Who better to be given a tour of the new flagship than by Carlo Molteni himself, President of Molteni C & Dada. We quizzed him on working with Vivienne, British tastes and credit crunch survival tactics…
What sets Molteni apart from its peers?
Quality is the most important thing for us. The ideas behind the design might have changed from Aldo Rossi 45 years ago, up to Jean Nouvel today, but we always strive for the best quality, both in design and production.
You’ve collaborated with an interesting range of names, from Jean Nouvel and Norman Foster to Vivienne Westwood – how do you decide who to work with?
We pride ourselves on diversification. Vivienne Westwood was a particularly interesting collaboration and a change for us.
You’re not two brands one thinks of as natural partners – how did it come about?
They asked us to produce the installation for their show in Milan and we said not this time, but we wanted to do something with them. So we settled on this interesting fabric.
What did you learn from the collaboration?
The fashion world is completely different. We learnt about print and colour. But in terms of quality, craftsmanship and attention to detail, the language of fashion and design is actually very similar.
Do you feel the way people buy design has changed over the past 45 years?
England was the most difficult country to export to. When we started Germany was the easiest country to export to, but there were no pioneers to make people interested in design in England, bar two or three people. From the 1980s, the change has been unbelievable.
Why do you think this was?
People started looking at what was being made in the present and not just what had been made in the past. Lifestyles and the way people lived changed in the 1980s and in England this meant buying contemporary design.
Do you feel you’re opening this London store at a difficult time?
Yes it’s a difficult time but although our furniture is of the highest quality, it isn’t stupidly priced. Our products might not be cheap but they are correctly, honestly priced and we hope this will carry us through the current situation.
Do you think there’s a need for design companies to adapt to the times – work with cheaper materials or cheaper production methods?
We’re investigating new directions, but then we always have. We’re experimenting with the cheapest materials, but also the most luxurious. For me the middle ground is the worst. As long as the quality is not affected in the final design that is all that matters. I always say we sell intelligence at a very low price.
There’s always a market for that.
Value for money, I think you say. And this is key to our brand: to be innovative but affordable and accessible to as many people as possible.
Why have you chosen to expand commercially now?
This is the beginning of the second phase of Molteni’s development. Thinking of the future, of retail, marketing and design trends, we want to be as close as possible to our markets so we know what’s going on and can respond. This means we need presence in as many key cities as possible. After Milan and Paris, Madrid, London, New York, we then have plans to go east to Shanghai and Japan, then Eastern Europe and Moscow. It’s important for us to keep evolving and this is how we do it.
Are you expanding your design collection at the same time?
We’re working on a new furniture collection with Rodolfo Dordoni, which we’ll launch at Maison in January. Also a new collection with Patricia Urquiola, which is a line of very modern pieces, in development at the moment, and we plan to show them in Milan.
You’ve always had huge clout in the contract market – what are you working on at the moment?
Our main projects with Armani developments in Dubai, Moscow and the Cotes d’Azur will be completed early next year. We’re the main partner in the development of all the Cartier boutiques and they also have an impressive development plan next year too. When business becomes a bit tough – it’s important for big companies with integrity to realise there are more opportunities than threats.