By Valentina Croci

Local supply, global markets Lago Objects powered by Lovli is a selection of small Italian businesses selling exclusive products at the web portal and in the stores of Lago in Italy, France and Germany.

The selected companies are Acquaefuoco, I Love Legno, Habits, Serafino Zani, Ceramiche Calcaterra and Marmi 1948. “The initiative,” says Daniele Lago, CEO of Lago, “was the result of the need to give our own sales network tools that would have a positive impact on traffic in the stores, while at the same time we were moving more decisively onto the web, which is essential to meet global challenges. On the other hand, Lovli needed to expand the distribution of the companies in its network. Dall’unione delle due realtà è nata Lago Objects Powered by Lovli, una selezione di oltre 40 prodotti per la casa, 100% made in Italy, che si possono trovare solo nei punti vendita che espongono Lago. I negozianti ordinano i prodotti della linea Objects direttamente dal portale che si occupa della consegna (sotto la nostra supervisione). Il flusso è operativo dal 15 giugno. Per la scelta dei prodotti si parte da un brief di Lago al quale segue una proposta di Lovli che, in base alla propria esperienza sul consumatore, propone dei concept da sviluppare con le aziende del network. Si procede alla scelta dei nomi più promettenti e si stilano le linea guida per il fine-tunning di prodotto. The cooperation between the two firms has led to Lago Objects Powered by Lovli, a selection of over 40 products for the home, 100% made in Italy, found only at points of sale that display Lago. Dealers order the products of the Objects line directly from the portal, which takes care of delivery (under our supervision). The system has been up and running since 15 June. The choice of products starts with a Lago brief followed by a proposal by Lovli, which based on its experience with consumers presents concepts to develop with the companies of the network. Then the most promising names are chosen and guidelines are developed for the fine-tuning of the product. After two prototype phases we reach the final product, which in a few weeks is made available to the sales network. The goal is to supply dealers with a constant flow of new items, as in fashion. Furnishing complements, with very high turnover, can be an ideal tool for generating store traffic. The Objects line is also an opportunity to bring new Italian designers to the fore, such as the talented Studio Habits or Marmi1948, a young company that brings design into the world of marble”.

In praise of everyday life

Founded in 2008 and run by Gianluca Corbari, the brand Atipico looks for a path away from the routine, expressed by objects and complements with a minimal aesthetic and a language that lasts in time, quality materials and fine workmanship, 100% made in Italy. Behind this there has to be talent scouting and a fertile dialogue with young designers like Federico Angi, Fabio Meliota, Antonino Sciortino, Carlo Trevisani and Zaven. Corbari explains: “We stand out for continuous research on materials, also traditional ones like wood, iron and ceramics, reinterpreted with contemporary languages but within the tradition of making. We experiment with the physical nature of the object and production processes, trying to bring out the soul of the materials. Up to this point it has been the designers who choose Atipico. They know about historical techniques and Italian productive culture. Many come from family manufacturing firms and have direct knowledge of Italian fabrics. Generally we find a good reservoir, at a good level of training. With some we have established a relationship of mutual consulting, beyond the definition of an individual product. I ask them to find that detail, that extra stroke that makes the difference, but without making a product that is over-designed. I mostly work with Italian designers, though they are not the only ones in our range, because it makes it easier for us to understand each other, thanks to a shared culture. But there are also many foreigners who want to learn about our way of living and our know-how. In the future we will explore furnishing areas that have not been developed, like small furnishings, armchairs, desks or display cases. It is a market that still has space, but only for well-made things that stand out and are not too commercial. And things must be affordable, because it is important to recoup that middle band of the market that is vanishing.”

