A Perfect Pitch
Designer Mauro Lipparini and businessman Ottaviano Borgonovo share the reasons behind MisuraEmme’s success in international markets
From office and home furniture to textiles and other products, from a men’s boutique in Baku to a restaurant in Hangzhou, the works of Mr. Mauro Lipparini cross and re-cross geographical boundaries. That they are embraced as representatives of contemporary luxury is a testament to both Mr. Lipparini’s enormous talents, as well as the renown that ‘Italian style’ has reached. A proponent of Minimalism, Mr. Lipparini graduated with a degree in architecture from Università degli Studi Firenze in 1980 – where he would later teach. After setting up his design practice, he found audiences across industries and cultures, whether he was designing a residential show unit in Kanagawa or a chocolate shop in Milan. The breadth and depth of his influence earned him accolades from peers, and top honors at international design competitions, including Young & Designer Milan in 1987, International DuPont Award Koln in 1988 and 1989, and Good Design® Global Awards in 2011. As an international design services provider, Mr. Lipparini covers architecture and interior design for private and public residential projects, show units, retail sales outlets, and exhibition installations. As product designer, his furniture and complements are available under leading brands, and as graphic designer, his output spans corporate identity and editorial services, including production. Among his well-known ongoing collaborations is with Italian furniture brand MisuraEmme, which encompasses a full range of home furnishings – chairs, tables, couches, wardrobes, bookcases, sideboards, and systems. They are marked with a minimalist feel expressed in simple silhouettes and neutral hues. Although contemporary, these pieces are timeless and would easily find a spot in both modern interiors and classical settings. That they also find application in corporate spaces hints at their functionality and adaptability. Mr. Lipparini’s latest collaborations with MisuraEmme include the Phoenix sofa system in fixed and modular versions; the second, consisting of a dormouse, a pouffe, and a chaise longue, offers varied compositional possibilities. Meanwhile, the Violetta armchair is a well-cushioned seating perched on a metal swivel base. The piece can be upholstered in a selection of leather, eco-leather, and fabric. Portfolio recently caught up with Mr. Lipparini to talk about the rising homogeneity in design, and MisuraEmme’s prospects in Southeast Asia.
Portfolio: Do you find that different markets across the globe are developing a taste for very similar designs? If this is the case, to what factors would you attribute it?
Mauro Lipparini: Contamination knows no obstacles or barriers. Markets, in spite of geographical differences, are getting closer together. Through the continuous flow of information, cultures and customs contaminate each other; we look to the East, and the East looks at us. We are intrigued by diversity and so each of us tries to understand it, reformulating it in new ways. For many years, and to an increasing extent in this moment, in various sectors Italian design plays a central role in setting style, with the ability to create trends, capturing the many overtones of markets in an interpretation that defines the “Italian lifestyle”. The extraordinary relationship of synergy between Italian companies and designers has created the added value that markets have been able to recognize over time. All the emerging markets need time to grow; the older generations indulge and reward their successes through a classic style, a new form of ostentatious, often excessive super-luxury. With economic growth the new generations, belonging to the more affluent classes, have the possibility of studying abroad, where they absorb
contemporary culture, including design. The presence of magazines in various sectors leads the way, preparing fertile ground for growth. Information spreads very quickly, and everything becomes very fluid and concrete. We might say that the big differences are no longer geographical, cultural, or in terms of lifestyle, but rather a matter of target: Buying power, on the one hand, and aesthetic belonging, on the other. So, fashion, architecture, design, and food become tools for change. This fusion is increasingly imperative and interesting, while at the same time it reinforces the desire to possess Italian style, that of “Made in Italy”.
What is your reading of the Southeast Asian market in terms of design preferences and, more importantly, how are you responding to these demands? How does such demand affect your design offerings? Do you tend to design with specific markets in mind?
I have the curiosity, the desire to participate, and understand local customs, the emotions of the moment, and the will to reinterpret places themselves, and different clients, all constant aspects of my design process, without any preconceived notions. I began to design in Asian markets back in 1987, in Japan, and then after a few years in China, Malaysia, Singapore and other countries in Southeast Asia. In all these years, I have been able to observe the incredible changes that have happened and evolved. I, too, have changed as a result of my active participation in these markets, each time achieving new personal goals. All this implies an innate attitude of faith in others, and in the future. The Southeast Asian market has a thousand facets, so my rule is to start from scratch every time, to study the specific area, its morphological and commercial characteristics, its aspirations, not the most obvious ones but those that are most concealed, the weak signals that are hard to interpret even for local clients and professionals, and can lead to some pleasant discoveries. I try to get in tune with a new poetics of interpretation, while exploring the original roots of the place. But while all this happens in the projects of architecture and interior design, going back into my own cultural background the projects of industrial design proceed with other processes. First of all, I like to think that they are all products, whether they are works of architecture, interior or industrial design, but different in terms of scale, needs, relationships, the ‘Why’ that lies behind the necessity of a product. The production processes, the distribution, the target, and the completeness of the catalogue are all different. If there is not a specific demand, the creation of the product is not oriented towards responding to one market or another. The complexity of the image is intrinsic to the product, the corporate mission, the corporate identity. While the exuberance of design is boundless, it is also an alchemy of risks and industrial reasoning.
Mr. Ottaviano Borgonovo