Starting from 1979, the essence of Alias can be distilled and expressed using three words: research, technology and lightness, what do you think?
Alias is a brand which has always had a technological vocation. Its archetype is undoubtedly the chair Spaghetti, where the designer Giandomenico Belotti combined a metal structure with pvc string. He used two ‘poor’ materials, light years away from furnishing tastes at the time, transforming this improbable (at the time) combination into a cult object which achieved international success and still features in the catalogue today. It speaks a language of intelligent technology, one which is never paraded.
This was followed by many other case histories, starting from Alberto Meda’s arrival at Alias, an engineer from Alfa Romeo who experimented with composite fibres, and who together with us introduced carbon fibre for the creation of Light Light, followed by Leggera, by the Swiss Riccardo Blummer, weighing in at less than 2 kg, despite being made of wood.
In addition to technology, Alias has always paid particular attention to materials: from plastic to aluminium and curved wood, often stretching them to the very limits of performance. This has resulted in pure and perfect forms, almost apparently instinctive and obvious, however, the boundary between obvious and natural is extremely thin, and naturalness is what we’re aiming for. It is almost a job for an engineer, not for an architect. This is our essence, and we preserve it with extreme care and attention.
How do you choose protagonists with whom you wish to collaborate?
We receive numerous proposals on a daily basis, occasionally a project does emerge here and there, but this is extremely rare. We actively seek designers, not so much due to the formal appearance of their products, it is more in virtue of their project development approach.
Whenever we call upon a designer we always try to define a path: some are more structural in their approach, such as Alberto Meda and Paolo Rizzato in a certain sense. Others are sensitive to language, as is the case with Mario Botta or Nendo, whereas others are more focused on the perceptive aspect. It is important to select a project designer who has a clear and recognisable path, we respect that and we help them to understand the Alias know-how.
Alias is a company which experiments within a world – the world of furnishing – with a particular vocation for artisanship. Perhaps only Magis has a penchant for experimentation on shapes and materials. Project designers we contact are happy to work with Alias because they recognise that our company has the capacity to enrich their path.
So the philosophy has not changed, also with reference to products at Salone 2018?
Absolutely not. For example, for one of this year’s latest products, the sofa Aluzen, we chose Ludovica and Roberto Palomba, in virtue of their upholstery skills: if you strip Aluzen of its fabrics and cushions, you will discover a perfect structure which even alone is very beautiful and attractive. Aluzen is a sofa which should actually be sold based on what you cannot see. If we observe New Lady by Paolo Rizzato, the connection point between the seat and legs is what makes this armchair take off: we wanted to show something that is usually hidden away. Kobi by Norguet also exudes Alias character: Patrick is a very serious protagonist, his approach is both technical and commercial, he is very good at managing geometries. To date, Kobi is perhaps the most beautiful sofa Alias has in its collection, it is technological, with a female elegance, without being decorative.
Alias was born residential, then it embraced the office, contract, followed by upholstery…then came an armchair inspired by the automotive world…
What happened was that instead of selecting them, we sometimes actually stumbled upon protagonists. Bergamo is home to the Fondazione Pio Manzù archive, a precursor of car design who worked with Giuriaro at the Fiat research centre: we fell in love with his story! He designed an armchair for La Rinascente, inspired by the automotive world (the 090), which never made it to production, until we came along, We’re also thinking about presenting other projects by Manzù.
Design, production and then sale: what purchase motives do you suggest to your sales chain?
The intrinsic value of our products constitutes a rare opportunity per se, however during the sales phase it may also be a limitation: initially customers do not understand the reason behind the price, then they notice the finishings and details, they understand the product’s durability and meticulous attention to the slightest of details. This is when it all comes together for them. But it is not an easy journey.
This aspect has a considerable impact in terms of sustainability: which is more sustainable: a recyclable product with a short life, or a product which lasts for 40 years and is passed down from generation to generation?
Alias products come with a ten year warranty, but some of our objects are in use 30 years on and can still be repaired using original parts: I don’t know anyone else who can do this.