The leader when it comes to making high-quality design objects out of plastic, the company has nine Golden Compass design awards to its name, among others, for the multi-functionality and cross-cutting appeal of its collections
In Mon Oncle by Jacques Tati, a film from 1958, an incredulous Monsieur Hulot noses around his sister’s house, where everything is made from plastic. The director perhaps never imagined that this varied, changeable and heterogeneous family of polymers would go on to become the symbol of an era in constant change, with a profound effect on both industrial production and the work of artists and designers, starting with the avant-garde movements of the 1960s and culminating in the 90s.
Kartell seized its opportunity to flourish on the Italian market. As soon as it was founded back in 1949 by Giulio Castelli in Noviglio, on Milan’s doorstep, it became a symbol for Italian design, even being featured in the Museum of Modern Art with spaces designed by Ettore Sottsass, Gae Aulenti and Anna Ferrieri. «It’s been ahead of its time ever since it was born, innovating industrial processes and products and investing in partnerships with well known designers. This is how it has succeeded in bringing iconic design to the world», emphasised Claudio Luti, the son-in-law of Castelli and president of Kartell since 1988, a company that symbolises the Made in Italy concept.
The company is number one when it comes to producing high-quality design objects made from plastic, and boasts an enviable series of important international awards, including nine Golden Compasses. The secret to Kartell’s success lies in the multi-functionality and cross-cutting appeal of its collections, its aesthetic appeal and the way it enhances and revisits the semantics and culture surrounding plastic, moulding an everyday material into a worthy product. Kartell skilfully plays with shapes and colours, meaning and transparency, blending looks together but never compromising on its unique style. «Ever since I joined the company, I have worked hard to strengthen the brand, surrounding myself with creative geniuses of the likes of Piero Lissoni, Antonio Citterio, Philippe Starck, Ferruccio Laviani and Patricia Urquiola», says Luti. This is how seating of such unmistakable style was born, like the Maui by Vico Magistretti, and the Louis Ghost chair by Philippe Starck, a Kartell bestseller and a timeless chair that introduced transparency as an aesthetically appealing feature to the world.
«In 2014 we celebrated our first 15 years of designing transparent furniture with the Uncle Jack sofa, renewing the technological and aesthetic challenge we set ourselves back in 1999 with Starck. We invested a huge amount of human and economic resources in it and set a record: at 1.9 metres wide and 95 centimetres tall, and weighing almost 30 kilograms, it was the largest polycarbonate piece ever made using a single injection mould», says Luti. Kartell’s latest creation is the Piuma, designed by Piero Lissoni: it’s the lightest, sleekest, most robust industrial chair ever designed (weighing 2.2 kilograms and measuring 2mm in thickness), with clean and simple lines.
Today, Kartell’s signature style is recognised all over the world, also thanks to an expansion plan that strengthened its distribution network and led to new shops being opened, both in Italy and abroad. «We want to be bigger and consolidate our presence on certain foreign markets, in particular in the Far East. But we’re also working on new sectors of production», reveals Luti. With a collection comprising more than 150 families of products and four divisions (Kartell Habitat, Kartell à la Mode, Kartell fragrances and Kartell in Tavola) run by cutting edge international designers, the company exports 70% of its products and is present in 140 countries all over the world thanks to 140 flagship stores, 250 shop-in-shops and over 2,500 sales outlets. A solid, plastic reality.