With Alessi, the kitchen and the table indulge in design with happiness and greed. Back on the saga Alessi, which occupies a place of choice in our heart. An article from L'Express Styles.
We talk about her with as much attachment as the Fiat 500, the Vespa Piaggio or the Bialetti coffee machine. At 90 years round, the legendary Alessi company is one of the symbols of "Italianity", to which it owes part of its worldwide success. It must be said that the family business is not a grandmother.
With 100 million euros in turnover, 500 employees and sales outlets in over 50 countries, it continues to grow and develop new projects in all areas. The latest, the Piana chair, designed by British architect David Chipperfield, launched during the last Milan Furniture Fair, could have been a heresy in the catalog of a tableware specialist. However, it is this open-mindedness that has characterized the company since its beginnings on the shores of Lake Orta, ninety years ago.
1921, birth of the Alessi brand
The history of the Alessi family is inseparable from that of this lake. The same goes for all the major steel manufacturers, makers of Bialetti mocha coffee makers or Lagostina cookware sets.
This region became the specialist in household goods thanks to local craftsmen who emigrated in the eighteenth century to Germany to work tin, then returned to their province to establish their own workshops around Omegna. Next to this small manufacturing town at the northern end of the lake, in Crusinallo exactly, Giovanni Alessi, metal turner, founded his company of domestic articles in copper, silver, brass and nickel in 1921. . Far, therefore, the technique of cold-pressed metal that is today the reputation of the company.
Between 1935 and 1945, it developed the products that will become famous in Italy - such as the famous tea and coffee service Bombé - thanks to the sharp eye of Carlo, an industrial designer by training, and the elder son of the founder, Giovanni Alessi.In the 1950s, Carlo took over from his father and participated in the myth of the "Italian design factories" of the post-war period. Joined by his brother Ettore, he began mass production and the export of household goods into a new alloy, Inox, and called on great architects and designers such as Carlo Mazzeri or Luigi Massoni.
Together, they will not only make Alessi one of the symbols of Made in Italy, but they will change the relationship of Italians to the object of consumption. With them, it becomes, more than a product, a cultural project. "Alessi's creations defy time, not just because they're made of steel," say the commercials of the time.
The arrival of Alberto at Alessi
The turning point took place in the 1970s, when Alberto Alessi, one of Carlo's sons, took his first steps into the business ... after a few procrastination. "I knew my father needed me, but my passions were elsewhere," he recalls, "in high school I was crazy about literature, art, philosophy, when, in August 1965, I entered the my father's office to announce to him that I wanted, perhaps, to study the architecture, he gave me an icy glance. "
In Italy, design is a family affair. In the Alessi, this transmission is not discussed. Intuitive, in tune with the ideals of his time, Alberto dreamed of accessible art to as many people as possible and began to develop within the company "multiples" at a low price with big names like Dali. The project does not meet the expected success, but trains the young man's spirit in the dialogue with the creative and the imperatives of his production tool.
Alessi's wedding rings with creators
Grandson by his mother of Alfonso Bialetti, inventor and first producer of the Moka Express, the famous Italian espresso machine, Alberto has the design in the blood. He gradually takes interest in the creators and embarks on a series of collaborations that will completely renew the catalog of the house. He is the originator of many iconic products such as Richard Sapper's 9090 coffee maker, Michael Graves' melodious bird-song kettle in 1985 (still best-selling company) or the iconic juicer Juicy Salif, by Philippe Starck, in 1990.
He is also the one who invited the most outstanding designers of the second half of the twentieth century to collaborate with the brand, from Ettore Sottsass to Marc Newson, from Philippe Starck to Ron Arad and Jasper Morrison, from Achille Castiglioni to Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec. He has a certain fascination with them. "For Alberto Mendini, I am a dreamer, for Philippe Starck, I am a merchant of happiness, and for the designer Stefano Giovannoni, a longtime accomplice, I am a marketing expert", Alberto fun.
Diversification and major projects of the brand Alessi
For almost forty years now, this visionary has led the family company to new grounds. Wood, porcelain, earthenware and plastic have been used in many of the catalog's products. The company is also developing design projects in partnership with brands such as Philips, Fiat and Seiko. At the risk of losing your soul? "Alessi is a research laboratory, an island in an immense ocean, and our very identity urges us to explore the other islands," says Alberto poetically.
Plastic, a turning point at Alessi
The plastic adventure is one of them, led with his faithful ally Stefano Giovannoni, behind many bestsellers of the brand. The designer remembers having brought back from Japan, in 1991, a huge bag of gadgets, gleaned from the Tokyo department store Tokyu Hands. "Back in Italy, I brought this bag to Alberto and we spent the day sitting on the ground having fun with these toys, like two children, it was a magical and decisive moment for both of us. what a fun direction the company could engage. "
From this day will sprout one of the most successful ranges of Alessi, the Family Follows Fiction, utilitarian objects playful and colorful plastic, with a very manga aesthetic. An international success since its commercialization in 1993.
Alessi and the renewal of the 2000s
At 64, the boss does not intend to stop there. After launching a Panda Alessi in partnership with Fiat in 2006 and a chair this year, Alberto attacks architecture, in line with the series Tea & Coffee Towers, which already gathered in 2000 the cream of the discipline (Sanaa , Jean Nouvel and others).
With the help of Hong Kong architect Gary Chang, last September, he invited eight of the most important Chinese filmmakers to imagine plateaus thought of as small table architectures united under the name of (Un) Forbidden City. marketed in the spring of 2012.
We will also soon discover five objects for the office, designed by students of the Cantonal School of Art of Lausanne during a workshop with the brand, or a risotto spoon of Inga Sempé, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the famous Italian recipe book The Silver Spoon (Phaidon edition). At 90, the famous Italian firm starts a new youth.