Contardi, the encounter between decorative lighting and functionality

contardi, ongo, salone milano

Contardi, Ongo Battery, design Jessica Corr for Tzelan, photo courtesy

We met Massimo Brigandì, Contardi’s general manager, to learn about the birth, development and future challenges of a dynamic company that specializes in lighting

Contardi’s rapid growth is astonishing. This Italian family-run business with an entrepreneurial vision is gaining a solid international reputation. A result achieved with a sartorial approach, the variety of materials used and its search for the most innovative LED technologies. And then with the contribution of nationally and internationally renowned designers.

Massimo Brigandi, contardi, salone milano

Massimo Brigandì, General manager of Contardi

How and when was the Contardi company set up?

It was founded in 2006 by the Carcano family. It all grew out of the experience of Michele Carcano, who had worked as a prototyper in the Stilnovo company, acquiring considerable expertise in the lighting field. Then his daughter and son Paola and Achille decided to found Contardi, taking the name from their mother. At first they were small producers in the heart of Brianza who developed projects only for third parties. When I was taken on in 2006, I was asked to change the company’s approach and turn it into a brand with its own identity. So we set off on the path of renewal, presenting ourselves immediately in the world of international hospitality, where I had previous experience. The new adventure included a strategy with a clear division of tasks: I was in charge of business development, while the family devoted itself to all aspects of production and finance. I feel this is a wonderful approach.


How did this growth path develop?

Over time we have become a point of reference in the contract sector for the international community. But we realized we needed a serial product to continue to grow and not depend only on bespoke projects. So we launched the home division, developing the first catalogue with products we had already made. This long journey ended in 2021 and 2022, years of growth, with the response revealing great interest in our collection.


You are known worldwide as the "Couturier of Light". How did this definition come about?

I'll tell you how it happened. In March 2017, in New York, a columnist for the New York Times wrote an article about Contardi that was never published, after listening to a presentation of mine at a fair. In my speech I highlighted the cornerstones of the company: attention to detail, finishing, the mixture between fashion and the world of textiles. So in listening to my words, the columnist had described Contardi as “The couture of contemporary lighting”. A really apt definition that we’ve used many times.

stick, studiopepe, contardi, salone milano

Contardi, Stick collection, design Studiopepe, photo courtesy

Innovation and design. How do you merge these two factors?

In the new 2022 catalogue, just presented, we have defined the claim "Blending technology and creative design". A mix of creativity and functionality, precisely because we have set ourselves the goals of giving a new shape to lighting. It is certainly a very ambitious program, but we believe that decorative lighting has to become substantially functional. We have worked on developing an archidecorative concept. An idea that provides a semi-architectural function that at the same time can illuminate any interior.


How has the world of lighting evolved in recent years?

It’s a rapidly evolving world. Technological changes and regulatory requirements have revolutionized it over the past three years. In some cases for the better and in others for the worse. In order to export to some markets we have to invest in certifications. In addition, technological evolution is proceeding rapidly and needs to be applied to what is a design-based system. Bringing the two together is clearly not always easy. Those who have the strength and not just the vision to do so, in organizational and financial terms, I believe will succeed in moving to the next level of growth. 


And how do you imagine the role of light in the home of the future?

We imagine light not only at home, but in all the settings where light is important. Our experience comes from hotels, spas and restaurants. We then moved into the yacht-building sector and finally the outdoor world. As we see it, lighting needs to become the essential element for living well, because without proper lighting our well-being also changes significantly. We want to be transversal in the solutions we can offer simultaneously for different environments. We think that everything has to be modular, variable and compatible.

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Contardi, Emma, design Contardi Studio, photo courtesy

How do you select your designers?

Some are designers we’ve worked with on various hospitality projects internationally. As for the new partnerships with Federico Peri and Studio Pepe, they arose from the need to have a different viewpoint. We looked carefully at the work of numerous designers to identify the ones who seemed right to interpret this new phase. And both proved perfect. Federico Peri was a great interpreter of the move to a really charming Contardi, a Contardi that looks at lighting as the perfect combination of decorative and functional features. Studio Pepe marks the completion of this approach. The new Stick collection developed from simplicity of form, the triangle, interpreted by an outfit with a somewhat philosophical vision of the product. This project was well above our expectations and we’re very proud of it.


What does the Salone del Mobile mean to you?

It's a somewhat theatrical moment for meeting all the most important players, but it’s also the time when we’re really put to the test to show what we can do. It’s an opportunity to display our vision. 


What are the challenges ahead? And which markets are you targeting?

Definitely growth. Our main market is Europe, with a very balanced and steady vision of sales distribution. We’re also present in the Middle East. In 2019 we gave a significant boost to American sales by opening an office-showroom in SoHo, opened two weeks ago. We’re counting heavily on the American market over the next two years.


Sustainability is a crucial issue for a lot of businesses. How is Contardi dealing with it?

We’re among the few medium-sized businesses that have published a sustainable rulebook and related strategy. We’ve assessed the matter in depth and not only formally. In fact, almost 80% of everything related to packaging has been transformed. The number of suppliers has also been reduced to identify zero-mile partners. In addition, some processes have been eliminated to use only eco-sustainable paints. A very important process calling for research time and technical analysis. A staff member from our technical office was engaged for over three months in conducting the analysis and assessments to make the transition.

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Contardi, Asia, design Federico Peri, photo courtesy

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Contardi, Calypso, design Servomuto, photo courtesy

stick, contardi, salone milano

Contardi, Stick collection, design Studiopepe, photo courtesy

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22 December 2022