Duet composition

A conversation with Luca Fuso and Patricia Urquiola, the two faces and minds behind the recent explosive growth of Cassina

Luca Fuso, CEO of Cassina - Patricia Urquiola, Art Director of Cassina
Luca Fuso, CEO of Cassina - Patricia Urquiola, Art Director of Cassina

Two personalities, two spirits of the same company. Luca Fuso embraces the corporate aspect; Patricia Urquiola represents the creative vision. Together, the results are explosive: as can be seen in the new collections, and tangibly in the concept, The Cassina Perspective, a philosophy that permeates the company’s narrative in the world and ratifies its farsighted, total vision, capable of establishing a harmonious dialogue between the most innovative design and the icons of the modern. Here’s an exclusive double interview, to discover the ‘perspective’ of Cassina through those who make it happen

Luca Fuso

CEO of Cassina

Acute collection by Rodolfo-Dordoni. Photo © DePasquale+Maffini

Acute collection by Cassina – Design Rodolfo Dordoni – Photo © DePasquale+Maffini

From Ferrari – without overlooking Safilo and Diesel – to Cassina: is there a thread that connects these experiences of yours?
Definitely. After working inside large multinational corporations, I have had the chance to work for some leading Italian brands. Ferrari and Cassina, for example, are two cases of excellence in the great tradition of manufacturing, in different fields. They represent the creativity and know-how of our country, with a strong focus on design, where aesthetics are never the main objective.

Cassina is about to mark its 100th anniversary. How do you see its path over the short, medium and long term, also in relation to the present situation and its consequences?
Cassina has an enormous heritage, which should be respected. Our strategy is to add value to the past, while conserving the company’s pioneering approach to the creation of welcoming, complete settings for the entire home. In this present situation we have all deeply understood the importance of the home. The home takes care of us and we have to do the same for it, allowing it to evolve on the basis of new needs, such as smart working, for example, or the care for outdoor spaces which become a true extension of the home, in terms of both space and style.

Sail Out by Cassina - Design Rodolfo Dordoni - Photo © DePasquale+Maffini

Sail Out by Cassina – Design Rodolfo Dordoni – Photo © DePasquale+Maffini

Beam by Cassina - Design Patricia Urquiola - Photo © DePasquale+Maffini

Beam by Cassina – Design Patricia Urquiola – Photo © DePasquale+Maffini

The Cassina Perspective ha dato avvio a un nuovo percorso aziendale: quale è stato il punto di partenza e come il progetto sta evolvendo?
Il punto di partenza è stato il vantaggio di avere la storia del design raccolta in un’unica collezione. Cassina è un marchio molto eclettico e grazie alla sua collezione così ricca, è possibile arredare gli spazi più diversi accostando le icone del modernismo con i prodotti ideati più recentemente da architetti e designer contemporanei. ‘The Cassina Perspective‘ esprime questo concetto creando ambienti accoglienti che sono completati anche da tappeti, illuminazione, accessori, ecc. Dopo aver presentato questo approccio olistico per le aree living e dining della casa, quest’anno abbiamo trasferito lo stesso esatto concetto all’esterno con ‘The Cassina Perspective Goes Outdoor.’ Le icone di Le Corbusier, Pierre Jeanneret e Charlotte Perriand si affiancano alle nuove proposte di Patricia Urquiola, Rodolfo Dordoni e Philippe Starck. Questo è un progetto che continua ad evolversi in tutta la casa e, con la Collezione 2020, proponiamo anche ‘The Cassina Perspective at Night‘, una collezione completa per la zona notte.


The Cassina Perspective has given rise to a new pathway for the company: what is the starting point, and how is the project evolving?
The starting point was the advantage of having the history of design gathered in a single collection. Cassina is a very eclectic brand, and thanks to its variegated collection it is possible to furnish all kinds of spaces, combining the icons of modernism with products created more recently by contemporary architects and designers. The Cassina Perspective expresses this concept, creating appealing rooms that are complete with carpets, lighting, accessories, and so on. After having presented this holistic approach for the living and dining areas of the home, this year we have transferred exactly the same concept to the outdoors, with “The Cassina Perspective Goes Outdoor.” Icons by Le Corbusier, Pierre Jeanneret and Charlotte Perriand are joined by new proposals by Patricia Urquiola, Rodolfo Dordoni and Philippe Starck. This is a project that continues to evolve throughout the home, and with the 2020 collection we are also presenting “The Cassina Perspective at Night,” a complete line for the bedroom area.

Sengu Sofa by Patricia Urquiola. Photo © DePasquale+Maffini

Sengu by Cassina – Design Patricia Urquiola – Photo © DePasquale+Maffini

The present situation has led, or in any case will lead, to rethinking of commercial strategies and relations. What will be the main thrust of this reprogramming? What are the key assets?
Of course in this period we have been relying on digital assets to move forward with commercial relations and to create a closer bond with distribution, especially due to the lack of Design Week in Milan. Today it is fundamental to support the network and to exchange views frequently with dealers and the partners who most firmly believe in Cassina, so we can continue to grow together, in a context of shared values.

How will the launch of new products for 2020 happen, along with their distribution and promotion?
We have decided to undertake an initial digital launch. The 2020 collection will be presented on our website in mid-June. Visitors to the site can discovery the new projects through storytelling, photographs and videos. Aware of the importance of ‘touch and feel’ in this sector, we will be setting up the Cassina showroom in Milan with a project by Patricia Urquiola, which will remain in place until the end of the year. This will permit a more personal approach to new developments, through a series of appointments with our stakeholders.

