OAK: Interview with Renato Pologna

A balance defines the relationship between different Oak proposals, from the classic range to its contemporary division. A dual soul which converges on the common ground of the project, a sector which has also reinforced the company’s propulsion onto international markets. The project sector led the company to the prescient intuition of Oak Design, back in 2001, which is now reborn and destined to conquer new frontiers

For the first time ever, at Salone del Mobile you are presenting yourself with the Oak Design division alone: this is a strong signal…
Yes, we have chosen to focus in particular on Oak’s contemporary division, to achieve greater visibility and concentrate most of our energies here. We are making considerable investments in this range, with a new website, a new app, a new 600 sqm company showroom entirely dedicated to it, and above all, with new products. Indeed through Oak Design our aim is to bolster contact with projects in metropolitan areas and are looking towards contemporary solutions, as well as markets where we are present but not in an incisive manner.

Is classic on a downward trend?
It is a fact that currently there is less demand for classic. The sector has slowed down due to an evolution in tastes and customers. We predicted this 17 years ago, in 2001, when we first launched the Oak Design division, the company’s response to future change. However currently Oak is continuing with its historic period style furniture production, with its own niche market for high level projects: I’m talking about large-sized villas and residential areas. This is why classic has rooted itself above all in specific geographic locations: we are looking towards Russia and neighbouring former Soviet Union countries, the Middle and Far East. China is an effervescent market where imports have increased, so it gives us hope for the future.

What is the value of the project sector for you?
It accounts for more than 60% of turnover, clearly integrated with the product. Thanks to numerous orders, the outlook for 2018 and 2019 is excellent. Part of this is thanks to the contemporary division, which has intercepted new customers and market categories. Not least Europe, which we have never considered as one of our potential main markets, until now. With the recent crisis, potential customers such as Russians and Arabs are becoming increasingly present in European cities, especially London, where they prefer to invest.
Our experience in the project sector enabled us to anticipate a change in trends and style tastes: in dealing with large villas, we found there was increasing demand for more family areas and for younger people, something more contemporary to go alongside more institutional interiors where classic prevailed. This is how Oak Design was born, as an intuition which has since proven to be right.

So you were precursors of a strategy that was successively embraced by many others…
Today almost all classic companies have a parallel range in a more modern style. However, back in 2000 when we first thought of Oak Design and launched it the successive year, we were the only ones. Luca Scacchetti’s support as Artistic Director was truly invaluable, in addition to the contribution of big names such as Ettore Sottsass, Paolo Portoghesi and other exponents of international design. Over the last ten years extremely important projects have prevented us from actively committing ourselves to this division, however we started focusing on nurturing it a couple of years ago. This year we are presenting the completion of the Milano collection which we launched last year at Salone del Mobile and the restyling of the Percorsi collection, in collaboration with the Architecture firm Scacchetti Associati, along with a limited edition designed by Sottsass back in 2002.

MOBILE 7 Limited edition, design Ettore Sottsass, 2002

Oak and Sottsass: an extremely original partnership…
Our collaboration with Ettore Sottsass was a unique and exclusive experience, albeit far from simple. In us he found the right interlocutor for interpreting his products. We were given the chance to work with an extraordinary person who made history. The challenge laid in integrating his creative flair with our company’s identity. This resulted in products with a strong artistic spirit, almost museum-like, which became protagonists of our exhibition at Abitare il Tempo in 2002 “Chi ha paura del merkato?” (Who is afraid of the market?). This was the very moment in which the company was reflecting on changes in style and when we first approached contemporaneity. The exhibition resulted in a crisis of our canons by rousing reflections on the sense of design.

So what does design mean to Oak today?
We first asked ourselves that question back in 2001, and continue to do so. What we try to do is create original products, something we feel as our own, availing ourselves of professionals with an extensive professional background, taste and global visibility, so that we can propose solutions which stand the test of time, that fulfil the canons of beauty, proportion and comfort – values which enable them to be identifiable as icons. This is what design is about for me, a term which embraces all these concepts. If throughout history we see pieces which have lasted for twenty, thirty years and are still going strong, it is because they have remained modern, and this is what makes them unique.


Chaise longue VITTORIA, collezione MILANO
Divano MANZONI, collezione MILANO
Tavolo CITYLIFE, collezione MILANO