For us one of the highlights of Saloni Milano 2013 was/is Italian manufacturer Mattiazzi.
And not just because they have managed to eke a chair out of Jasper Morrison that, in our opinion, is one of his better, and certainly more interesting, of recent years.
Established in 1978 Mattiazzi is, if we correctly understand, essentially a network of woodworking facilities in Udine. For three decades the company served as a supplier of wooden parts for other furniture manufacturers before deciding in 2008 to invest in their own brand.
The investment has obviously been very heavy, or better put, very, very heavy.
But has also been very successful.
Mattiazzi first reached an international audience with the 2011 Osso Collection from Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec.
The positive echo generated by Osso was not just on account of the media friendly connection with the Bouroullec brand, but because, simply put, it is a mighty fine piece of work.
As a project Osso allowed Ronan and Erwan to seriously develop a new dimension to their work, a challenge they met head on and with a result that demonstrates a wonderful degree of technical finesse and aesthetic clarity.
Since the launch of Osso in 2011 the Mattiazzi portfolio has grown steadily and in Milan the company presented the latest results of co-operations with with Sam Hecht, Konstantin Grcic and the aforementioned Fionda by Jasper Morrison.
Effectively a wooden frame with an interchangeable fabric sling, it is really hard to call Fionda a chair, at least in the classical sense.
Apparently inspired by a folding camping chair Morrison bought in Japan, Fionda doesn’t do anything that much different from either “regular” camping chairs or design classics such as the globally copied Butterfly / Hardoy Chair.
Fionda however presents the concept with a rarely seen lightness and assured calm. And as we say with a liveliness that we have missed in much of Morrison’s recent chair work.
In addition, by removing the canvas sling the frames can be easily stacked, thus making Fionda a fairly straightforward outdoor seating option for cafes, ice cream bars and their ilk.
Equally impressive is Medici by Konstantin Grcic. Originally presented at Milan 2012 Medici is a lounge chair that takes all Konstantin Grcic‘s association with reduced down, unassuming, form languages, picks it up by the scruff of the neck and throws it out the window.
Yes Medici is a very simple wood construction, a very simple wood construction in many ways reminiscent of the Rood-Blauwe Stoel by Gerrit T. Rietveld.
But it’s not an object you’d want to meet in a dark alley late on a Saturday night.
Much like Waver for Vitra, Medici is not something we know from Grcic. And while the motivation with Waver was largely to define the Vitra outdoor range with a form language far removed from the classic Eames dominated interior furniture; at Mattiazzi Konstantin Grcic had a clean slate. Which means the design comes from somewhere deeper. And indeed reading his comments on Medici you sense the real personal joy he got from developing the project.
Ultimately what attracts us to Mattiazzi is the effortless simplicity of their furniture.
You currently can’t move in the European furniture market without bumping into a manufacturer with a new wood chair.
A lot of them very similar. Very generic. Very dull. And very “Scandinavian”
Developments in the furniture industry clearly mirroring those in the TV crime drama world where every station needs a moody Scandinavian detective in a quirky knitted jumper.
And indeed one young designer we spoke to in Milan was quite open that their current works are largely geared towards such a market. And you can’t blame them for that.
What however for us sets Mattiazzi apart is that they obviously care not only about the physical appearance but also the function, the origin, the craftsmanship and the attitude of the piece.
Older readers will associate such with the concept of “character”, an archaic term that is so outdated the Oxford English Dictionary are planning removing it from their next edition.
Mattiazzi obviously still have an old edition at home.
It will be interesting to see how the Mattiazzi brand develops in the coming years. If the investments made can bring a return.
Excellent and interesting as the current collection is, it isn’t necessarily a collection that is guaranteed to guarantee long term financial sustainability. The fact that they have secured Herman Miller as their North American distribution partner is no bad thing. Similarly the agreement with Aram in the UK. But again these developments alone are no guarantee of sustainable success.
That comes from a product portfolio that is successful across various market sectors and that can keep reaching and exciting new buyers.
And that takes time.
We’ll definitely be keeping an eye on the situation.
And will of course keep you informed.