25 November 2020

Design Parade (Part 2)

Here’s the second edition of our Design Parade, a wide-ranging and diversified look at furnishing production during this immensely complicated 2020. Now, after sustainability, outdoor and green, after social network, colour and Eighties-derived inspiration, it’s time to talk about re-editions and the influence fashion and art have always exerted on design, in order to put together a new grammar of beauty that does not exclude the functional and at all costs avoids being described as a trend. Furnishing that can generate synergies and trigger cross-pollination between different worlds, geographically or in time.


Another signal that seems impossible to underestimate comes from the fashion world, and this is a paean, sometimes also a reaction, to the new diktat that “disorder is the new order.” On one hand, there is a mixture of fabrics, references, styles, hours of the day, genders, parts of the home, as seen on the catwalks, and on the other some manufacturers are responding more challengingly with new forms of austerity, a tendency towards monochrome (no matter how multi-material) and a sophisticated choice of materials. Basically, a total refutation of street style. Several leading art directors in particular, such as Antonio Citterio, Piero Lissoni and Rodolfo Dordoni, are thinking along these lines.

Another point of contact between fashion and design clearly consists of botanical inspiration. Those stunning gardens that make clothing, hats and shoes “blossom” in fashion, decorating the walls of sets for interior design photoshoots. When it comes to products, this phytomorphic approach brings with it a return to all those natural materials that range from cane to wicker to raffia, woven with skill, the “synthetic” versions of which are used outdoors while the natural versions are used in verandas and living rooms.

Designed by Massimo Castagna for Exteta, the upholstered collections – including the wicker-framed upholstered Jungle Collection and Rossiccio pouffe - are a case in point. Christophe Pillet’s use of paper cord and rush, contrasting with a spare stainless-steel structure for his Echoes chairs for Flexform is also interesting.

www.exteta.it - www.flexform.it

Echoes, design by Christophe Pillet, Flexform

Patricia Urquiola leverages the concept of dressmaking, and certain technical garments such as anoraks, in particular, in her new swivelling armchair design for Cappellini: named Lud’o, in honour of Ludovico (known to all as Vico) Magistretti, with removable, easily changed padded covers, which attach to the frame with Velcro. When it comes to semi-finished products, the new Helia bouclé upholstery fabric conceived by Raf Simons for Kvadrat has to be flagged up, reprising the diktats of haute couture and referencing Astrakhan fur.
www.cappellini.com - www.kvadrat.dk

Lud’o, design by Patricia Urquiola, Cappellini


There is a general trend towards the production of good quality objects, destined by default to last well over time. In this sector, there is a very specific and increasingly crowded niche for pieces designed in the past. These also boast a physical ability to “survive,” demonstrating that iconic objects are, by definition, impervious to the passing of time and fashion. Furnishing projects are increasingly fuelled by nostalgia. However, when the vogue for re-editions first emerged, nostalgia channelled a very precise timeframe and geographical area, but it now appears to be fairly distributed. This means that we are seeing the return of pieces by the masters of Italian design – the Kyoto coffee table, that masterpiece of cabinetry from Poltrona Frau, originally made by Pierluigi Ghianda and designed by Gianfranco Frattini in 1974; and while on the subject of superlative cabinet-making, the extraordinary and anomalous talent of Carlo Mollino is being brought back under the spotlight, with a number of pieces from Zanotta. Tato is continuing with the reissue of pieces designed by Ignazio Gardella for the unforgettable Azucena (see, this year, the small Stand table from 1952). Acerbis (MDF Group) is showcasing the Jot chair, designed by Giotto Stoppino in 1976, and the Plico trolley, also from 1976, originally designed by Richard Sapper for Bilumen, is back in production with Alessi.
www.poltronafrau.com/en - www.zanotta.it/en-us - www.tatoitalia.com - www.acerbisdesign.com/en/ - https://alessi.com/

Plico, design by Richard Sapper, Alessi

Carl Hansen & Son is continuing its re-launch of the Danish master Børge Mogensen: the enormously sophisticated BM0488 bench, made of solid oak with a double woven cane top is worthy of note.

BM0488, design by Børge Mogensen, Carl Hansen & Søn

However, more neglected designers are beginning to resurface, thanks to careful study and the sponsoring of archives; for example, the German e15 company has re-edited the Stuttgart tub chair and the Zet kilim designed by Bauhaus exponent Richard Herre, for his own home in around 1927.

