invest in research and development, especially in the sanitary and hygiene sectors: first of all, Klafs.”
“We shouldn’t be afraid of having or losing a position of leadership: it is hard to believe that the world of furnishings can evolve in a correct way. While for a long time we were the only ones with these priorities, that does not mean that other countries cannot have good design and plan good distribution. I believe it is important to go your own way, to be convinced about what you are doing, and make proposals. Personally, I believe the only this is the only winning mixtures to make things develop along more correct lines. Of course many foreign designers want to work here in our country: the historic reputation and spread of our brands in the world offer international visibility for products and their designers. Undoubtedly this is one of the reasons why every designer, from any part of the world, tries to work with Italian companies. Furthermore, the network and the industrial fabric composed of small craftsmen and large companies make it possible today to do innovative projects that would be difficult in other countries where this situation does not exist. Can we think about a new Italian ‘school of design’ after the period of the ‘great masters’? I love our design history, but I try to be more rational and less parochial. Design can exist in any part of the world, any country: it cannot be relegated to a specific geographical area just because of a historical legacy. I think it is wrong to continue to look to the past as a glorious moment, and the present as a sort of nebulous entity that is hard to make out. It is impossible to make comparisons with the past era of design, when the global economic situation was clearly different from what is happening today. Finally, a comment on the Salone del Mobile: for me it is, and remains, the most important design exposition in the world. But its leadership role can only be maintained if the companies, and the designers, are capable of putting a lot of energy into this important event every year. Above all, we have to work so that over time the energy does not fade, making the event into a sterile collection of ‘fashions’ that, as we know, then pass away.” New for 2014: “Discovering the Salone will be more fun than talking about it!”
“It is possible that the big changes of society and taste, to which we have to add the serious economic crisis and a deep sense of discouragement, have caused a lack of energy, both in designers and in companies. A market that needs nothing is always looking for new objects to consume fast, as if they were disposable. At times they exist only to be put on magazine covers, and after a while no one remembers them anymore. We need to change our attitude, to design timeless objects that will survive us… Where Italian industry is concerned, I think it is still ahead of the pack. It is a reference point for the whole world, and Milan is the capital of design: the Salone represents the annual event of reference for new developments and trends in the sector. But I hope quality does not get sacrificed in favor of image, and that what happened to the Italian auto industry does not get repeated, since it lost its position of leadership to the Germans. For a designer, working with an Italian company is a bit like shooting a film in Hollywood, for an actor. Working in your country means being able to count on experience, know-how and great respect for the quality of the design. The fact that many companies of Made in Italy work with foreign designers is certainly not a problem, and it is explained by the globalized world we live in, the desire to find talent wherever it is lurking. DOn the other hand, new technologies let us design and follow the development process from anywhere, from Barcelona for example, working with companies who have their headquarters anywhere in the world. It goes without saying, in any case, that Italy, after the era of the ‘great masters,’ should try to create a new ‘school of design’ that responds to today’s necessities, in tune with the world in which we live, making reference to the precious cultural heritage of the Italian design of the past: the Italian great masters taught all of us a new way of thinking. I will never forget what Vico Magistretti said: ‘the years in which we invented Italian design…’ He was referring to the first collaborations with Cassina. Italy has to continue to bet on creativity, on the excellent quality of its manufacturing, avoiding passing fashions. But above all, ‘its’ Salone has to be a showcase of companies that want to innovate, not to follow in the footsteps of others.” New for 2014: “In the course of my career I have worked successfully with many companies: Cassina, Knoll International, Kusch+Co., Akaba, Leucos, Steelcase… In this moment I am working with Vondom and Alternative in Spain, Shönbuch in Germany, Leucos, Estel and Pedrali in Italy, Janus et Cie in the United States, Arquimuebles in Colombia and Zoom by Mobimex in Switzerland.”
