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“I strongly believe that everyday objects should be the result of a well balanced combination between narrative and functionality.”
~ Astrid Luglio
Astrid Luglio is an Italian product designer who's working at the intersection between design, food, and experience. Born in Naples and now based in Milan, Luglio has established an impressive portfolio that ranges from delicate glass decanters to charming tableware.
In addition to her solo projects, Luglio is also known for her work as one-quarter of design collective, The Ladies' Room. Together with Ilaria Bianchi, Agustina Bottoni, and Sara Ricciardi, the collective explores contemporary design through sensory involvement.
As one of DLISH’s featured designers, we interviewed Luglio to discuss all things design and to learn more about her most recent projects.
Monar Bavar: Can you tell us a little about yourself?
Astrid Luglio: I studied product design at NABA in Milan, which is where I now teach a design course called 'Small Objects'. After finishing my studies I started working in Milan before making the decision to move to Australia for a year. It was there that I had important life experiences through various jobs and travels.
When I was living in Melbourne I noticed that the people really cared for and paid attention to the food experience, from the design of a cup where they were drinking their regular “Latte” to the really nice curated interiors of the large number of bars and restaurants.
One of my most important experiences in Australia was working with a chef on a dinners project called 'Speak As You Eat' : ‘Parla come Mangi' in Italian. The monthly dinners were cultural rendez-vous that would include guests from various backgrounds who would come together to experience both the food and the atmosphere as well as to share their talents around a table for which the menu, the tableware, the music and the brand identity were curated by us.
I also come from a family in which the role of food was the centre of creativity. My dad is an entrepreneur and runs bars and restaurants. I have always appreciated the way he conceives his projects, where the food itself becomes a pretest to gather people and their ideas around a table.
MB: What do you enjoy more, these kinds of events or product design?
AL: I enjoy product design and that is what I am pursuing. Everything begins with what I call a sort of ‘obsession’, a deep research about a special ingredient, a recipe, a gesture, a story or an experience that I want to create and then it slowly becomes a product. That's the process most of the time. I take different elements, shake them around and then transform them into a product.
MB: Can you tell us about your work for Ichendorf Milano, TRAVASI?
AL: The idea of this collection was about pouring liquids from one packaging to another. I wanted to make many different types of containers where the protagonist was the funnel allowing you to pour the liquids you want - it can be water from the tap, coffee, milk, wine, oil.
I enjoy both the trends of the hyper customisation and the total depersonalisation of tools. We may drink a fresh glass of water from a crystal flute, or orange juice from a precious ceramic mug, essentially choosing inappropriate objects to enhance some simple daily experience. I like the idea of changing the use of the same object and to be free to experiment, that’s basically where the inspiration for the TRAVASI collection comes from.
MB: What does 'TRAVASI' mean?
AL: It's a play of words in Italian because 'vasi' means 'vases' but 'travasare' is a verb that means to pour liquids from one bottle to another.
MB: As a designer, what do you want to communicate?
AL: Everything starts from an experience that I want to create, a mix of narrative and functionality. What really guides me in a project is what I want to communicate, the story I want to tell, the emotions I want to ignite. For me, it is important to create a relationship with the objects.
MB: How can designers, like yourself, help to address the challenges facing our world today: environment, economy, pandemic?
AL: I think more and more we as a community, need to start working on projects that are sustainable in terms of a well balanced amount of effort and reward. To do so I also promote the dialogue and the confrontation with other professionals which is always a bit difficult in a competitive field like ours.
In my opinion we need to select projects that are made with sufficient economic backing and strong understanding of the process. It is crucial to be respectful of the slower timing behind valuable design and craftsmanship.
After the pandemic it became important to review the term “luxury”, which simply means to produce a quality product in a sufficient amount of time. It is important to push for processes that are slower but higher in quality. This applies to the design industry as well as the fashion industry.
It's okay to stop for a moment and ask ourselves what will our future choices be and what can we do as designers. It is also important that manufacturers and consumers ask themselves the same questions because designers can decide up until a certain point.
MB: Do you think design can be sustainable?
AL: Yes. Definitely.
MB: What is the story behind the Scarpetta Collection?
