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Art Design How Italian Brand Kartell Stays Creative With Biodegradable Plastic Furniture And Moschino Lamps

How Italian Brand Kartell Stays Creative With Biodegradable Plastic Furniture And Moschino Lamps

How Italian Brand Kartell Stays Creative With Biodegradable Plastic Furniture And Moschino Lamps
By Hong Xinying
By Hong Xinying
December 24, 2019
Kartell, which is available in Singapore at Space Furniture and Lifestorey, celebrates its 70th anniversary with innovative collaborations and environmentally-conscious production of its iconic furniture

Public backlash against plastics has been gaining momentum, even though it is only one of many other urgent environmental concerns. The reason the reputation of this synthetic material has taken a beating stems largely from the consequences of plastic pollution. But the truth is more complex than that; there is a significant difference between single-use plastics and polycarbonate pieces that are made to last.

This distinction holds true for Italian design company Kartell, which has made its name with a combination of innovative design and eco-conscious advances in its production of plastic furniture.

(Related: This Eco-Conscious Furniture Brand Makes It Easy To Go Green)

Lorenza Luti, marketing and retail director of Kartell
Lorenza Luti, marketing and retail director of Kartell

Turning 70 this year, the firm has also experimented with other materials such as plywood, using sustainable production methods that minimise material wastage. The company also achieved Greenguard certification, a programme by the US Environmental Protection Agency and the State of Washington that certifies low chemical impact on the indoor environment. Additionally, all raw materials used during the production process as well as the packaging materials for Kartell products are recyclable.

President and CEO Claudio Luti took over the company from founder Giulio Castelli in 1988, and has worked with acclaimed designers and young talents around the world to create a wide variety of collections. His son Federico and daughter Lorenza, work as the company’s commercial director and marketing and retail director respectively.

“We always find something new to put on the market,” says Lorenza. “Our plastic products are very different from the ones used in plastic bottles. They last a lifetime and you can find them in museums; they could be completely recyclable if you want them to be.” Here, Lorenza discusses her family’s design tradition and future plans. 

(Related: Here's Why Minimalists Will Love Australian Furniture Brand SP01)

One of the rooms in The Art Side of Kartell, an exhibition designed by Ferruccio Laviani held at Palazzo Reale during Milan Design Week
One of the rooms in The Art Side of Kartell, an exhibition designed by Ferruccio Laviani held at Palazzo Reale during Milan Design Week

Tell us more about the family history behind Kartell.
Lorenz Luti (LL)
Before buying the company from my grandfather (founder Giulio Castelli), my father was managing Gianni Versace, the fashion brand. He founded Versace with Gianni Versace and managed the company from the beginning to 1988.

When he arrived at Kartell, he started a new way of working with plastic. His first product was the Dr. Glob chair, created with Philippe Starck in the 1980s. It was sharp and angular; when he presented it at Salone del Mobile, they did not even understand that it was made of plastic, it was a very innovative chair. From the late ’80s until now, he has worked with designers including Piero Lissoni, Patricia Urquiola, Tokujin Yoshioka and Marcel Wanders; a team from all over the world.

(Related: Tatler 10: Fashion-Forward Furniture In Your Home, Designed by Gucci Decor, Fendi Casa And More)

Designed by Kartell co-founder Anna Castelli Ferrieri, the iconic Componibili storage unit is now available in a bioplastic version that is biodegradable
Designed by Kartell co-founder Anna Castelli Ferrieri, the iconic Componibili storage unit is now available in a bioplastic version that is biodegradable

How did your family’s design tradition shape your childhood?
LL
I grew up with pieces by Italian designers such as Vico Magistretti and Antonio Citterio, while working with these designers; they became part of the family. For us, when we choose a designer, we like them to be with us for a very long time, it’s not a short collaboration.