“Italy is undoubtedly going through a critical moment, which places strong limits on design production with respect to the past. Nevertheless, I think precisely these difficulties can strengthen the sector, putting it up against other international productive realities. We just have to remember that leadership is assigned above all as a reaction to innovation, not on the basis of history. Of course the era of the ‘great masters’ gave Italian design fame and reputation starting from the 1950s to the 1970s, especially because the products of the Castiglioni brothers, Magistretti, Ponti – there are many names – have become true icons over time. I think Italian creativity has never had limitations, also thanks to a cultural attitude that is always open, always updated. Perhaps there should be more concentration on certain concepts like sustainable productivity, recycling, zero-km, eco-friendly, which in Italy are seen more as utopias than as a resource of everyday life. But does a truly Italian school of design exist today? I would like to answer yes: actually, I think that today there are many individualisms (or protagonists), leaving little space for teamwork, for shared ideals. In this moment it would be very useful to have a new, vital school capable of pumping new energy into the design of the future. For example, to ensure that design remains always democratic, in a moment in which many Italian companies are focusing on the concept of luxury (and in my view this is the aspect the Salone del Mobile and the FuoriSalone ought to consolidate).” New for 2014: “I have designed for Lema, Tacchini, Driade, Roda, Thonet, Porro, Frag… maybe others. Even here, there are no certainties.”
“I believe the leadership of the Italian furnishings industry cannot be questioned. Our country keeps its position with an attitude of respect for its own culture, its talents, the aspects that make a difference: its identity, in short. Which at an industrial level means craftsmanship, know-how, care, passion; a great desire to get young energies involved; a great capacity to take risks and to pay attention to innovation of materials and technologies. The goal: to make products that have meaning, not mere gadgets. “I believe the leadership of the Italian furnishings industry cannot be questioned. Our country keeps its position with an attitude of respect for its own culture, its talents, the aspects that make a difference: its identity, in short. Which at an industrial level means craftsmanship, know-how, care, passion; a great desire to get young energies involved; a great capacity to take risks and to pay attention to innovation of materials and technologies. The goal: to make products that have meaning, not mere gadgets. New for 2014: “For Caimi Brevetti I have designed, with Francesco Meda, the ‘Flap XL’ collection of sound absorbing panels; at the Milan Triennale the project ‘Annessi & Connessi’ was presented, for the occasion of the exhibition on Pierluigi Ghianda; and also at the Triennale, the furniture designed for Henraux+Riva1920 is being shown.”
“Is the era of the ‘great masters’ of Italian design finished? Maybe: after so much glory the country has ‘rested on its laurels’ a bit, but it is also true that it would be hard to keep up with a qualitative growth trend similar to the one launched by the ‘great masters’; in the meantime, other countries have grown, and the way things are produced has changed radically. As a ‘foreigner’ I can tell you, however, that Italy is still the ‘land of milk and honey’ in terms of density and quality of manufacturing excellence. Of course today there is an objective problem of costs, and it will be hard to fix that in such a way as to make Italian production competitive. All Italians can do is to bet on the excellence of their workmanship, though many skills are being lost, together with the extraordinary craftsmen, who have ‘retired’ without having a chance to pass on their fantastic heritage of know-how. Why? Companies close, and in many cases mass-produced products of medium quality cannot sustain production modes involving highly qualified work. It goes without saying that Made in Italy, especially with the Salone in Milan, still plays a very important role on the international design scene: in the end, everything converges here. Many foreign designers have a base in Milan for their work, because here there are important initiatives for design culture. But in particular, the offerings of the Salone del Mobile (and the FuoriSalone) are, and remain, very rich. It even becomes difficult to see everything you would like to see… though it is also true that the city has to improve its logistics. It would probably be better not to concentrate everything in a single week, but to spread out the various initiatives across the whole year: this solution would keep Milan always lively.” New for 2014: “There are projects that will be presented at the Salone del Mobile this year, and others that unfortunately will not be ready in time. To avoid diplomatic incidents, I will mention just one project that is decidedly ‘out of the pack’: the glass billiards table by Teckell.”