AL: The inspiration comes from Italy and the stories related to our customs and traditional recipes, some from hundreds of years ago. This project is a union of contemporary graphics mixed with vintage aesthetics. The enamelware is something that makes you think of the past while with the graphics, we wanted to give a fresh contemporary feeling. Each of the six plates tells a different historical story about the origin of popular recipes inspired by seasonal leftovers. It tells the story of how creative Italians were in the kitchen, using only what they had in the cupboard. It is where most of the Italian dishes we eat today originated from. Scarpetta is a project designed and produced with Ester Bianchi.
MB: You most recently worked with a team of chefs to create the Biodynamic Garden for the celebrated gastronomic competition, Bocuse d'Or. What was your inspiration behind the breathtaking design?
AL: Almost one year ago I was contacted by the Italian Academy of Bocuse d'Or to design a serving tray dedicated to their recipes. Bocuse d'Or is an internationally renowned gastronomic competition created by Paul Bocuse, taking place every two years. It is a long-lasting tradition with very strict and specific rules.
I had the chance to work with the Italian team pursuing a challenging process in which the design of the product had to communicate the recipes and vice versa. My inspiration comes from the Biodynamic Garden of the three Michelin stars restaurant Piazza Duomo at Alba founded by chef Enrico Crippa (President of the Italian Bocuse d'Or Academy).
In biodynamic agriculture, the cultivation and nourishment of the earth follow a specific philosophy, it is a ritual in total synergy with seasonality, biodiversity and moon phases. Each piece of the tray narrates this story displaying 14 courses in a structured path explored through a botanic landscape.
Detail from the Biodynamic Garden
MB: How was it working with chefs?
AL: I can say it was extremely interesting and challenging.
The result was in fact not just a mediation between their creative vision and mine, but also a rigorous confrontation with the competition's requirements.
MB: You are one of the co-founders of The Ladies’ Room – a place where you ‘engage matter and emotions’. Can you tell us more about the collective and your mission?
AL: It started in 2016 when I was invited to be a part of Operæ Design Fair in Turin. There I met a friend of mine, Sara Ricciardi who introduced me to the other two designers: Ilaria Bianchi and Agustina Bottoni. During this fair, we were exhibiting our products in the same room, called the 'Ladies' Portraits Room' which gets its name due to the many portraits of Saboudian women hung there. As we were four women presenting our individual projects at the same time in this historical room of the building, the people passing by started calling us 'The Ladies' Room'.
We thought it was a funny coincidence also related to the complicity of women going to the bathroom together - “the Ladies’ Room”. There we decided to try to go ahead with this experiment and begin exhibiting together as a design collective, putting a part all the individualism of the single character and exploring the power of cooperation. That is how The Ladies' Room was born.
This first exhibition was a lot about what happens during design weeks. One is completely bombarded and as a result, starts to become a bit passive to what they see. You are not active in the experience because you just see lots of different objects and at the end of the day you don't remember anything. We wanted to do something disruptive, where people can come in and have a sensorial experience.' I was working with the sense of smell, Sara with a soft and tickling touch, Agustina with celestial sounds, and Ilaria with a sensory oxymoron. Visitors were physically stimulated and involved in the exhibition. From that moment, creating multi-sensory experiences became our main goal.
In every type of exhibition we do, we try to push this concept that we like to engage matter with emotion, to mix expertise with materials and with craftsmanship, but also focus a lot on the emotion.
MB: Are you working on any new projects right now?
AL: I'm working now on a bunch of food-related projects. For example, there's a collection dedicated to the extra virgin olive oil that will be presented at the end of the month and a series of ceramic plates for a new upcoming restaurant in Parma. I'm also developing something new related to my first project: CAMERE OLFATTIVE a glass object specifically designed to smell liquids. If you put a few drops of really good balsamic vinegar, oils, whiskey, wine or perfume, you experience the aromatic bouquet of the liquid inside. This project has opened a world around the senses and multi-sensory experiences. In fact, since then, I've been contacted by different Maison of fragrances and I have started working with scent producers to design special editions of fragrance bottles and new devices to enjoy their creations.
So, there are often food and fragrances in my projects.
Click here to learn more about Astrid Luglio and to see her work.
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