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Celebrating design

Fashion designers command our attention and many achieve star status. In fact, most of us can list various past and present designers who have elevated the industry to the heights of glamour and aspiration.

Below the top level there are thousands of designers serving the pret-a-porter sector at different levels, all aspiring for higher recognition. The number of these that eventually make it to the top is not high but many have served the industry and the consumer well and without them, the high street would probably be different than it is today.

The furniture scene also attracts designers’ attention. The 20th century was the effective starting point of modernism in art, architecture and furniture.

The Art Deco period with its linear design and the adoption of an unusual mix of materials and finishes started the revolution in modern furniture. From then on there was no going back and with the advent of new and affordable materials such as flexible foams and fibreglass, designers could produce designs that were until then unattainable.

In the late 1950s and 60s, Italian furniture design took modernism to new heights and today, the Made in Italy label still leads the way.

Regretfully, furniture designers have not attracted anything like the star recognition that fashion designers have achieved.

The industry has however always recognised the flair and artistry of designers and many products have given more notoriety to the designer than to the manufacturer, attesting to the status that they have attracted. Some products are even considered to be works of art and displayed in museums.

Top designers influence furniture design and lead the way for industry. When a designer produces a design on commission, the manufacturer benefits greatly by association while the designer gains a breakthrough or more recognition in the industry. Both gain financially and help to elevate furniture design from the mundane to one of originality, uniqueness and timelessness.

These designers deserve more recognition and furniture should be judged on design merit. Furniture is not only about price and quality, function and comfort but also about refinement in style, proportion and the element of timelessness. Transient design is however a fact of life and will always be with us as the industry in the main is all about commercialisation at a contained cost.

However, times are changing and even big industry is moving fast in the direction hitherto adopted by only those few who produced for the top end market. Furniture manufacturers such as Natuzzi Italia have a design studio with a complement of over 100 professional designers who not only design furniture pieces but also lighting, rugs, cabinets, ceramic and glass art down to the last detail and up to manufacturing stage.

In addition, Natuzzi Italia, the world’s largest manufacturer of leather sofas, also engages the services of renowned designers like Paola Navona who designed the Marlene wing chair, Claudio Bellini who designed the Fortuna dining range and the Piuma, Vela and Onda bed collection, Manzoni and Tapinassi, designers of Dolce Vita and Oasi and the Poliziano sofa, and ceramics designer Giacomi Benevelli.

Rimadesio, the leading manufacturer of glass doors and now also of spectacular furniture pieces in wood, iron and glass, also takes the same approach. Internationally acclaimed designer Giuseppe Bavuso is responsible for several of the pieces that have made Rimadesio a new big name in furniture. Gordon Guillaumier, a fellow Maltese based in Italy, is an acknowledged designer who has designed beautiful pieces for Arketipo. There are so many who deserve your attention and recognition.

The world of furniture design is not necessarily the exclusive domain of the furniture industry, architects and interior decorators. It belongs to everyone and is an art form that deserves recognition. So next time you look at a piece of furniture, investigate who designed it and you will be starting on the road of recognising the artistic input of many dedicated people who have given their life to design beautiful pieces that will stand the test of time.

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