Wagering on personalities

With his debut as art director in 2013, Giorgio Biscaro changes the direction for FontanaArte, in a philological operation that pays homage to the historic designers of the lighting company now in its eighties, such as Ponti or Chiesa, but also looks at Italian contemporary design culture, based on irony and typological innovation. Biscaro explains: “I have worked with GamFratesi (half Italian), Emmanuel Babled (who has worked a lot in Italy, inheriting certain particulars of our way of doing design), Studio Klass and Zaven to get back to basic concepts like emotion, experimentation and warmth. My main effort goes into analysis of the great quantity of projects that arrive at the company every day. Nevertheless, I prefer to communicate a brief to one specific designer, chosen on the basis of their way of doing things, and to develop the project together with them, respecting their professionalism. It is risky work, with little margin for error in my judgements. Research represents, on its own, a large part of my work. Ferréol Babin, for example, was contacted after I saw his thesis project on a French blog. The panorama of Italian design under 35 is varied. On the one hand, there is a generation of professionals, trained and gifted, with a specific attitude that offers hope for a positive future. On the other, there is a group of designers that pay little attention to the discipline and know little about the cultural processes that have led to the birth of what we call design today, which cannot be separated from an understanding of our sociocultural past. It takes a lot of commitment and a certain amount of self-critique.”

Talent incubator

Pedrali, the Bergamo-based brand in the contract sector, stands out for its wide range of products and its mixture of more ‘structured’ designers and young Italian talents. This was the firm that wagered on the still unknown Odoardo Fioravanti, who has now won the Compasso d’Oro for his Frida chair. Giuseppe Pedrali, CEO of the company, explains: “In the new collection we have underlined the central role of wood and upholstery alongside plastic materials. Solutions that come from experimentation with materials and technologies: like the graft of the legs of the Babila stool, designed by Fioravanti, without added supports, or the system of attachment of the arms of the Flag coat rack by Pio and Tito Toso. We like to work with people with whom we have a good relationship, sharing ideas and dreams. Collaborations come from different paths and sensibilities, sharing the desire to interpret our production approach, which thanks to in-house handling of most of the work translates into quality products at competitive prices. We pay attention to the work of certain designers we admire, and we meet regularly with some of them to swap ideas. Or we receive and evaluate proposals from designers we don’t know. Odoardo Fioravanti arrived in 2007 with the prototype of a polypropylene chair that used gas air molding technology. He knew we were working with that. We didn’t know him. It was a wager for both parties. Young Italian designers know they can draw on a historical repertoire of great value. With respect to their foreign colleagues, they also have the good luck to be close to many excellent manufacturing firms. Their best contribution lies in design ideas that mix memory, technical know-how and creativity.”

Small objects for talent scouting

Giulio Cappellini has always been interested in discovering young talents in the world. For many, this encounter has been like a launching pad. For the Progetto Oggetto collection of the Cappellini brand the designer-entrepreneur has chosen certain Italian creative talents under 30 (Antonio Facco, Antonio Forteleoni, Mist-O and Leonardo Talarico) to create a group of furnishing complements with an accent on crafts and Italian manufacturing, as opposed to Chinese plastic molded items. Giulio Cappellini: “Usually when I start a relationship it is not to do just one project, but to construct a story that can last in time. The right feeling is fundamental. I have to respect the expressive freedom of the designer, and he has to know what Cappellini can do. Small items are often the first step, often proposed by the designers themselves. I may be struck by a sketch, a prototype or just the person. The choice is instinctive, from the heart. To create a product today requires lots of time and effort: both parties have to want to narrate something new for the market, to make an object that is better than the one from ten years ago. It is important to know how to use technology to design, but also how to make models, prototypes, monitoring the progress of products step by step, independently or with the development division of companies. I see the increase in self-production among young Italian designers as a positive development. Our young designers have to come to terms with a great history and culture of design, with immense personalities famous around the world. The confrontation can and must be a stimulus to work on innovation and contemporary languages. Young designers need to have patience: if they are good, sooner or later someone will notice.”

