A renewed affection for the Memphis Group's quirky, postmodern aesthetic has kept its hold on the design community for a good while now, and there are no signs of any slowing, especially with the latest project from Kartell this week. The design company's newest collection is made up of never-before-seen products by the one and only Ettore Sottsass. Designed in 2004 for Kartell but never produced, the energetic collection, which includes four vases, three tabouret stools and one lamp, is as colourful and true to the design icon's style as one could ever hope for.
Intended as a complete collection by Sottsass, who died in 2007, the eight pieces were conceived to symbolise his return to industrial design. Kartell's president Claudio Luti says, 'When we invited Ettore Sottsass to design some objects for us, we agreed that the interesting side to our collaboration would be marking a sort of "return to industrial design" for Sottsass. His name has always been more linked to the idea of unique pieces.
'The brief was to express the post-futurist aesthetic, typical of Sottsass, by means of an industrial project. The challenge was to use plastic materials and technologies, like injection, to create decorative accessories like vases and more functional pieces, such as stools.'
About collaborating with a design master such as Sottsass, Luti recalls, 'It was a very stimulating exchange. I clearly remember his highly intellectual approach and at the same time, a very understated, spontaneous attitude. I felt honoured to sit down at the same table, and at the same time my wish was to translate his ideas and iconic design into real Kartell industrial products.'
Despite working on the collection with Sottsass from 2004 to 2005, Kartell chose not to bring the collection to life because of technology constraints at the time. So demanding are some of the concepts that even with the use of highly advanced injection techniques today, the collection's more decorative and complex silhouettes are still being evaluated on whether they can be ultimately produced. However, the 'Calice' vase and 'Pilastro' and 'Colonna' stools will definitely be brought to market, with others to come in the near future.
Luti says, 'Modern technology now allows us to produce the Sottsass designs to a standard and level of sophistication that we would not have managed ten years ago. I am convinced that Sottsass himself would have been a huge fan of how we have brought his objects to life. Their unique, unmistakable look will set them apart in their industrial, international future.'
To celebrate this momentous collection's debut, Kartell has transformed its Milanese flagship boutique into a spatial tribute to the Memphis design movement. In addition to transforming the space with a vibrant, patterned setting designed by Ferruccio Laviani to introduce the new designs, Kartell has collaborated with Memphis Group members like Nathalie du Pasquier and George Sowden to upholster chairs, including Philippe Starck's 'Mademoiselle', 'Foliage' by Patricia Urquiola and 'Trix' by Piero Lissoni, for a new Pop look. Together, it's a joyous testament to Italy's design heritage and its present.