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The “X Factor” of Italian Design


From a country dedicated to agriculture and craftsmanship to an anti-rationalist model for post-fascist Europe and a beacon of the design world, ELLE Decoration UK dives into the historical path of “Made in Italy” and its success – the result not just of beauty and functionality, but of joy and friendship too

Caroline Roux is our guide on a journey that begins in the 1960s and 1970s with some of the most iconic Made in Italy design pieces, from Achille Castiglioni’s timeless Arco to Aldo Rossi’s Conica and the Cupola, small coffeemakers/architectural items for Alessi. Alongside these evergreen designs, an anti-rationalist vein emerged with Studio65 and its pop approach, a flagship example being Gufram’s Pratone, not to mention Sottsass’s fantasy laminates and the boom in postmodern design led by Memphis Design in 1982. Other successful examples cited by ELLE Decoration UK include Antonio Citterio’s work for Flexform, Max, in 1983, and Charles for B&B Italia in 1997. The success of “Made in Italy” products continued into the 1990s thanks to the work of international designers such as Philippe Starck, Jasper Morrison, Ron Arad, Naoto Fukasawa, Patricia Moroso, Patricia Urquiola... Opening up to talents beyond Italy’s borders ensured that Italian Design continued to predominate. As well as developing such synergies, Italy boasts craftsmanship skills and material innovation: B&B Italia’s injection of PU foam, Kartell’s manipulation of plastic, the success of Sorrento-based Agostino di Salerno, from which Gio Ponti commissioned thirty different tile designs for the Hotel Parco dei Principi... “That same Italian savoir faire is still going strong,” says Jay Osgerby of the Barber Osgerby duo, who designed the Loop desk for Cappellini in 1998.
The Design sector has in part been sustained by family ties that, despite changes over the years, remain strong at companies like Kartell and Poliform, even if some other firms, for example Flos, are no longer owned by their founding families.
But there’s more to it all than just family businesses, famous collaborations or craftsmanship: “Made in Italy” is also a summation of passion and friendship, the words Anastassiades chooses to describe his recent collaboration with Carlo Molteni, sharing recollections of his initial experience with Flos in 2011, between lunch at a pizzeria and a soccer match in Naples, enjoyed with Piero Gandini and the waiters from the restaurant.




Text: Caroline Roux

Photo: courtesy of ELLE Decoration

Magazine: ELLE Decoration

Publisher: Hearst UK, The National Magazine Company Ltd

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4 September 2021