INTERNATIONAL FLAVOUR: It’s been a vibrant past month for Kuala Lumpur as it played host to a list of who’s who in the international design scene as they shared about their best designs. We quizzed some of them on the latest trends
So many brands, so many selections. Faced with a unique conundrum of choices with the world turning its attention to Asia, Kuala Lumpur too suddenly found itself thrust into the spotlight.
Vying for its attention, the world’s best designer brands with their bevy of unrivalled designer products made a beeline offering the best of international picks. From the favoured kitchen preferences of the world’s superstars and celebrities opting for Varenna kitchen by Poliform and Snaidero, to the best of bathroom fixtures and fittings by Grohe, purveyors of good taste found themselves spoilt for choice.
The highly treasured craftsmanship appeal of handmade designer furniture using natural wood combined with technology as reflected in the rich legacy of Giorgetti also made its presence felt. We quizzed representatives of international leading brands about current trends that are making waves and what sets their products a designer world apart.
Poliform’s star appeal: There’s no denying the star appeal attached to designer brands with their longstanding heritage of unsurpassed excellence and superior performance. “Quality,” quips Marta Anzani, corporate manager of Poliform attributing the one word to describe the world famous Poliform brand that also produces top-of-the-line Varenna kitchen by Poliform that are a culinary world apart. Its kitchens and wardrobes are the choice of powerful magnates, superstars and celebrities including Bill Clinton, Michael Jordan and football players who live in Milan or Europe.
“We’ve just done the walk-in closet for Beyonce’s residence,” adds Marta, daughter of Giovanni Anzani who started the legendary company with cousins Alberto Spinelli and Aldo Spinelli.
“Poliform is a high level company. We’re known all around the world and we’re looking to be represented internationally. In America and Asia, to have a Poliform
wardrobe or Varenna kitchen (by Poliform) can guarantee a high return of investment on the apartments,” she shares, offering a glimpse into the appealing prospect of owning Poliform products that are held in such high regard.
“The emerging trends especially for Asia would see the kitchen becoming part of the living room instead of being separated from it. An island unit is also important as you can show the heart of your home (that is) the kitchen. You can also eat together at the snack table with your family and friends.”
Sharing that in Italy, the kitchen forms the integral and central part of the home, she foresees this enduring and cherished Italian tradition being adopted in Asian homes with the kitchen eventually taking pride-of-place as the prime area of the residence. Besides kitchens and designer wardrobes, Poliform also produces furniture designs that include new creations by its long-time designer Carlo Colombo such as the Park sofa, Clipper table and Sintesi system.
“Furniture in itself is such a beautiful thing. Just as accessories improve the furniture setting, the correct choice of quality furniture pieces makes the place,” she reflects. Colombo agrees, commending Poliform for its huge investment in state-of-the-art technology and machinery, production process, materials as well as research and development, besides its investment in people to realise the highest standards of design.
By virtue of the fact that Poliform is lifestyle personified and its name splashed across leading magazines of the world, to have its products in your residence is akin to the aspiration of owning something of prestige.
“Having Poliform is like owning a Mercedes or BMW. You have the big important models and the Class A for the young people. Likewise, for furniture we have the range of Class A to the more high-end models,” adds Poliform’s export manager Franco Galli.
He says that the increasing affluence and exposure to international brands has created an appetite for high-end products in Asia.
“KL is another brick in the wall that we’re building in Asia for our distribution.
We have offers to furnish important buildings here. Asia is a big market and will be increasingly important. In Asia, it’s important where Poliform will be represented and we aim to increase the number of point-of-sales (showrooms).
“In Europe, we are consolidated. We will also be continuing the work that we started years ago in terms of distribution to make the brand even stronger,” shares Galli. There are also plans to grow the brand’s presence in other parts of Asia following the successful implementation of its shop-in-shop monobrand concept worldwide. Poliform can be found in Sydney and Melbourne in Australia. In Asia, it has outlets in KL and Singapore (both represented by Space Furniture), Hong Kong,Bangkok in Thailand, Shanghai in China, Tokyo in Japan and Seoul in Korea. The Manila outlet in Philippines will be opening in a few months’ time.
“In 2000, Poliform’s idea of having its monobrand flagship shop-in-shop concept was started in Europe. Within a period of 12 years, we have 65 Poliform stores worldwide and around 200 shop-in-shop outlets that contribute a very big percentage to Poliform’s turnover. The aim for the next four to five years is to continue in this manner with the goal of having 100 Poliform shops covering all the major cities of the world,” he shares.
Giorgetti on my mind: Renowned for its wood-based materials combining superb handmade craftsmanship and technology, Giorgetti’s legacy of excellence is a distinguished world apart. Roberta Giorgetti, daughter of Carlo Giorgetti who is the third generation owner of the company was in town recently to celebrate the Space KL launch with Giorgetti export division manager Arianna Borgonovo.
