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by Mona Bavar
"A true work of design must move people, convey emotions, bring back memories, surprise, go against the tide."
~ Alberto Alessi
Known for its whimsical and capricious products, Alessi design house has been bringing magic and joy to the kitchen for more than a century. Since taking the reigns of the family business in 1970, Alberto Alessi has successfully cultivated partnerships with renowned designers from around the world, including: Alessandro Mendini, Aldo Rossi, Philippe Starck, Richard Sapper, Ettore Sottsass, Zaha Hadid and many more - solidifying the Alessi brand as a leader in the global design field.
From working along side designers as the “desinger’s, designer”, blending Italian craftsmanship with modern aesthetics and functionality to producing high-quality wine in the ancient and complex vineyards surrounding Lake Orta in North Italy, Alberto’s passion for poetry and art serves as the motivation behind everything he does.
DLISH had the pleasure of speaking with the luminary behind the iconic Alessi “dream factory” about the artistic and poetic soul of design, the future of ‘Made in Italy’, as well as the Leonardo da Vinci inspired wine bottles designed by Alberto himself.
La Signora Eugenia e il passero solitario wine bottles by Alberto Alessi
Drawing by Martì Guixe
Mona Bavar: What is the first item you designed? Are you still designing?
Alberto Alessi: I’m not a designer. I’m maybe a designers’ designer, in the meaning I help designers to do their work. The first and only design I actually made is the one of the glass bottle of my wine I’m producing at my place in Lake Orta, named “La signora Eugenia e il passero solitario", the design was inspired by Leonardo da Vinci.
MB: What inspires you? What is your process? What do you like to communicate?
AA: Everyday objects are a constant inspiration for me. Our daily practice consists in trying to be mediators between the best current contemporary creative expressions and the public dreams with the final aim being to communicate through our objects Art and Poetry.
Michael Graves for Alessi
MB: What do you think defines Italian design?
AA: Alessi, as well as the other Italian design factories, interprets design as a comprehensive and creative discipline with an artistic and poetic matrix. Design is for us a new form of Art and Poetry; through our objects, we aim to respond to a desire for happiness as well as the dreams of people.
In addition, I can say that Italian design is the result of a practice which is common to all Italian Design factories: despite the fact that their catalogs contain products designed by so many international designers, there is in fact a common thread running through all their objects which makes them significantly Italian. The thread consists of the cultural project that is the basis of our work: constant research and mediation.
It is also important to underline another relevant feature of Italian design factories: our output is characterized by fine craftsmanship even if often produced with the aid of machinery. By this I mean that even if the technology and the instruments of work are contemporary and industrial, our deep practice has remained craft-based.
MB: Are all Alessi products made in Italy? If so, how long do you think this can continue given the current economic situation?
AA: Alessi products realized through the technology of stainless steel cold-pressing are all produced in Italy and, more specifically, in Crusinallo where the Production department is located alongside the Headquarters.
Stainless-steel items remain our core-business and through the years we have developed high level skills and know-how in this kind of production that we would like to keep based here in Italy.
Our catalogue (or as I prefer to name it, our ‘Alessi Encyclopedia’) is rich of objects which are composed of other different materials like ceramic, wood, plastic, glass, etc. Therefore, we produce them with the aid of suppliers which have the technologies for these materials. For example , wood items are produced close by in the Strona Valley here in the area, ceramic in Germany and Portugal, glass in Austria and Poland, plastic in Italy and Far East, etc.
Philippe Starck for Alessi
MB: What is your perspective for the future of design and the‘Made in Italy’ brand?
AA: I think we are living a transitional period - trying to define what the perspective could be is very difficult but for sure, the hard times we are all going through are teaching us a great deal and maybe this difficult lesson will give us, at some point, the skills for new and revolutionary ideas - also in design.
MB: How do you think COVID-19 will change your industry? For Alessi?
AA: I can only speak for Alessi, which will definitely continue to move in a more conscious and attentive direction, addressing consumer needs and their environment while staying true to the Alessi identity.
MB: What is your prediction for the world post-COVID?
AA: Human nature is having the ability to adapt, so I think, at some point, we will adapt to this new situation.
Zaha Hadid for Alessi
MB: As head of Alessi and as an important and influential figure in the design and business worlds, what message would you like to share with the many who are worried about an uncertain future?
AA: As a german friend of mine said, ‘Kopf hoch, alles wird gut gehen!’ (With heads held high, everything will be all right!).
MB: What does it mean to be sustainable in the design world? How important is it?
AA: It means to go in the direction of avoiding, as much as possible, any contrast with the environment, and witnessing the current situation it is of the utmost importance.
MB: Do you have any suggestions for up and coming designers?
AA: True design (as well as true architecture) should an expression of the times we are living in. The only suggestion I could give to upcoming designers is to always follow their nature and give as much freedom as possible to their creativity without losing contact with the current society and the environment.
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