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Portrait Luca Nichetto: The art of listening

Luca Nichetto is actually a designer of the old school. That seems to be at odds with his reputation as a rebel and a representative of a new generation of Italian designers that is trying to emancipate itself from the Milan scene. And yet the Venetian deliberately refers to role models like Achille Castiglioni or Vico Magistretti. Not to their signature style – because, Nichetto emphasises during the talk in his studio, they didn’t have one; style only started to gain importance after Memphis. Instead, he is referring to the way they saw themselves. “My approach is the same: first I listen to what the client wants … and then I try to understand the material. Ultimately, the form is the result of what is possible.”

The craft tradition of Murano, the glass-making island where he was born, continues to influence Nichetto’s understanding of design even today. When it comes to details like the arrangement of the folds in the fabric of a piece of upholstered furniture, he doesn’t rely on computer simulations but trusts instead in the magnificently crafted miniature model of the armchair, chair or sofa made for him by Francesco Dompieri, a designer and partner at Nichetto’s studio. This gives rise to furniture like the La Mise sofa for Cassina, which features a cover made from a single piece of fabric and outsized decorative zigzag stitching along the outer edges of its silhouette.

Luca Nichetto (*1976) is famous for doing things his own way. He attended the Art Institute in Venice, partly financing his subsequent studies with design drawings for glassmakers Salviati. In 1999, this resulted in his first successful product, the Murano vase Mille Bolle. After graduating as an industrial designer from the University Institute of Architecture of Venice (IUAV), a period with Foscarini where he worked in product development and materials research, and his first successes as a designer, he remained in Venice, founding design firm Nichetto & Partners in the city’s Mestre harbour in 2006 and opening a second studio in Stockholm in 2011. His company develops designs for everything from sofas, chairs, office furniture, lamps and carpets all the way to glasses, vases and kitchen accessories. He is widely regarded as one of the most sought-after young designers in Italy and collaborates with a multitude of international brands, including Bosa, Casamania, Cassina, De Padova, Established & Sons, Foscarini, Fratelli Guzzini, Glass Idromassaggio, Globo, Italesse, Kristalia, La Chance, MG Lab, Moroso, Offecct, Tacchini, Venini and Petite Friture. It is, he says, his experiences with the design culture that permeates everyday life in Sweden that motivate him to combine the modern, functional and democratic design philosophy of Scandinavia with the emotional, flamboyant tradition of Italy, which is geared towards craftsmanship just as much as it is towards speed.

Luca Nichetto is one of the most productive designers in the field – you encounter his products at all the world’s trade fairs. One of his recipes for success is a constant change of perspective: he makes things appear in a new light by reducing them to a simple, sensuous form and producing them in new materials. He also likes to equip his creations with intelligent functions or instinctively accessible stories. Nichetto brings together materials and functions that develop an unusual aesthetic language: glowing objects made of suitcase covering fabric or plastics from the automobile industry, chandeliers in plastic, stools in ceramic or concrete.

With his latest project, the “Das Haus – Interiors on Stage” installation for the imm cologne 2013, Luca Nichetto is again changing his perspective – in two respects. Firstly, he can devote his attention to a theme that has become increasingly important to him since his orientation towards Scandinavia: sustainability in design. And secondly, he can explore the way his creations interact with one another on a larger scale – in the interior of a house of his own design. He will, however, be sharing this house with an abundance of plants … and around 100,000 visitors.

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