Wonder Women=Wonder Office

We talked to Federica Biasi, Manerba’s new artistic director, entrusted with outlining the stylistic future of this all-woman family company with fifty years of experience in office design

Thirty years old, specialised in the study of trends, colours, materials, and finishes, and with international expertise. This, in a professional nutshell, is Federica Biasi, recently appointed artistic director of Manerba, chosen to continue and innovate the all-female creative path led by sisters Elisa and Grazia Manerba and their mother Federica Quintarelli.
“In Federica we see fresh and elegant taste, enthusiasm, courage, intuition, and determination,” say the businesswomen. “She will oversee every aspect of the Manerba ‘total office’, with the objective of creating an increasingly cohesive dialogue between each product, stimulating and fuelling, with her youthful insight, future projects and new dynamics of work and collaboration.”

The Mantua-based company intends to incorporate a contemporary style that is able to renew itself and to pursue a vision that considers new ways of living and working. Meanwhile, Federica has already gotten to work, focused on the launch of a new and more user-friendly website, on the display for the next edition of the Salone del Mobile which will open the horizons of a highly customisable workspace, and on a new creative expression in collaboration with a well-known contemporary French designer.

Apollo, sistema operativo disegnato da Shane Schneck per Manerba
Apollo, sistema operativo disegnato da Shane Schneck per Manerba

Federica, you’ve joined the workforce of a family company with 50 years of experience. Was it easy to integrate yourself within such a solid and closely-knit group?
The Manerba family was immediately very open with me. From my very first day we got right to work. The fact that the company has such a long history is a plus for me, because it means that it successfully pursues its ideas.

How did the meeting with the company come about?
Through Virginio Briatore, who has worked with Manerba as a consultant for many years and who saw in me something that could be right for them at this moment.

Undecided Collection, imbottiti con coefficiente di assorbimento  acustico, design Raffaella Mangiarotti & Ilkka Suppanen, produzione Manerba
Undecided Collection, imbottiti con coefficiente di assorbimento acustico, design Raffaella Mangiarotti & Ilkka Suppanen, produzione Manerba

What do you have in common? What values were you asked to continue pursuing?
I remember that the first time we met one of the important factors that emerged was the feminine and delicate nature of the brand, especially the use of colour as a fundamental and not just superficial aspect.

How do you carry out your role as an innovator within a company that has always focused on innovation?
In everything that’s considered a contemporary dynamic of the world of design: the choice of unusual materials, of colours that are in keeping with the latest trends, always incorporating bold elements, and also in the choice of new designers and consultants who can bring new ideas to the table.

Mangiarotti & Ilkka Suppanen per Manerba
Litta, scrivania ricaricabile senza fili, e seduta Undecided Collection design Raffaella Mangiarotti & Ilkka Suppanen; per Manerba

You’ll be overseeing every aspect of ‘total office’. What does that entail?
It’s an office that is not pigeon-holed by its conventional role, but is oriented towards all types of work environments and, I would venture to say, also common spaces that interact with the world of hotels. In terms of the work area itself, it will, on the other hand, move increasingly in the direction of reacquiring privacy, which is often lost. So yes to co-working and open space, but also to paying attention to individual storage spaces. The identity of each individual worker must not be lost. People must be able to personalise their sphere of activity, to feel that it’s theirs even if only for two days.

What are you bringing from your experience in Holland to your role as artistic director?
Holland is one of those countries that pays particular attention to the individual, also when it comes to work spaces, as is often the case in Northern Europe. They have a habit of using these spaces without neglecting personal wellness, which isn’t found only in the aesthetics, but also in the functionality of the details.

Undecided Collection, design Raffaella Mangiarotti & Ilkka Suppanen per Manerba
Undecided Collection, design Raffaella Mangiarotti & Ilkka Suppanen per Manerba.

How did you start collaborating with Philippe Nigro? Was it your idea?
Of course. I decided to call Philippe after the company expressed a desire for a storage product, the design of which, however, wouldn’t be approached as a simple bookcase, but rather as a piece of micro architecture. I immediately thought of him.

What are you working on now?
Philippe and I are developing ‘Stem’. I want to call it a wide ranging ‘storage’ system, but that would be reductive. At most I’ll call it a system. This product will be widely developed over time due to its infinite applications: partition, bookcase, container, wardrobe, lounge, relaxation area, acoustic panel, support for operational desks… Ultimately, an enormous system that applies the ideas of ‘total office’ to the workplace.

Apollo, sistema operativo disegnato da Shane Schneck per Manerba
Apollo, sistema operativo disegnato da Shane Schneck per Manerb

What is Manerba’s new vision under you creative leadership?
We will certainly continue to uphold the delicate and feminine nature on which the brand has built its name. We are also, and above all, interested in the functional aspect of public spaces and offices. That’s why at the Salone del Mobile we’ll be presenting Wonder Office, which isn’t intended to be a play space, but rather a space that is people-oriented. We always seek freedom outside of the work environment because it’s often a space that we experience as being restrictive. With Wonder Office I would like not only to convey an aesthetic and harmonious idea of beauty, but also to put employees back at the centre of the workplace, creating an environment that makes people comfortable.