“Giorgetti was founded by my great-grandfather in 1898. It started as an artisan cabinet-making laboratory. The company has always distinguished itself owing to its tradition of manual skill that has not been lost overtime. We use the best that you can find in raw materials like wood, leather and stones.”
“Giorgetti’s unique wood furniture is easily recognisable from others in the market. We still design some pieces the artisan way because there are few machines that can create our type of furniture. You need the ‘hand of the man’,” she explains of the delicate craft involved.
Roberta shares that 60 per cent of Giorgetti furniture is fashioned by hand with 40 per cent of the creation process attributed to technology.
“My father who is a designer considers the work more like his life’s passion. This sensation and passion for furniture comes from the family and is also very important to me. I feel like it’s a part of my life. Giorgetti is probably the one company left whereby you can feel the passion for wood and can smell the wood in the furniture.”
“’Unique’ is the word to describe Giorgetti. There is nothing compared to our furniture. Giorgetti pieces are also very difficult to copy. They are borne of a proud Italian tradition. We use expensive materials to ensure consistent quality. You will feel the difference immediately,” summarises Roberta.
Pointing to the latest trend of tropical wood being all the rage, Roberta says its new furniture range was created using canaletto walnut and pau ferro wood.
“We wanted to create something different and new. Walnut is one of the strongest woods very well suited with the other solid shapes,” she enthuses.
A name above many other furniture brands, the Progetti armchair created in 1987 still remains an iconic Giorgetti bestseller.
The Arabella chair, introduced in 2010 has since become one of its best-selling armchairs year after year.
“We have over 90 people working at the factory and workshop besides 200 people who help in-between,” quips Roberta. While there are plans to continue the company’s tradition and its unique brand of furniture designs, in keeping with the times, Giorgetti is also on the lookout for new designers, projects and opportunities.
Singling out quality and the passion that people have towards the company as the secret of Giorgetti’s enduring success, she adds that in line with the passion of “always finding new designs”, one of the important criteria that sets Giorgetti apart is that it engages artisans to work on its furniture designs.
“In the 80s, besides furniture designers, my father started using designers coming from different backgrounds as in sculptures and painters to design the furniture together with architects and designers,” she shares. Roberta adds that every piece of furniture produced for the Giorgetti collection has to stay within its factory for a year or two to ascertain quality standards and taste preference before being released to the market.
“The market in Asia is now growing very well. Usually, we design what we like but we also think of our markets so that we can promote our furniture everywhere.
Europe and the United States are experiencing recession so the Asian market is the best market. In KL, we are working with the Space Group,” says Roberta.
She adds that the target market for its expensive furniture is the up-market segment and “people who love wood and who can feel and understand our Italian style”.
“We started at the end of the 1800s imparting exclusive designs for Giorgetti pieces to create timeless objects that will never go out of fashion. A Giorgetti piece can be compared to a work of art which is able to withstand the test of time without ever seeming outdated,” reminisces Roberta.
Grohe – from like to love: Paul Flowers, global senior vice president of design for Grohe worldwide says there is a shift taking place in the market. “’Like to love’ is a concept for transforming the brand’s ideals from rational to emotional. It’s a benchmark or philosophy for us as we aim to design products for consumers to fall in love with,” he says.
“During the economic crisis, we sat down as a brand and saw the opportunity to get market share. We invested the same level, if not more (and this was marked by the) release of 300 new products.
It’s quite interesting, when people have less money they are more selective with what they buy. Consumers want products that last longer and hopefully, products that inspire design.”
The 39 year old designer who was the proud recipient of the Red Dot: Design Team of the year 2011/2012 award for Grohe – a first for the sanitary industry - shares that he’s found the Midas touch to designs that tug at the heartstrings.
“I’ve always had a similar approach to design. It’s my way of doing things. My secret to success is that I try to understand people and how objectively they would like to love great design. Often, my approach has been very successful. If it looks good, it’s just not enough,” he shares, presenting an Icon shower appliance that he designed to elaborate on its design characteristics.
“It’s the most highly decorated shower holder with a hole in the middle and an eco button that can restrict the flow of water. At the same time, it’s very ecological and even when it is packaged for distribution to 130 countries around the world, it can reduce the carbon footprint by virtue of its design,” says the multiple award-winning designer.
When probed about the current trends for kitchens and bathrooms, Flowers says the key lies in understanding people and what works for them.
“The kitchens and bathrooms are very different spaces. The kitchen is about ‘we’ while the bathroom is about ‘me’. And, this is very cultural. The kitchen is where food is prepared. In a global concept, it’s a place for interaction. The bathroom (meanwhile) is the last personal sanctuary. In its most natural state, it’s a very powerful environment suitable for a home spa.
“The trend shows that bathrooms are commanding more space from real estate, so it’s becoming the most important place. The kitchen is the second most important space,” analyses Flowers. Operating from the angle of “trying to understand people more” has kept Flowers’ designs “people-centric and relevant”. It’s when consumers make an emotional connection with his designs that he considers his job done. He adds that the world’s first digitally co-ordinated bathroom will be launched very soon incorporating digital products and wireless accessories. Concern for the environment will be reflected in the wave of new designs incorporating flushing systems that promise water savings of more than 40 per cent.
