In his book
– reprinted three times in one year – Micelli talks about the key role of craftsmanship in what he considers the truly new economy: that of hand-made know-how. It’s a wealth that made
Italian companies leaders in the luxury sector and that, if properly supported and renewed, could well bring the whole country towards a new renaissance.
It’s a theory that has excited many in Italy, especially designers. One such designer, Giulio Iacchetti, has turned the theory into an actual application, with his new project interno italiano – a collection of furniture, designed by himself and made by five different craft industries – that stems from an alternative business model.
Curve European editor Beatrice Feliz recently spoke to Iacchetti who explains his ‘diffused factory’ and the relaunch of craftsmanship as a new economic engine.
What is interno italiano?
It’s a furniture collection realised following the model of the ‘diffused factory’ together with five craft-based industries. It was born from my dissatisfaction and unpleasant feeling about two issues.
The first one is an economic one. Design is increasingly more expensive and it is clear that the great majority of people cannot afford it. The ‘fault’ is not only of those who produce: companies are forced to operate in an economic dimension in which several stages of markups (from the moment of production through to sales) brings about a natural levitation of the final price in the shop.
This system – based on an ever-increasing distance between those who design, produce, sell and purchase – will continue to exist because it is at the basis of our economic model and I will
certainly not be the one who will change it. Yet I feel I have the right to propose an alternative – a system in which distances get shorter. interno italiano aims to be a way to get people (and design) closer to production processes and to the understanding of the meaning of quality of manufacturing.
The second issue is strictly related to the idea of applying the Slow Food principles to design. I am convinced that in Italy we are missing a proposal that stems from the actual Italian living style, the indigenous, traditional one, the one that is intimately related to our domestic landscape.
Since the 60s, we have been importing forms and lifestyles that do not belong to us. Why do we import wood from other countries? Why are we not able to give value to legitimate indigenous essences such as walnut or cherrytree? Design has for too long been a slave to trends – to such an extent that it is now extremely difficult to figure out which elements truly make us feel at home. It was possible to rediscover biodiversity in what we eat (with Slow Food) so why can’t we do the same with design? With interno italiano I wanted to look into all this.
The furniture that is part of interno italiano is designed by you and made by craftsmen that you selected, so why do you not want to self-produce?
Normally, self-productions work in two ways. Either designers have their objects made by craftsmen or they produce them by themselves, and basically change jobs. interno italiano is not a self-production but a different concept of production: it’s a ‘diffused factory’, with no walls or structures, in which everyone works by themselves, focusing on their expertise, which is based on an equal relationship between who thinks, who designs and who actually makes things. This equally distributed responsibility towards the realisation of an object is symbolically defined by the fact that our pieces are signed by both the designer and the craftsman.
Are the pieces that are signed by the craftsman interesting for the public?
Maybe not. But it certainly interests me. I want to do away with the idea of the big name, of the designer–celebrity that provides value to the object with his or her signature. The double signature is useful to avoid self-references in design and to show that an object is made by all those who work on it throughout the process of creation. It’s a way to show to the audience the skills of our craftsmen. The ultimate aim is the recreation of a balanced relationship between objects, customers and producers.
In what way will interno italiano re-establish a relationship between those who purchase and those who produce?
interno italiano will be an e-shop and will not have a physical retail space. But the use of the web will allow a personalised approach to objects and producers. Whoever decides to buy something will do it through the site and each item will be made upon request. The client will pay a fair price, built by adding the number of hours used to make the object, so that we all receive a fair amount. On the website, it will also be possible to understand the real value of the pieces that we will produce: going into the details of hand-work, understanding the reasons that have brought us to select certain materials. And, above all, catching the essence of interno italiano, which is a production of stress-free, happy objects.
What do you mean by “production of stress-free, happy objects”?
This is a way of working in which there is dialogue rather than impositions. In our business model, the craftsman who works with us is not a nameless entity and he is not merely a ‘supplier’. A system that I perceive as virtuous is one in which there are no minimum quantities for production and in which everyone earns a decent living and the object, in the end, costs the customer less. There are no traps: things are made if they are paid for, otherwise they go nowhere. There will never be a warehouse. It’s a micro-business that would clearly not work with large quantities. But no food would ever be slow if it was sold in large supermarkets, right?
What defines the ‘Italian lifestyle’ that you claim is nowadays difficult to grasp?
Dino Gavina used to say that “things are truly modern if they have the dignity to become ancient”. I think that this search for the eternal classic is the red thread that qualifies the most expressive masterpieces ever generated by Italian ingeniousness: starting in the ancient times, then through our great masters in fine arts and architecture and later also in design. They were the ones who started to define timeless forms and ideas that, through their sophisticated simplicity, were able to grasp the meaning of a certain era and to communicate it; and that thanks to their inner energy were turned into icons, symbols of an eternal present.
As for the Italian aspects in our furniture project, I wanted the objects of interno italiano to be self-explanatory in terms of functions, close to archetypes, and possibly made with a single material. I also wanted them to communicate diffused simplicity. Other inspiring elements of the projects were a certain way of quoting the classics and a subtle touch of irony (which is traditional in Italian design). In terms of materials, we selected those that are coherent and respectful of our furniture tradition, chosen on the basis of local availability.
Beyond you and the craftsmen, who else plays a role in interno italiano?
Carlo Longoni plays a fundamental role, which goes well beyond that of a link between the two parts. Carlo is the co-founder of interno italiano. Dario Gaudio is responsible for the development of projects, and he is supported by all the people who work in my studio. Max Rommel is the photographer: he shot an exhaustive reportage on the work of craftsmen and on the products. The visual identity – which is fundamental in a project such as this one – was curated in an excellent manner by Leonardo Sonnoli. Leonardo played with our idea of ‘italianity’, starting with the graphic design of the website in which objects float in an absolute space, together with the symbols such as cards, grannies’ crochets, old train tickets and so forth.
What was the impact of Stefano Micelli and of his theory in Futuro Artigiano in the development of interno italiano?
Stefano and I looked for each other and then met. Our paths – that are very different – were converging: I read his book when I was starting to think of interno italiano, a year ago, and I understood that I was going in the right direction, and that many of the case histories that he was quoting were similar experiences to the one that I wanted to build. His expertise has certainly helped me in figuring out the potential of the project.
I now wish to stimulate a debate in the economics world on alternative businesses applied to design: models that consider quality of life (and of work) above the mere drive towards (legitimate) profits. It would be great if around these themes there was an active interest from colleagues and people who work in other disciplines, so that our experience could help to start new directions and alternative dimensions in business.