For several months now Giulio Iacchetti, perhaps the most important Italian designer of the generation of the Zeroes, has been working as the art director of Danese, for which in April he presented the collection “Ricuciture”: design interventions that set out to create a relationship between the past and present of the brand. In all, the effort involves twelve items, including new projects and reissues, linking back to three directions of research: the focus on the past, on objects that are part of the history of Danese and deserve to be rediscovered for the timely pertinence; the creation of objects of relation, capable of interacting with each other and with the families of already existing products; the exploration of areas not yet investigated by the Milan-based company, such as that of personal accessories.
Thirty percent solid knowledge, thirty of lightness, thirty of passion… and the other ten? You tell me... what is needed to move forward with the work you are doing for Danese?
After passion, lightness and knowledge, I would add 10% of respect for the brand’s history, for the people who work there, for those who manage and invest, for a radical background that calls for equally radical attention. With a company like Danese the risk is to shift from being an art director to being a custodian and restorer of ‘antiquities,’ if you stick to closely to that area of expertise. Enzo Mari, many years ago, had the intuition of putting a steel girder on the Danese table and calling it a tray; out of respect for that story, we cannot simply dust it off as if it were an archaeological relic. We have almost a moral obligation to forge a path of equal intensity and courage.
You say that your work for Danese is a sort of ‘laboratory,’ a term that expresses a precise responsibility, but also a condition of privilege: that of experimenting, making mistakes, attempts, discoveries with which you have to cope. What form does a ‘laboratory’ take in a contemporary, sustainable sense of the term?
The laboratory is a place of experimentation, trials, (new) paths to be tested; it is the opposite of the factory, where already tested processes move forward along a monotonous assembly line. With Danese I would like to give thought the time it needs to be shaped around new ideas of distribution, of proposition of products, of alliances between compatible and comparable brands from the viewpoint of image, communicative force... I would like to try to create contemporary paths, looking to the web, the digital world, trying to establish a dialogue with the leading players that operate on the international design scene.
I have the impression that for you the label ‘artistic director’ is a rather tight fit. More generally, I am prompted to say that today, inevitably, those who design for a company, at all levels, cannot help but also design the market, the distribution, a new audience.
It depends what you mean by artistic direction. In our world, unfortunately, it is seen as a military occupation of all the creative roles inside a company. For me, on the other hand, it means surrounding yourself with design intellects that are different from yours, to be ready to approach the new challenges of the market. The true issue is to always find new counterparts with whom to establish a relationship, a new audience for new products.
In my view, historic design brands bask in the idea of having a fixed position in the imaginary of generations: but obviously that is not the case, and it will not suffice to be included in the permanent collections of the most important design museums, in order to feel like you can stay above the competition. Brands are quickly forgotten, in spite of their history. We need to break out of the inner circles of the sector and the historic audience of reference (that wants to crystallize things inside a world of melancholy nostalgia), to get in touch with new generations thanks to correct products, gauged to respond to new needs, that provide the cue to narrate what Danese has been able to do with its legendary and iconic products, once you have caught people’s attention.
Is it possible that the traditional role of the designer, as you understand it in your poetics, is expanding towards the design of processes, systems, economics? Is this a new ‘political’ path for design, in your view?
We are (luckily) forced to think and to look beyond the product. I always like drawing, but I also like outlining new scenarios where brands can move, come together, combining perspectives towards shared objectives, after which they can return to their autonomous progress… Obviously I have already gotten an idea of the steps to take in this direction, I have already called in young and talented designers to work in a strategic, precise way with an eye on these objectives, which are shared and supported by Carlotta de Bevilacqua (president of the company, ed): she welcomed me years ago into Danese as a designer, granting me attention and trust. Now, with a different role but still together, we want to give this brand a future that is just as intense as its past.