Analog-digital creativity

A Trent-based brand and pioneer of industrial 3D printing in Italy, .Exnovo has made a name for itself with a collection of lamps by young Italian designers – Alessandro Zambelli, Gio Tirotto and Stefano Rigolli, 4P1B and Lanzavecchia + Wai – that showcase the unlimited formal potential of this process, and the craftsmanship typical of Made in Italy. Giulia Favaretto, marketing director of the brand, explains: “We have wagered on young Italian designers, already known on the scene, to give us a distinctive character summed up in objects that make design culture their forte. We work with young people because they are more familiar with digital technologies as production processes and design tools. The collaborations start with workshops at the company, where we explain our vision of technology. Digital printing offers almost infinite creative freedom, but it should not be an end in itself. It has to be integrated with the manufacturing culture from which it draws. All the 3D printed products are finished by hand, with an attention to detail that makes them closer to one-offs than to industrial products. The output of .Exnovo comes from a hybrid of expertise, between the digital and the crafts spheres, which the designers then emphasize. Materic contrasts like wood or glass with the 3D printing material, and the know-how reflected in the objects, represent the quintessence of Made in Italy. The designers have proven they can make unique things, and are willing to take risks: the compositional freedom of 3D printing can be bewildering in the initial phase of creation. In the future we will involve other young designers and artisans, to take the materic and design contamination further. We will be focusing on fine crafts and models that are capable of communicating the innovation of 3D printing.”

Strategies through design

From an importer of Chinese objects Seletti has become a manufacturer of furnishing complements known around the world for its variegated collections that share irony, originality and reinterpretation of existing things. The creative director and sales manager Stefano Seletti owes the firm’s success to his intuitions, but also to the contributions of young designers like Alessandra Baldereschi, CtrlZak, Marcantonio Raimondi Malerba and Alessandro Zambelli, leading to a market breakthrough. “The collaboration with Alessandro Zambelli, the first designer of the Seletti team, started due to geographical proximity and the personal need to translate my ideas into projects, since I don’t have those skills,” Stefano Seletti explains. “With the Estetico Quotidiano line there was a breakthrough, and we opened up to more collaborations. They happened to be with Italians, because our company was mostly known in Italy, but we haven’t ruled out working with foreign designers. These contributions have been important to create a more mature, well-defined product, with greater attention to detail, which for a company that comes from the world of large retailers meant a commercial repositioning, a higher target. While ten years ago about 80% of sales came from larger retail stores, today the figure is just 5%, while the rest is accounted for by retailers specializing in design. We have conducted important experiments with designers: the Wire models by Zambelli – metal gym lockers transformed, with a few details, into domestic furnishings – allow a ready-made to change its positioning and its distribution network. With Marcantonio Raimondi Malerba we are rethinking the classic, with an operation that is closer to art than to design. We don’t want to be like the Nordic companies in this field, we want to be more colorful, systematic and creative. More Italian, that is.”

Materic and generational contaminations

On sale starting this fall, the Code project by Calligaris ushers in a series of lamps and furnishing complements that round out the offerings of the Friuli-based firm while existing independently, with its own brand and sales network. The objects are designed by Stefano Claudio Bison, Busetti Garuti Redaelli, Matteo Cibic, Michele Menescardi, Mr Smith Studio, Pio and Tito Toso, selected by the brand agency Nascent, the artistic director of Code, and Massimo Cian, director of the Calligaris research and development division. Andrea Bocchiola, in charge of marketing for the company, comments: “Code is a talent incubator for young Italian designers with characteristics of originality and strong image. The products can be combined with the Calligaris collection because they have common finishes and lines, as well as coordinated colors. It is an ‘in-management,’ namely integrated with the productive logic of Calligaris, with the same consumer target. It is ‘smart’ in the sense of simplicity, functional quality and practicality at a competitive price. Thanks to the independent sales network, Code can help us to create different contacts with the public. Furnishing complements represent an important business opportunity, because with respect to sofas or beds there is much more sales turnover. We have chosen Italian designers to restore value to a legacy of know-how that has inspired entire generations, and to underline our Italian character. Calligaris is once again 100% Italian, now that Alessandro Calligaris has bought back the company shares. We want to increase our patronage of young talents. We turn to designers with experience, but in the future, perhaps in a project parallel to Code, we want to work with even younger people, offering the chance to come into contact with a structured company, while being distributed all over the world with our network of 480 stores in 90 countries.”