Experimental artisans Impagliando weave a way from furniture to fashion
When Eugenio Taddei and Marta Spinelli met in 2005, both were working on the craftier side of the Italian furniture industry – Taddei was a varnisher, while Spinelli was in weaving, the third generation of her family to dedicate themselves to the skill. Spinelli had studied law and worked as an accountant in Milan. But she decided office life was not for her and returned to the family operation, which offered its services to furniture makers in the Brianza area, an hour north of Italy’s design capital. Spinelli and Taddei smartly founded Impagliando, an artisanal workshop focused on exploring the full possibilities of weaving.
The pair’s backgrounds and passions are rooted in what the Italians call ‘il mobile’ – furniture to the rest of us. But that translation doesn’t have the particular weight that the phrase carries in Italian: the association with strong manufacturing traditions; the growth of small, family-run artisanal workshops in Brianza into a fully fledged industry that is one of the country’s proudest achievements.
Spinelli and Taddei wanted Impagliando, which translates simply as ‘weaving’, to be part of that heritage. They started out doing the basics: restoring vintage woven chairs, learning traditional weaving methods and working with local materials such as straw and raffia. After finessing the classic techniques, they started experimenting with new materials, such as technical rope, PVC and leather rods, and designing their own woven textures.
‘For us, it has been important to work on antique chairs to learn particular processes,’ says Spinelli. The duo re-wove old chairs in order to study their patterns, explore their strengths and gather a library of designs that would reinforce their weaving expertise.
Over the years, they collaborated with designers and local companies in the role of ‘weaving consultant’, applying their knowledge to new designs. Take any woven product released in recent times by furniture companies and designers in the Brianza area, and the chances are that Impagliando’s expertise is behind it.
The oversized ‘Brera’ loafer created by Impagliando for Fratelli Rossetti’s Milan window display during the 2015 Salone del Mobile. It later became part of the footwear brand’s ‘New Artisan’ project
In 2012, Taddei and Spinelli branched out into design, creating their own collection of simple woven furniture. This included rocking chairs, chaises longues and stools, as well as accessories such as baskets and placemats, all made using different techniques. These pieces are sold directly by Spinelli and Taddei, who recently opened a showroom near Varese to present their collections under the Impagliando name. ‘Our inspiration always comes from the act of weaving; we always start out with our hands,’ says Spinelli of their designs. ‘Materials are crucial to us. When we touch them, we instantly understand what we can do with them.’
In 2015, Impagliando began a collaboration with Italian footwear brand Fratelli Rossetti, which exposed the duo’s work to a wider audience and kickstarted what Taddei calls ‘our year of evolution’. The pair were invited to create a piece of work to appear in the window of Fratelli Rossetti’s via Montenapoleone store in Milan during Salone del Mobile.
Impagliando’s response came in the form of an oversized woven loafer (Fratelli Rossetti’s signature ‘Brera’ style), which they finished on-site during a week-long craft performance in the boutique window. Spinelli and Taddei were then invited by the brand to contribute pieces to its Fashion Week presentations.
The window installation later became part of Fratelli Rossetti’s ‘New Artisan’ project, an initiative involving young craftspeople from all over Italy who experiment with traditional techniques and contemporary design. Each month over the last year, different makers were presented at Fratelli Rossetti’s Milan store, from a millinery workshop to carpenters. ‘The craftsmen we involve have learned the art of working by hand from their parents in their family business, and have given their crafts new life,’ explains Luca Rossetti, the brand’s chief executive and the son of its founder.
Rossetti noticed in the work of this young generation of artisans an element of healthy cross-pollination – a constant exchange of ideas leading to fresh creative stimuli. ‘Meeting the Rossetti family team has been special for us,’ says Spinelli. ‘The company has given us the chance to express our technique and creativity without any boundaries, something rare in this industry.’
Taddei and Spinelli are now expanding Impagliando’s furniture production while continuing their craft research. ‘You can’t stop reinvention,’ says Spinelli. ‘When ideas come, we must action them.’ Their in-house production, from conception to manufacture and sales to the public, is one of their proudest achievements, she adds. ‘For us, there is nothing better than seeing our pieces in a home.’
As originally featured in the March 2017 issue of Wallpaper* (W*216)