“There is a fairly widespread idea among sector professionals that Italian design culture has lost its force and identity (says Paolo Moroni, ed.): however, I do not think this view reflects the real situation or the opinion of the public in general. It is true that design has often been ‘abused’ by companies rich in means but poor in culture; these same companies have also contributed to the fame of a generation of designers with ‘weak’ thinking, who as a result produce ‘weak’ projects. But it is also true that a lot of the sector press has even been an accomplice, putting too much emphasis on mediocre things in exchange for guaranteed ad campaigns. Then there are the sector associations that hand out prizes, the makers of rankings, the improvised experts, all ready to put banal stuff on a pedestal, and thus encouraging the voices that point to the decline of Italian design. In any case, I am certain that many companies and many designers have a well forged identity, and they will know how to preserve the culture of Italian design! The leadership of the Italian industry is not in doubt: I am talking about those important, visionary Italian industrialists who have contributed to make design products a daily necessity for millions of people around the world. It is normal that there should be high and low periods, ups and downs… All of us, in this moment of sweeping political, social and economic changes, need to take a moment to think and to examine our own responsibilities, to start again with an updated and realistic vision regarding the new spheres and contexts in which we will find ourselves working. The fact remains that Italy, and Milano in particular, are still synonymous with design: I don’t want to wave flags, I am just pointing to a concrete reality, a fact. How long will it last? That’s another matter… The capacity of Italian entrepreneurs lies first of all in believing in what they are doing. In spite of the countless difficulties they have to face every day, Italian companies can still operated comfortably inside the network of support provided by the small businesses of the supply chain. The Italian design companies can therefore forecast and predict the needs of the market, investing in research, and together with craftsmen they can dare to invent new modes of production. Our country is going through a ‘transfer’ of experience and crafts know-how, towards a technologically prepared, evolved generation that is capable of ensuring qualitative continuity and industrial capacities. I do not believe there are many other places in the world where everything is so easily available. Finally, a thought about the Salone del Mobile. Let’s start by saying that the Salone and FuoriSalone are by now indispensable events: they both have the same goal, and precisely for this reason they should demand greater attention and cooperation from the city. When I think about the ‘very modest’ design weeks in other countries, and the efforts made by their local administrations to promote such limited happenings, I realize that what has created our sector has been, and unfortunately remains, the (fantastic) initiative that comes from individuals.” New for 2014: “This year I have to say thank you to: Zaha Hadid, Dominique Perrault and Gaelle Lauriot, as well as to William Sawaya and his studio; but also to the prototype makers and our pure Italian champion craftsmen, with their age-old skills and know-how, combined with the new technologies that can perpetuate the excellence of Made in Italy. I would like to emphasize that Sawaya & Moroni is one of those Italian companies that can still boast of a product with a purely Italian pedigree and background. But come to visit us, and you can see for yourself!”
“Milan’s status? I think any kind of leadership can be challenged. Today the design world is going through a phase of extensive evolution, and we are seeing many interesting developments in Northern Europe, Asia and France. To keep the position of leadership, Italian companies have to keep faith with their innovative and ‘adventurous’ spirit, which has always been a strong point. Where Design Week in Milan is concerned, my opinion is that the Salone and FuoriSalone are like living beings: they evolve on their own. The places ‘outside and inside the fair’ change from one year to the next: this is very positive, though it is getting more complicated to find your way around, due to the large number of events and the macrodimension of the Salone. It is almost impossible to see everything! The challenge lies in conserving vitality and spontaneity, while at the same time making things simpler for visitors, so they can choose what they want to see. Perhaps by concentrating things a bit more…” New for 2014: “I have designed Nubilo for Petite Friture, a meridienne made with many cushions, for maximum relaxation at all ages. Then the Windmill collection of poufs for Cividinia; the Portobello chandelier for Established&Sons, a contemporary take on the classic model; and, finally, the Cape lamp for Moustache, shown at the Rossana Orlandi space.”
“Today more than ever there is a need to be competitive. And to guarantee excellent performance. The important values are: innovation, service and strategy. But there are only certain brands and businessmen that have something more, a truly positive strategic vision. Most follow the pack and benefit from the glow of the true ‘enlightened ones.’ The fact remains that Milan still has a leadership role: nevertheless, it is necessary to give companies the means required to express their capacities to the fullest. The city also needs to be ready to host creativity in a more appropriate way. This is true above all for the FuoriSalone, which has always been a fundamental support in the use of spaces and the involvement not just of sector professionals but also of the public at large.” New for 2014: “We have worked with companies with whom we have a long, fertile relationship: Zanotta, Foscarini, Laufen and Zucchetti. We are increasingly convinced that we should make a careful selection, reducing the number of jobs, to concentrate on quality projects. Recently we have also been developing architectural projects, which will lead to new synergies and new products.”