Sedia Stuttgart, kilim Zet, design by Richard Herre, e15

Lastly, the past is also an indirect source of inspiration. It is not just a matter of the re-editing of specific pieces, however, but the re-channelling of a certain vintage “feel.” The 70’s-inspired bar on wheels (the typology itself is somehow “citationist”), with the accompanying Host trolley, by Adam D. Tihany for Giorgetti belongs in this category. The Ago table designed by Alfredo Häberli for Alias references the golden age of Scandinavian design, while the Gould sofa by Piero Lissoni for Knoll International cites Fifties America.
www.giorgettimeda.com/en - https://alias.design/en-us - www.knoll-int.com

Gould, design by Piero Lissoni, Knoll International

Some brands are punting on their more recent past in order to come up with pieces that can be described as “timeless” – thus Kartell is reproposing the Battista and Gastone trolleys designed by Antonio Citterio with Glen Oliver Löw and originally produced in 1991 (it seems like yesterday, but 29 years have passed!).

Even further back, in time and space, is the Jeko outdoor collection designed by Paola Navone for Gervasoni, using ethnic-Indonesian recovered wood. While at his Roma upholstery at Fornasetti, Vito Nesta is conjuring up the atmospheres of archaeological digs.

Another approach worthy of note is the leveraging by brands of their own “heritage” (one of the most common buzzwords, used both appropriately and inappropriately of late) – for instance, the Finnish company Nikari has showcased its Basic table, designed by Jenni Roininen, adhering to strict principles of craftsmanship.
www.kartell.com - www.gervasoni1882.it/en - www.jannellievolpi.it/en - https://nikari.fi/

Basic, design by Jenni Roininen, Nikari


The obsession with “handmade” or at least “hand finished” products has driven projects and, especially, communication over the last few months. Often it’s a case of “pseudo-artisan,” and for the following two reasons: the first, obviously, consists of the impossibility of supplying a global market with products genuinely and entirely “made by hand.” The second, which is much more subtle, relates to consumer demand for pieces characterised by the precision, perfection and uniformity typical of manufacturing. It has to be said that the “real” market is loath to accept “the differences” that artisan processes bring with them. As regards the fabrique des savoir-faire (to use the same pay-off), the example always cited is Hermès: the French fashion house, set up in 1838, which is also active in the tableware and furnishing sectors, and which is acknowledged as the epitome of savoir-faire thanks to the precision of its manufacturing and its rehabilitation of ancient artisan skills. The signal that sounds loud and clear to the entire furnishing sector is that there is a need to design an art of living, not just consumer goods. Examples of this include the Stac collection by the young designer Giacomo Moor for Desalto, which combines black powder-coated sheet steel and premium woods with 45° interlocks to create a stacking system that leaves no margin for error. Antonio Citterio’s Gregory sofa for Flexform is also faultless, with its metal base and elasticated leather straps that support the seat cushions.
www.desalto.it - www.flexform.it

Gregory, design by Antonio Citterio, Flexform


It was clear that the furniture industry, initially caught on the hop by the phenomenon that is art design (i.e. the work of designers featured in galleries), would cotton on fast to its new potential for the sector. So, in an obvious oxymoron, we see objects similar to those that have done so well in galleries “going into production,” perhaps in limited editions. One such example is the precious CAP 53 lost-wax cast bronze vases, reproduced from original models designed by Angelo Mangiarotti in 1962, now issued in a 100-strong series by Agapecasa.
As we said earlier on the subject of craftsmanship and industry, these pieces are more of a guarantee of impeccable manufacture than artworks, and are destined to last considerably longer; Marcel Wanders studio’s Echo vitrine for Fiam, its glass sides reminiscent of Flemish lace, for instance.
www.agapecasa.it - www.fiamitalia.it

Echo, design by Marcel Wanders studio, Fiam

And the NYNY container, distinguished by the irregularity of its volumes, designed by Storagemilano for Gebrüder Thonet Vienna.

NYNY, design by storagemilano, Gebrüder Thonet Vienna

Then there are also the stackable bases in varying sculptural forms (also in patinated bronze) for the Gullwing tables designed by Gabriele and Oscar Buratti and produced by Lema.

Gullwing, design by Gabriele e Oscar Buratti, Lema

The boldly minimalist Rope chair by Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec for Artek (Vitra Group), featuring marine-grade rope that issues unexpectedly from the tubular steel frame, also conforms to this trend.

Rope Chair, Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec, Artek


Related to some extent to the above trend, there is increasing demand for customisable products. Company collection catalogues become mere suggestions, while sizes, materials and colours are adapted to cater to client demand, achieving such wildly different final results as to appear almost unrecognisable. The Boutique Mast system, conceived by Piero Lissoni for Porro is certainly a step in that direction, with doors like secret entrances, intended to act as a filter between living and sleeping areas. Bespoke products are a major test of flexibility, which the Italian companies have been working towards for some time in their own inimitable way, in the contract markets, the hotel trade in particular.

Boutique Mast, design by Piero Lissoni, Porro
Photo Kasia Gatkowska

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