The creative director of Italian design powerhouse Cappellini opens up about his dreams for the company, spotting good talent, and more.
Giulio Cappellini was all wit and humour while in Singapore for just one day for a roundtable discussion with design students. The hour-long session was littered with anecdotes of his first meetings with designers whom he had notably helped discover such as Jasper Morrison, Tom Dixon, and Marcel Wanders. Despite jet lag, his enthusiasm in engaging with a youthful design crowd was clearly evident. Here’s what he had to say….
On starting out in the Cappellini family business…
When I entered the Cappellini family business (back then it was a very small furniture-making business) I said to myself, okay Italy is very strong in terms of innovation, in terms of production, in terms of creativity… but frankly speaking I cannot think that everything is going on [only] in Italy. I want to see what is going on in other countries, because I’m very curious. So I started to travel around the world just to meet and find talented and unknown designers. This is a very important part of my life.
His dreams for company…
I have three dreams. One dream to meet interesting people. Second dream is about product – to try and develop products in a proper way. And the third dream is about presentation, not just in the fairs, but in different spaces. I think today, communication is very important. If you do a beautiful product but are not able to show it in a proper way, it’s nothing. [And] I think for sure we’ve to try to produce products that are [both] useful and beautiful. Beauty is very important. Nobody needs useful but horrible [looking] products. But mostly we have to try to make people smile and to sell dreams. Dreams are very important… [but I’ve also come to] realise that one life is not enough to try to realise all my dreams, and so I’ve written a long list of dreams for my next life!
The Cappellini DNA…
The spirit of Cappellini is to be free – free to mix different ideas, and having different designers from different countries, from different cultures and with different attitudes to design [for the company]. And my role is to try to connect all these different projects done by different people. The most important thing for me is that they can fit together.
Working with Jasper Morrison…
One of my first meetings was with Jasper Morrison. He is one of the most important designers for Cappellini. For Jasper, the details are very important. He is creating long sellers and not best sellers… I’m very close to his philosophy, and for me it’s very interesting to see products designed for Cappellini 20 years ago selling more and more every year.
Opportunities for design today…
Perhaps to invent a new shape today would be quite difficult, because beautiful shapes have been done in the ‘50s, in the ‘60s… But today, we have the possibility to work with new technologies, with new materials, with new production systems… and that is quite interesting. That means that sometimes you can reinterpret old shapes in a very contemporary way.
On working with young designers…
I’m always very interested to meet and to speak with young students or designers because that means design is not dead. Sometimes people say everything has been done in design, but that’s not true. There are still a lot of fantastic things to be done. The thing that I always tell younger designers is that it’s not important to design many things. The most important thing is to do a few things, but good things. And when you do something you have to follow it like a baby, from the first idea to the final product.
Normally when people ask me how I choose which young designers to work with, and which products normally keep my attention, I say [it’s when] I see something and I say, “I cannot leave without this product. I want it in my home tomorrow morning.”
I always like to work with different people. Working with a good team is absolutely very important. I like to have a lot of people, young people who can give their own ideas. We work together and if the result is good we are all good; if the result it not good we try to do better.
In Italy there was the first generation of fantastic masters like Gio Ponti, Castiglioni, Ettore Sottsass. And after that there was the second generation like Piero Lissoni, Antonio Citterio, and so on. There wasn’t a third generation. And now there is a new generation of very very young but good 20, 22-year-old designers. In fact at Milan Design Week this year I’ll be presenting small objects designed by these young people.
And there are very interesting people [in Asia]. In my trips, I’ve been looking, and I’m 100 per cent sure this area in future will have very good designers that can fit into the Cappellini family.