“The habitat model, based on our experience in different countries in the world, is basically European. Even Japan and the United States apply it (in formal and symbolic terms). And Milan represents the synthesis and meeting point of all of European culture: so we can say that the city is the true international showcase of design and furnishings. But Milan is not just Italy: it is an international crossroads, and the drive towards internationalization has been reinforced in recent years. It is the meeting point between supply and demand of the highest quality on a worldwide level. The key word is ‘quality.’ The Salone del Mobile, then, manages to register the changes in habitat models: today we can see a different approach to spaces. It no longer makes sense to talk about a clear differentiation between the home and work: the spaces are more ‘liquid,’ and so are the relationships. In offices there is no longer a ‘professor’ who speaks from a pulpit, but work groups that interact, while in hospitals we can sense the need to humanize spaces more (and better).” New for 2014: “I have worked mostly for Arper, Discipline, Poltrona Frau, Enea, Verzelloni, Driade, Andreu World”.
“It is easy to think about the past and feel nostalgic. But times are changing and so is design Made in Italy: the era of the so-called ‘great masters’ is over, and the identity of Italian design has taken on worldwide importance, developing beyond national boundaries. The future of business, today, lies in the sharing of ideas, in growth and innovation. All companies that expect to be successful have understood this passage, and so has Made in Italy. The most farsighted entrepreneurs of Italian design recognize that the world is not just Italy, and are moving towards new markets. It is also this mixture of cultures that makes the encounter between foreign designers and Italian producers very interesting. In any case, we should not forget that it was precisely the willingness of Italian companies to be open to the input of international designers that made your design great. Where Milan is concerned, as a place that hosts the most influential design event in the world, I think the city continues to be one of the main centers of creative culture.” New for 2014: “This year I am showing new products for Calligaris and Dedon. In the FuoriSalone, there is an exhibition on certain new Man Made accessories, in collaboration with the magazine Dwell; and new Anwar LED lamps for a Spanish startup called Parachilna.”
“Can Italian industry still compete on international markets? What keeps our leadership position intact is the objective quality of the finished product, the result of unique know-how and craftsmanship. In this historical period Italian entrepreneurs have to come to terms with one of the most problematic taxation systems in Europe, so it is logical that the effort to be competitive on the market becomes twice as hard. Companies have to interact with markets in forceful economic expansion, creating a link between the unique values of Italian crafts and the tastes of extra-European clients. But Milan is still a world icon of design and fashion, and its Salone is an important event that puts the spotlights of the whole world on the Lombardy capital. Of course, today it is important to transform Milan into a truly ‘smart’ city, to properly welcome the thousands of visitors who share the same interests. Some suggestions: better interaction between Salone and FuoriSalone, to keep them from excluding each other; information that is easy to access on your smartphone, with real time updates on the events in progress; efficiency and quality of public transport; special visuals created for the occasion around the city. I think the work has to be created around visitors: the goal is to make people an integral part of the whole big mechanism of the Salone del Mobile!” New for 2014: “Alongside the companies I have worked with in the past – Poliform/ Varenna, Flou, Giorgetti, Flexform, Guzzini, Teuco – there are new experiences, with Driade, while in the field of fashion there are the Bentley Home and Trussardi Home collections. Finally, for San Patrignano, a benefit project.”
“Maybe I have a short-term view (says Erwan, ed.), but it is clear that what is happening today, what we know as design today, is closely linked to what was done in the past by companies like Cassina or Cappellini, just to name two of them whose histories are very familiar to me. So Milan is more than important. Our roots are there. Of course, in this moment we know an Italian industry whose methods and means have perhaps been a bit less successful than in the past, and this tarnishes its image, a bit. But it is just a situation of the last four or five years… Where the Salone del Mobile is concerned, I think it needs resizing, it has to get somewhat smaller and more selective. We’ve reached the point where it is really too much! I have no idea of this idea is feasible or not. It is true that today one characteristic of our world is the tendency to concentrate everything in one place: just consider the growth of cities. Companies too are getting bigger and bigger, and fewer and fewer in number. Milan, in a certain sense, with its Salone, has beaten everyone. The fair in Paris has vanished, and Cologne no longer has an important role like that of Milan, as a true showcase of new things. But now we have reached the point of ‘too much’: no one in Milan can manage to see everything and see it well!” New for 2014: “This year we have worked with many Italian companies, so I am very pleased (we tend to work mostly in Europe): Magis, Marazzi and Glas Italia. Then there are collaborations not necessarily connected with the Salone, like the interesting work with Mutina. I would also like to mention the textile project with Kvadrat and, finally, our constant working relations with Vitra.”