Interview with Ferruccio Laviani

From the foggy Lombardy landscape to cities across the world, along a route laden with literary and musical cultures, an array of conscious contaminations: an indie, anti-conformist designer with a penchant for passion and generosity


You studied luthierie and wood craft, a sign of things to come?

Wood was the first material I seriously came into contact with when I enrolled at the School of Lutherie, Cremona. The school offered a furniture design course, and I chose it. At the end of the three-year programme I took a further two-year extension which gave me the chance to continue onto higher education, so I enrolled at the faculty of architecture at the Polytechnic University of Milan.

Are there some memories you are particularly fond of from your time at high school?

There are two episodes I recall with particular fondness. The first was meeting Achille Castiglioni who came to Cremona to give a presentation. I came into contact with someone who I considered to be larger than life and I never imagined we’d end up working together, let alone co-designing a work for Moroso (the armchair 40/80, 1999, editor’s note).
The classical biennial was another seminal experience as I came into contact with literature which was unfamiliar to me. Proust, Kafka, the poètes maudits truly made their mark on me, and probably continue to surface in some of my collections (see La Recherche for Fratelli Boffi).

During your professional years, what other ‘arts’ have influenced you?

I travelled frequently to Brazil over 9 years, and Portuguese culture truly conquered my heart, I love the music and was even a DJ. The approach I strive to uphold with client companies is the one I forged with music, when it developed from passion into work: I try to exercise a constant – and strenuous – scrutiny beyond the boundaries of personal taste, every single day.

You have been the art director of numerous furnishing and lighting brands: what experiences have made you who you are?

I have experienced fundamental encounters in my life: in addition to Castiglioni, there has been Sottsass and De Lucchi, with the Memphis movement, and Antonio Citterio, who taught me what it means to be an innovative art director. Maddalena de Padova stands out in particular in terms of my own professional experience, I worked with her for 12 years and she taught me what retail is all about. I remember her as one of the most cheerful people I have ever known. Then there were 12 years with Flos, 25 years with Foscarini, 28 with Kartell and over 20 with Molteni | Dada: it seems as though I’m over 80 – I’m only 55 but I’ve had the incomparable luck of having worked with many of these brands and some of the designers I previously mentioned.

Trade, theatre, museums, products: interior designer or designer?

I like interior design when I can recount stories and bestow recognisability upon a brand. I think that the concept of the Dolce & Gabbana showrooms and the ongoing Kartell retail project  are examples of what I love to design. I continue to like so-called classical furniture, which I try to match with my own tendency towards ironic provocation. For example, with Fratelli Boffi, it’s interesting to find a public which appreciates classical pieces, and another which is attracted by a few out-of-the-box forms.

Any upcoming projects?

Lots…I could say “the usual kind”: my collaboration with Society flagship stores will continue (home fabrics) as well as with many of the companies I mentioned previously. A new collaboration is underway with Londonart, an Italian wallpaper company for whom I designed the Shine On collection, presented at Maison&Objet, Paris. I don’t have any long-cherished dreams, I’m lucky that I do what I love; there are businessmen who listen to my ideas and follow me, in this sense Emmemobili is the most fitting example, which has grown from a contractor into a company with its very own collection. Your dreams are fulfilled by companies who enable you to bring them to life, by giving you the chance to create what you have in mind.

Ferruccio Laviani’s début in design: the armchair 40/80 created for Moroso in1999 together with his master and icon of design Achille Castiglioni
The suspended lamp Kabuki, designed by Ferruccio Laviani for Kartell and presented at Euroluce 2017. Kabuki is a range of illuminated units completed by floor and table models.
The appeal of Ferruccio Laviani’s flair extends beyond the furnishing and interior sector: here are some pieces conceived for Paradis, the top of the range cognac produced by Hennessy