SoHo showrooms day!
Kartell is all about Claudio Luti, the president, who sums up the brand with his fire, energy and desire to see innovative and engaging design. Dealing purely with plastic (or so we thought) Kartell have been going since the late 40s. Their catalogue is made up of iconic pieces, from the Louis Ghost (Starck), to the Joe Colombo (my favorite), envisioned by renowned designers which Kartell help realize in Italian factory. Their quest for innovation with their signature material, plastic—exploring new possibilities and manufacturing methods to produce stronger compounds and previously difficult or (Mr) Impossible constructions. Juxtaposition is a key word—a sense of fun and irony help in its objects which look to be playful and interesting. The lighting they offer demonstrates the showcase nature of Kartell—no-one wants to live in an entirely plastic world, but these act as great accent pieces.
Artemide demos some of the most interesting lighting pieces in their SoHo showroom. All made in Italy, Artemide’s ethos to mix tradition and technology is evident in the closeness of the handblown Venetian glass, and level of IoT development going on at the company. That’s not to say they aren’t focused on the user—their core concept is in the human light, keeping those in contact with light healthy and happy. Designing “good” light with comfort and tone in mind can only come through research and development. Artemide has a reputation for working with interesting creatives (designers and architects) to create custom and concept led solutions from start to finish.
As soon as I stepped into the Valencia based Gandia Blasco, I felt like I was on holiday and getting a tan—the store is modeled on the presidents Ibiza villa. All of the clean, modernist outdoor-furniture is made in Spain, and the brand does a good job of finding and promoting young Spanish talent. The durable pieces are constructed of high-grade aluminum, and although the showroom reflects the clean, minimalist DNA of the brand, the pieces are available in a number of finishes. On display in the window and downstairs were the sister brand of GB, Gan—wonderfully designed hand-made (in India) rugs and furniture. On display in many of the lobbies and staff rooms of Silicon Valley darlings, Gan’s craftsmanship and style of design are fantastic. Pieces include those recently designed by Patricia Urquiola
Alessi. Need I say more? Oh go on then, the family owned icon’s showroom is as engaging and fun to walk through as one might expect. It almost feels like a museum, except you can reach out and pick up the things on show. The emotion that nearly every piece evokes is demonstrated by the claim that everyone who works for Alessi, loves Alessi. Thankfully, this is a love shared by customers, who feel so much pride in owning Alessi products, it just shows this is a brand so big it extends beyond the products and into a raw, emotional territory. High quality manufacturing in Italy means people are returning after the same item they bought 25 years ago, but only because the 9093 comes with a dragon on it now. Delta airlines first-class passengers will be glad to hear they won’t be using awful plastic flatware any more (ha), as the price of admission now comes with the chance to use specially designed Alessi flatware not available for sale anywhere (except eBay soon probably!)
And finally, FLOS. Another cornerstone of the design community, rooted in Craftsmanship, Good design and Innovation (I know that was a real slam-dunk of the three qualities all-in-one), their commitment to working with top designers and the organic relationship they share with them, plus the historic catalogue of lights they have makes them a must-see.