Kartell CEO Gilberto Negrini on maintaining the unique DNA of the Italian design house

As the brand turns 70 this year, Negrini talks about the role of innovation in establishing an enduring sense of style.

Kartell CEO Gilberto Negrini joined the company in 2009 as a sales manager after earning his stripes at leading furnishing and lighting design companies like Luceplan, Foscarini and Poltrona Frau (Photography by SooPhye)

As we stroll through the Kartell shop-in-shop at lighting showroom Lightcraft in Sungai Besi, Kuala Lumpur, it occurs to us that it is almost impossible to separate post-war Italian design from the Milan-based company’s legacy. Since its establishment in 1949, Kartell has been dictating domestic conversation with its innovative plastic furniture and home accessories, everything from furniture to lighting accessories and tableware.

As we explore Kartell’s collection of furniture, we are able to match each piece to various spaces in our homes — the Trama dinner set is a perfect fit for the dining table, the petite Ghost chair for a children’s room and the iconic Bourgie table lamp, whose versatile shape means we can imagine it in the kitchen, in a reading nook or by our bed. Besides being able to intimately engage with the pieces placed in a setting that resembles that of our own home, we are also struck by their flawless construction and quality.

Indeed, in its 70-year history, Kartell has devoted great attention to research, innovation and technological development. Quality, design and industrial products have distinguished its progress over time, starting with functional objects for domestic use, which revolutionised the history of post-WWII design, to the creation of sophisticated products that combine manufacturing technology with innovative materials such as carbon and biopolymers. The company’s history is intertwined with the dedication and passion of three generations who have been actively involved in the development and evolution of a brand that today boasts more than 350 stores in the world’s top shopping streets.

Founded by Giulio Castelli in 1949, Kartell took its first steps to produce the distinctive design that would come to epitomise the “Made in Italy” label in its early years. From the outset, the company worked with the greatest designers and architects of the day, in particular Castelli’s wife Anna Castelli Ferrieri, who was an architect, as well as Gino Colombini, Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni, Joe Colombo, Marco Zanuso, Gae Aulenti, Richard Sapper, Giotto Stoppino and Ignazio Gardella. In the 1970s, Kartell also established an innovation centre devoted to communications, an aspect that the company always considered to be inextricably linked to the product development process in those years.



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