Has the time come for the furniture industry to fully embrace the potential of digital media? And, at the same time, of e-commerce (which might facilitate distribution in the present phase of ‘slowdown’)?
Undoubtedly this period has convinced us even further about the potential of digital means, though we are still aware of the importance of physical contact. E-commerce is a theme we are approaching together with our sales network. I believe it is an important tool, and it can help above all in the process of choice of products.

In January you launched the Outdoor collection, and before that you acquired the brand Karakter: Cassina is becoming a 360-degree player. How does the company interact with the world of contract projects? What are the next steps in this direction?
The world of projects on a residential level is important, and the strategy we have implemented over the last year and a half allows us to offer complete settings. The Cassina Custom Interiors division specializes in the creation of ‘turnkey’ spaces for the contract market, from luxury hotels to fashion boutiques. Expanding into new areas like outdoor, we have the possibility of offering solutions for all project contexts.

Patricia Urquiola

Art Director of Cassina

How have you translated the concept The Cassina Perspective into a complete coordinated image?
We’ve tried to offer another viewpoint. Not a preset image but the possibility of playing with the various aspects of Cassina: i Maestri, i Contemporanei, and the new designers. Not in just one context, but plausible in any space, depending on the personality of its inhabitants. Suggestions to demonstrate how to combine them, not orders. This is also the direction of the project for outdoor furnishings and the bedroom zone. The foundation is Cassina’s quality, research, desire to experiment.

The project introduces a rainbow of colors, textures and materials. What are the sources of inspiration? Which sensations and expressive languages do you want to transmit?
Color and material are elements that work together, and I am interested precisely in their combination. The relationship of material and light determines the magic of color, because in the dark all colors are the same. Color often gets out of hand, at times it challenges and attacks the form. In any case, for me it is important to study the way light interacts with architecture, space and objects. We have replicated, for example, the original hues of the research of Le Corbusier, Jeanneret, Perriand, in both products and spaces. Inside Cassina, when we have returned to the themes of the great masters, the work has again involved the reinterpretation of color, to make it fresh and timely. The difficulty lies in combining tradition and the contemporary, with a vision that also looks to the future. But it is extraordinary to see how a color can transform an object. Where the research is concerned, I think it is interesting to understand how hues can have a positive influence on the use of upcycling materials, to give new life to scrap and to find a way to reutilize what is considered useless.

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The icons and the collections of the great masters are an integral part of Cassina’s DNA. What is the relationship, the balance, with contemporary offerings? How have you been able to bring out their value, case by case, initiative after initiative, in different ways?
It’s a natural process. We are lucky to be able to draw on an extensive archive, with over 600 signature pieces. For the exhibition on Charlotte Perriand at Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris, Cassina has contributed with over 30 pieces from the collection, re-editions and museum pieces. The timely pertinence of many of the projects is incredible. The relationship with foundations, historians and critics of design is fundamental for this path. I am thinking, for example, of the reinterpretations for the outdoors of certain pieces by Charlotte Perriand. In keeping with the original design, the famous Doron Hotel chair and the Table à Plateau Interchangeable have been adapted for outdoor use. At the same time, we are working with designers in tune with the spirit of Cassina, like the Bouroullec brothers, Konstantin Grcic, Philippe Starck, Rodolfo Dordoni, Michael Anastassiades, who make the relationship more natural, never forced.

This year you have launched the first Outdoor collection. Not a simple range of offerings, but an all-around project for spaces en plein air. What is the most interesting aspect?
With “The Cassina Perspective Goes Outdoor” we have gotten beyond the classic conception of outdoor furniture, as a spontaneous, shared choice. We wanted to present pieces designed as a natural continuation of indoor furnishings, trying to achieve the same atmosphere of intimacy. I believe in the need for an intermediate zone. For “The Cassina Perspective Goes Outdoor” I designed the Trampoline Love Bed, inspired by a trip to Greenland and the trampolines I saw in the gardens of houses there. The fil rouge with the interiors is represented by the choice of graphics and patterns, with simple geometry, getting away from the typical decorative themes of outdoor furnishings.

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How do you think the relationship with the home and its objects will change (if indeed it does change)?
We have to rethink domestic spaces to encourage flexibility. To use every square meter in an effective way. To think about how spaces change during the course of the day, the seasons, the various moments of life. The relationship with light, natural and artificial. With greenery, inside and outside the home. The relationship with time, sounds, odors. The home will become many things, a small spa, a small fitness club, a place to gather with friends. We have to understand which objects we really need and which ones we can do without. Among the fundamental items, there will be objects that have empathy, an emotional and not just functional value.

What are the new developments in the collections for 2020?
We are delving into the theme of the living area and the bedroom zone with projects envisioned as environments, not just as individual products. There will be a new collaboration around the collections of Rodolfo DordoniNeri & Hu and my collection, as well as a re-edition of the Mex Cube by Piero Lissoni, the Mex-Hi. The fundamental path of research with Cassina LAB will also move forward. We have used new ecosustainable materials for icons like the LC3 and in all the new products, including the Sengu Sofa which I designed. The constant work on the masters also expands. This year we are introducing a new name, Ico Parisi, and we will celebrate the centenary of the birth of Vico Magistretti, which is a great honor and evokes a strong emotion in me, since he was my mentor.