A Fusion Of High Design And Modern Luxury.

In the bustling heart of New York City’s design district, a new landmark has emerged on the landscape of contemporary design. Kartell, the iconic Italian furniture brand, has opened its flagship store, setting a new benchmark in luxury and innovation in home decor.

Since its inception in 1949, Kartell has firmly established itself as a beacon of innovation in the world of design, and is particularly celebrated for its iconic plastic furniture pieces. The brand’s distinctive look is further accentuated through its collaborations with globally acclaimed designers, among them, the partnership with Philippe Starck and most notably his creation of the ‘Ghost Chair’, a marvel of design that captures Kartell’s ethos of blending artistic vision with groundbreaking execution.

The new store is a testament to Kartell’s evolving vision about not just showcasing products but rather immersing visitors in a world where design meets life. This shift reflects a keen understanding of the changing dynamics in consumer engagement. In an era where experience is as valuable as the product, Kartell is sculpting spaces that tell stories. The store is arranged not merely as a series of furniture displays, but as a series of interconnected vignettes, each narrating a different aspect of the contemporary lifestyle that Kartell envisions.

I spoke with Lorenza Luti, Kartell’s Director of Marketing and Retail, to delve into the inspiration behind the new venture, driving expansion while adhering to their core values, and her vision for the future of Kartell.

Jennifer Lee: Lorenza, tell me more about the vision behind opening your first Flagship Store in New York City and how does this location differ from your other stores?

Lorenza Luti: We are working on a new concept here in New York in that we have more space to present the expansion of the collections towards a lifestyle direction which expresses the Kartell spirit. Because of our collaborations with renowned designers, we have a vast collection of pieces, all with a strong identity of Kartell, that can be mixed and matched. For example, in the center of the floor downstairs we have sofas and tables by Peiro Lissoni mixed with armchairs by Rodolfo Dordoni. We are experimenting and combining things in a complementary way with the entire catalog of products to show the clients a different perspective. We also closed our Soho location, which was more for retail and relocated here to Madison Ave. Here, we are in the Italian Design District and we have more architects and decorators in the area looking for design.

JL: It sounds like the store is serving as a retail hub and a showroom for industry people, designers, interior designers, architects and consumers.

LL: Yes, it’s a new start, a new house for Kartell in New York. A story as important as Kartell’s must have two hearts. We are very strong in trade, but you also need the other side to grow, the consumers. I’ve been here ahead of the opening and we have lots of people coming in, consumers as well as interior decorators and their clients. It’s fantastic.

JL: With so many different design styles, how would you define the Kartell “look”?

LL: We don’t say we have a “look”, but rather a strong brand identity, which is driven from a tenet of four key principles: Innovative Materials, Industrial Production, Creativity, and Sustainability, and our designers are led by this credo during their design phase. Each designer puts his/her design and cultural influences into each product. Some are more classic and others are more eccentric. We have been working with them for 20-30 years and when they approach a Kartell project, they understand what is in the Kartell DNA. They also understand that because we oversee all of the manufacturing in Italy, we have full control over using the best materials and the latest technologies to see their designs come to life and enter the marketplace.

JL: How does Kartell work with such renowned designers? Do you begin with a brief? Or do you inform them of a new technical innovation or a new material and you ask that they work with it?

LL: My father, (Claudio Luti, President of Kartell), told me something very important in working with the designers. He would say, “Don’t tell them too much. Otherwise you lose a little bit of their creativity and spontaneity.”

That said, all the products are very different. Sometimes it comes from a design, for example the Smatrick Chair by Tokujin Yoshioka. Tokujin brought us the design and it was impossible to make. But we eventually found a 3D printer large enough to create the angles of this specific chair for the prototype. From what we learned from the 3D model, we were able to create the mold and construct the piece.

Other times it comes from a material. We found this polycarbonate material that was flexible but didn’t break. We worked on it so that we could make it as transparent as possible and also aesthetically pleasing. We brought it to Philippe Starck and asked him to draw a chair with this material. His idea was to create a piece that emphasized the material. He drew a very simple design and called it La Marie.

What’s nice about this is that every designer takes the brief and they all go in different directions. For example, Patricia Urquiola goes more on upholstered pieces or accessories. Piero Lissoni likes lounge chairs or lower sofas. Roberto and Ludovica Palomba went in the outdoor mood with metal products. So everyone goes and takes a different position within our catalog.

Working with our designers, we produce about 12 collections every year.

JL: With so many collections produced each year, how do you communicate this with the consumer so that it remains fresh in their minds?

LL: Firstly, through our stores, which is our best communication tool. We started our stores in 1997 and we realized that they were the best instrument of communication because of the windows and product layouts. We have always worked a bit more like fashion than furniture in our stores in that we continually change the concepts and the layouts in our window displays so as to highlight specific products. We do a lot of window campaigns all over the world.

We also present everything once a year at Salone Del Mobile, the annual international furniture exposition held in Milan, and then we release a collection every one to two months. In 2023, we also launched a podcast during the exposition on lighting and highlighted the newest lamp from Philippe Starck, Angelo Stone.

We also have a Kartell Museum in Milan with small exhibitions showing what we call “Kartell Classics,” displaying the evolution of products beginning from the original sketches.

JL: What are some of the most exciting pieces from the new collections for you?

LL: We have a lot of new products which are quite different. One of them, which is really new, is the lamp by Philippe Starck called the Angelo Stone, of which I mentioned before. We worked on it for years, and it’s challenging because there is no light bulb. The light comes from a special LED that gives the light to the shade, and then a reflection comes from a metal disc inside the shade that pushes the light down. It was quite challenging and a “wow” of technology.

Another one I really like is a Piero Lissoni table called Thierry. We started by making side tables, and then it had so much success that we made it into a bistro size and now into two extra large dining tables. One style is oval and I really like a large oval dining table. I also love the colors because we took inspiration from a Hermes bracelet. And like the Hermes bracelet, the leg has 4 or 5 colors and then the glass on top is another color. It seems simple, but it’s the details that make the difference. In NY, we presented it with the Eleganza chair upholstered with three different Missoni fabrics.

Photo credit: Courtesy of Kartell

JL: What are you most looking forward to in Kartell’s future?

LL: We have some newer initiatives for our e-commerce service, where our customers can buy online and pick up in stores. We also launched a service called MyKartell @ Home, where we can help the customers through the stores with designing and decorating their home. It acts like a personal shopper. We are also adding a new chat so that clients can also ask suggestions on the product or if they need service. We have everything on our website, types of fabrics, dimensions , so that we can inform architects, interior designers and our customers.

Our sustainability initiatives are also very exciting and our constant evolution of experimenting with materials and technologies that help us create more sustainable products and implement sustainable practices.

We also have an eye on expansion. Right now we are in over 130 countries globally, with our biggest market being Italy, France is second, and the US is third. We will be opening a store in Atlanta and one in Los Angeles.

Our dream is to open a store like the one in New York in Los Angeles.

Kartell Store:

152 Madison Avenue

New York, NY 10016

Phone: (212) 966-6665

Kartell.com

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