Interview with Giulio Cappellini 20.04.09

words Justin McGuirk

There's a lot of anticipation about what Milan's going to be like this year.
For sure in 2009 we are at the beginning of the problem, and it will be a very difficult year but we have to be ready for 2010 when the market will start again. People aren't spending money, they are waiting, and for some companies that will be a sort of natural selection. But I think it is very important to be just a little bit positive and to try to work on innovation otherwise we'll kill ourselves. That's why Milan this year will be very important. Maybe people who stayed four or five days before will only stay two days. But the most important thing is to try and be really very serious, with good products and not so many parties. If we don't go ahead with research and good products I think that could be a big problem for the future.

What about for Cappellini itself, what's going to be different this year?
We have to look for the real needs of the market, but we haven't changed our strategy. As Cappellini we will present a diversity of products: expensive ones by Mendini and Kuromata but on the other side a less expensive Mendini chair and an inexpensive Jasper Morrison table that are both very interesting. And we are still presenting products by new young designers. I think that in this moment we have to try and give to the market a little surprise.

Do you think the market is demanding slightly
different things?

Frankly I think nobody needs a new table and chairs. This means that we have to work on really strong products that, when people see them, they understand they can't live without them. Today design customers have Cappellini on one side but they can buy Ikea on the other side. The new consumer freedom means people do not want to spend money for nothing, they want to invest in products with the right value and they like to mix things. So for sure we have to think about how the consumer is changing. Today there is no more monoculture.

Poltrona Frau group is not exhibiting in I Saloni this year. Do you think the fiera will feel empty with some of the big companies missing?
As a group we decided to be out of the fair but I'm sure they will have no problem selling out our space. We will do a presentation but I don't want to have a big party in his moment, frankly speaking. We are investing a lot in the products for 2009, maybe more than we did for the last few years.

There's a lot of positive spinning of the recession suggesting it's an opportunity to change things. Do you believe that?
A few months ago I was afraid about the future. At that time I was speaking with the people of Walt Disney and they told me their company was born in 1929, in a recession. If you see their huge worldwide success it means, OK, you have to work double, but during a recession good ideas can come out.

What are you particularly looking forward to at
the moment?

We are always doing a lot of design research, and today it's very important on the one hand to continue finding new technologies and to use materials in a different way. On the other hand it is also important that people feel confident with them so that they don't just end up in the permanent collections of museums, to be viewed through shining windows. The real goal of design is to enter more and more into people's homes.

Who are you working with right now?
There is an interesting English group that we are working with, but we are still working on the project so we are not sure if we are going to present it this April. The group is Lime Studio. They made an interesting installation at 100% Design.

What is your biggest fear at the moment?
In this moment I would say don't panic, we really have to try and be positive and always look to the future. Try to concentrate on making beautiful products. We can't be afraid of the future otherwise everything is really boring. It's also important not to stop because if we stop we will kill ourselves.

Which other companies will you have your eye on?
There is a group of companies that I respect a lot. Moroso is an interesting company, and a very good friend of Cappellini. With Established & Sons, their next step will be very interesting. Because I think they are like Cappellini 20 years ago. It's an important step passing from a small company to an industrial, global company.

You're also working for Superstudio this year.
Yes, on one side I'm Cappellini, on the other side I've taken the art direction of Superstudio in Zona Tortona. We've transformed Superstudio with the concept of the "temporary museum", where we will have design objects but also installations - research from art to design technique, which is quite important. I will present also, with the mayor, our ideas for a new expo in 2015.

How do you cope with the fair?
Ha! The night before the opening of the Salone I usually finish work at 4am. I try to live 20 hours a day during the Salone to see as much and meet as many people as I can.

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