Since hitting the scene 38 years ago, Italian furniture house Magis has earned a reputation in the design world as being quite the risk taker and industry maverick. It’s been largely due to the leadership of its founder, Eugenio Perazza, whose deep passion and strong ideas for design as well as fearless undertakings are well documented.
It would seem then that his only child, Magis’ Co-Managing Director Alberto Perazza, would have had quite big footsteps to follow when he entered the business in 1996. But in speaking with the man, it becomes clear that he brings his own unique strengths to the table.
In school, Alberto had an interest in economics and no concrete plans to join the family enterprise. Upon graduating from business administration at Università Ca Foscari, Venice, however, he decided to acquire working experience at Magis, and the rest as they say, is history.
“I was working in different positions within the company,” he recalls. “I worked in the logistics warehouse [for one], preparing goods and shipments with warehouse staff, and I found it quite interesting. And then I started travelling with my father to meet with the designers and got involved in project development and that was interesting, too.”
“In this business, you get to meet many different and interesting people, and I like that part of the job very much.”
Today, Alberto’s main responsibilities are in sales, as well as project management - the latter of which he describes as “a crucial part of the business”. “We work with different designers and the process of design is very challenging,” he says.
Alberto works hand in hand with his father Eugenio, who at 74 remains very active in the business, particularly in the area of design and project management, which has always been his first love.
“Magis started out of a passion that he [my father] had for design. And he still very much enjoys doing what he does: meeting the designers, briefing them, and being very immersed in the design process.
“And this is probably what the designers like, that we never give them a free hand to design but that we are always also very much involved in the design process. We believe that good design comes about if there is a process of dialogue between the company and the designers. The work of the engineers and the model makers are also very important.”
Bunky from the Me Too Collection
Ask Alberto what it has been like working with his father - who is known for his strong views - and he says that it has been “interesting”.
“I had different ideas maybe at the beginning but today our ideas are closer. My father, of course, has a strong personality. Magis started out with a very strong passion from him. I’m also very passionate myself; everybody who does this job is the same way. I find that my father has very strong, clear ideas. If he has to say something, he says it
“It's the same with the designers. If my father is not convinced of something, he makes a strong point [about it]. I think that’s good. If he does that, and if we do that, it’s only in the interest of the project because we believe in the project and we want it to be strong.”
Magis has long pioneered ideas that don't necessary adhere to traditional market sentiments. Critics first snubbed the foldable stepladder ‘Step’ by Andries and Hiroko van Onck as too mundane an item for the furniture circuit when it launched in 1984, before it caught on like wildfire. More recently in 2003, Magis made the decision to launch Chair_One by Konstantin Grcic even though, as Alberto says, “we knew there was nothing like that out there”. He admits that they were unsure of how it would perform in the market but that they loved the idea behind the die cast aluminium chair, which is made using the least possible material. It took a couple of years, but the chair eventually became one of the company’s many success stories and found its way into the permanent collections of prestigious museums.
Chair_One - concrete
The company’s most recent showing at the Milan Furniture Fair has been “good”, according to Alberto. “We introduced a good number of products - eight to 10. In particular, we got a very interesting response to the new Officina collection designed by Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec.” Officina is a series of tables in wrought iron frame with different tabletop options, where the challenge lies in working with an ancient fabrication process and giving it a new modern language.
From my father I learnt “to believe strongly in what you do, and not to be afraid of your ideas,” say Alberto. “If you believe in them strongly and try to realise them and you fail, then it’s not big problem. There’s always a second time.” And that is doubtlessly the Magis way.
Watch out for a business Q&A with Magis in the Feb/Mar 2015 issue of Cubes Indesign.