“Consumers are very conscious of the changing environment and the need to be sustainable. It also makes sense for hoteliers, architects and designers to address the issue of water becoming more and more valuable. We have a water calculator that also makes good financial savings while accounting for lovely products that save water and money. It’s good and holistic when eco and water enjoyment come together.
“Everything we do has a focus on people. We never look at other brands but at the consumers and redefine the competition by means of creativity. When we think like that, then there’s an unlimited supply of creativity. I like to set the trends. It’s a more exciting position to be in,” concludes the head of one of the best design teams in the world. Grohe is the world’s leading and Europe’s largest single brand manufacturer and supplier of sanitary fittings considered by many to be the water experts.
Snaidero’s Ola20: Actor Brad Pitt, known for his interest in architecture also takes a keen interest in the interior fittings of his residence. Having given an interview to an American magazine, he raves about how the Ola20, Snaidero’s latest kitchen creation designed by Paolo Pininfarina serves his family well.
“The last thing I bought for my house in Los Angeles is the Ola20 kitchen by Snaidero because the kids, Angelina and I form a tribe. It’s easy to meet all together in the kitchen. There’s someone having a snack, someone listening to music, someone drawing, someone drinking fruit juice,” reads the article printed in April in which he professes to be a modernist at heart.
Winner of the 2011 world’s most prestigious “Good Design Award” in the “Innovative and Original Ideas” category at the Chicago Athenaeum Museum of Architecture and Design, the Ola20 kitchen has a fully functional, contemporary open-plan system perfect for large families.
“We started working with Pininfarina in 1990 on the first Ola (kitchen) followed by Ola2000 that was the upgraded version of the Ola. Now we have the new upgraded Ola20 with curved doors that is the constant of the model since the beginning,” shares Pier Nicola Moneta, Snaidero area manager for Asia. He was in town for the official launch of the Snaidero showroom in KL by Interfal Group of Companies under Interfal Marketing Sdn Bhd.
“Snaidero has 22 different model ranges starting from the middle to the top that cater to any budget. These 22 models of kitchen systems come in different finishes and colours, with Ola being high-end,” he says, adding that on average, the cost of a kitchen system with appliances is approximately in the range of RM180,000 to RM380,000.
“Ola was first produced in 1991 and has been an emblem of ‘Made-in-Italy’ and a symbol of Italian design. The Ola20 is the new edition of an old model. After 20 years of experimentation and research, Ola20 was designed to be more lightweight, sustainable, essential and simple. It is known for its curves expressing a new modernity with sophisticated top-design appeal. It has a unique leg support represented by a sculptural sign developed by craftsmen in stratified and shaped wood that showcases Pininfarina’s design.”
He credits the original idea of Ola to Pininfarina, the designer for Ferrari cars. “The marketing is emotional but the product is rational,” he quips, adding that the company has invested tremendously in Ola20 resulting in a combination of technology and aesthetics. The curvature wall hung unit, he adds, is derived from Pininfarina’s passion for automobile design.
Angie Tan, managing director of Interfal Marketing says Ola20 comes with a new finish in micalised lacquer with water based spray paint commonly used in the automobile industry that allows for a cleaner look.
“Each model has the designer’s touch and aesthetic value attached to it, enabling one to own a masterpiece. Snaidero is not only a kitchen, but a piece of art reflecting the latest style,” she enthuses.
Pier agrees sharing that the fully imported from Italy Snaidero range represents “a top brand in the United States” that has been around for over 65 years. Crediting the majority of Snaidero kitchens to famous designers such as Pininfarina who works with Ferrari and Massimo Iosa Ghini who also works with Ferrari and Maserati, he says that besides Ola20, other kitchens namely Venus, Idea, Gioconda and Orange are also available.
Commenting on the Europe economic crisis, he observes that purchasers now want “valuable products and they pay a lot of attention to the quality and finishes” with purchases becoming “more rational than before”.
“Quality becomes important as the kitchen is increasingly becoming the centre of the home and family life. In Italy, it’s where ‘family happens’. It’s the place where the mother takes care of the kids and where food becomes very important in the social relationship of the family. It’s the traditional meeting place beside the fireplace and where kids do their homework. In Italy, we always have our friends over in the kitchen. (For us), it is normal for the kitchen to be at the centre of the home. The kitchen is also the most important piece of furniture in Italy so people are willing to spend more.
“I can see Asia somehow moving towards this direction. When I started work in China, the kitchen was usually a small, dark room hidden in a corner and was absolutely unimportant 10 to 15 years ago. It was a very minor piece of furniture and people then preferred to spend more on the living room, bathroom or bedroom. Now you can see that in many houses, the kitchen is gaining increasing importance and sometimes becomes the living space separated by a transparent glass wall,” he reflects.
Snaidero’s mission is to “produce kitchens with only the best materials” designed to withstand the test of time while at the same time respecting the environment.