I have the Kabuki lamp in my home, the Venice chair on my terrace and also the Bourgie lamp. In my family home I have the Componibili storage, designed by my grandmother (Anna Castelli Ferrieri). This is still a big success (even after) 50 years. My father began investing in this company that works on bioplastics; after three years, we managed to arrive at a material that is 100 per cent biodegradable. Before, the company was working on bioplastics for cosmetics and small objects; so the difficulty was in using this bioplastic material for furniture. If you put it back in nature, after a certain time, it decomposes.

(Related: How German Designer Stefan Diez's Family Heritage In Cabinetmaking Shaped His Creative Approach)

A section displaying some of the iconic chairs by Kartell, shown at the Salone del Mobile fair in Milan
A section displaying some of the iconic chairs by Kartell, shown at the Salone del Mobile fair in Milan

What are some of the brand’s key milestones?
LL
Kartell has an identity and DNA that have been the same since the beginning: design, innovation, industrial production and plastic materials. The milestones in the last 30 years have been, for sure, the transparency, working on carbon fibre in an industrial capacity, the rotational moulding technology (a plastics moulding technique that enables the production of hollow objects) and the 3D curved wood (for the Smart Wood collection designed by Philippe Starck).

How do you deal with counterfeiting?
LL
We have an office that works every day (to combat counterfeiting). Our products are made with moulds that are very difficult (to copy) and they are expensive for others to (replicate). So they still do it but it’s always a little bit late.

In Asia, more customers want to buy the real product and not copies. We have a Kartell mark to show that they are authentic. The customers are also sensible in buying these products from authorised shops and dealers to know that it’s not a copy. Asia is getting better; it’s much worse in South America actually. We just won a big (legal) fight in Spain for the Bourgie lamp; they had to destroy all the moulds. The laws are becoming better, we are able to fight companies that copy our products.

(Related: 10 Design Trends That Will Inspire You To Redecorate Your Home)

The Moschino x Kartell collaboration, presented at the Kartell booth at Salone del Mobile 2019 fair in Milan
The Moschino x Kartell collaboration, presented at the Kartell booth at Salone del Mobile 2019 fair in Milan
A Mondrian-inspired setting featuring Kartell furniture at the Salone del Mobile fair
A Mondrian-inspired setting featuring Kartell furniture at the Salone del Mobile fair

What was the inspiration behind the booth shown at the Salone del Mobile fair?
LL
We wanted to show what Kartell is today—our idea is to do this walkthrough with 22 sections, with all products that are available and that our clients can replicate exactly in their stores. We tried to replicate the best of what we could see around the world and how Kartell has changed and would like to be represented today.

This is the work of Ferruccio Laviani; he has designed the booth for Kartell for more than 30 years. We did all the themes and decided on the products together to show that Kartell is now a complete lifestyle; we really can furnish nearly every part of the house and create a lot of different environments.

(Related: The Most Eye-Catching Furniture Collections At Salone Del Mobile 2019)

A setting that's part of The Art of Kartell exhibition held during Milan Design Week 2019
A setting that's part of The Art of Kartell exhibition held during Milan Design Week 2019

Tell us more about The Art of Kartell exhibition.
LL
We wanted to show a different side of Kartell; we collected all the art pieces done in these 70 years. When design started in Milan 50 years ago, everybody in art and design knew each other; so they were really connected. And so we decided to have 11 rooms, each one is different from the other and we have photos, paintings, sculptures, installations and live performances; all kinds of art.

In the end, fashion, art and design are always connected and influence one another. We did some objects with fashion designers—I worked with Jeremy Scott from Moschino for a couple of lamps. And also J.J. Martin for the DoubleJ collection, she does very smart prints; we did a lot of chairs in her fabrics. We would like to do sunglasses next, we’re working on it. We will launch the second collection of home fragrances in the next year.

(Related: Tatler 10: Fashion-Forward Furniture In Your Home, Designed by Gucci Decor, Fendi Casa And More)


Kartell is available in Singapore at Space Furniture and Lifestorey

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Art & Design Tatler Homes design furniture kartell plastic

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