Towards the finite and beyond

Meeting with Corrado Molteni, the man behind Mo.1950, a contract and retail services company. To talk about strategies, results and plans for the future

Corrado Molteni, Mo.1950
Corrado Molteni, Mo.1950

The professional history of Corrado Molteni, creator of Mo.1950, can be represented by the creation of a new athletic discipline, halfway between the high jump and the long jump. Because height involves ambition and taste, while length calls for coping with the present and programming the future. From the family woodworking shop to the queue to enter its world, all this has been achieved by Molteni, half from Brianza, half from Romagna, two geographical settings that combine to produce a pilot flying a rocket whose engines are always on.

The Mo.1950 space in Milan on via Molino delle Armi/via della Chiusa – Photo © Ellisse Studio

From production to management, the passage is not always simple.
I come from a family business, the experience of a woodworking shop, where as a child I played at hide and seek. For me, seeing crafted products come to life has always been something normal, and I still have this experience inside me, a sensation I have passed on to my staff.
The first big step came 15 years ago, when with the Cesar Cucine project I practically moved the company from Brianza to Milan: this is where the relationships were formed with architecture firms, large contractors and the real estate sector. The company was transformed into a versatile operation, focusing on four business channels (final clients, architects, real estate and flagship stores) that intersect with each other to take concrete form in the final result for the client.
We welcome clients, taking them by the hand and guiding them in the creation of a home.
The second channel is the relationship with architecture studios, which begins with the characteristics of B2B but often shifts into B2C: we are oriented towards the residential market, we start with the architecture studio but then the architect arrives in the showroom with the client.
We do the same thing with real estate, a segment to which we haven’t communicated extensively as yet, but one that is very interesting to develop: the numbers say we are the second largest firm in the city (after Milano Contract District) to move forward with this aspect, and here too B2B becomes B2C. The volumes are starting to be significant, but we are able to preserve a high level of customization.

The design space with the materials library inside Mo.1950 in Via Molino delle Armi – Photo © Lorenzo Pennati

How did the Cesar Cucine project begin?
It was simple. Cesar was our most important supplier, and we proposed going to Milan with a flagship store, a place where the company could communicate all its new developments to the outside world. Sharing of costs, a very clear, definite strategy about who does what and how. The system has worked well and we have proposed it to other producers that would be complementary to the world of kitchens: systems, complements, all the way to finishes. My counterparts were pleased, the idea worked, but they wanted to complete the coverage of the home with other products, which led to the Via Molino delle Armi. At that point, however, we had an urgent necessity to change the name: ours was confused all too often with the other, more famous Molteni. So in 2020, in the middle of Covid, Mo1950 was born. Now we have many projects to support Mo.1950, including proprietary collections and other initiatives that will be communicated in due time.

A room of the second Milanese space for Mo.1950, in Via Carducci – Photo @ Alessandro Milani
View of the Mo.1950 space in Via Carducci – Photo @ Gionata Xerra Studio

You used to go knocking on doors… but now, perhaps, clients come to you?
Yes, and for a number of reasons. The trigger has to do with the lack of appeal of the Salone del Mobile for medium-high and high-end producers, a market niche where the manufacturers (all of them!) have been asking themselves for some time whether it is worthwhile to take part in the Salone. Many, to resolve the issue, have chosen not to go to the Salone but to open a flagship store in Milan: one of the first phone numbers they call is mine. There is a lot of demand. The problem is knowing when to say no. We are not aggressive, we seek a point of balance with the counterparts, and I want to maintain a certain level of quality. We don’t want to have partners that overlap; I am not interested in growth for growth’s sake. Our identity has to remain intact. In this way, we have more possibilities to intercept projects and to fill them with our contents.

The Cesar Cucine flagship store in Milan – Photo © Giuseppe Dinnella

Thoughts about foreign markets?
There are many opportunities in play. In this moment Italy is absorbing almost all our energy, but we should not forget that many different worlds exist. As soon as we can, we take a plane, we travel: we recently went to Los Angeles and to Dubai, but we did it in an unstructured way. Now I would like to choose a destination, to go there and study the situation. Foreign operations are a great growth opportunity. International developers have not yet approached us, and we can understand why: the brands we represent do not yet have international appeal.

Caccaro flagship store in Milan, realised together with Mo.1950 – Photo © Giacomo Zonta

Mo.1950 Molino delle Armi brings together brands that are not accustomed to working in synergy. Have synergies taken form?
After some initial difficulties I would say the answer is yes. Rexa and Quadro are similar, they work on the same market level, they have the same counterparts. They did not know each other, but after a couple of minutes they were already perfectly in tune. The relationship with Caesar Ceramiche has been a challenge for me, since this is a very different company, also in terms of size (Caesar has over 100 million euros in sales). It was not a design company, but how it is a partner with which I have a perfect relationship. They are very organized, and the latest collections convey an aspect linked to decoration that was not part of their attitude.

What are you looking for in companies?
I look for mental openness to customization. Everyone talks about it, not everyone knows how to do it. When you get down to the details, customization is often reduced to modifications of a door, for example, by just a few centimeters.
Bespoke outfitting is first of all a line of thinking, a way of reasoning, a mental construct. When I find companies like that I take them. Then I manage the worksite, I want to reach the completion of the project with full certainty of the outcome. We are highly structured in terms of project management, our technical division understands the timing and the methods. There are 52 of us, not a small team.

Scalo Milano: the Fatboy store, another project in partnership with Mo.1950 – Photo © Arianna Carotta

Upcoming projects?
In June we will open an office in Bologna, the developers are asking me to do it. Bologna, Rome and Turin are cities where we have worked a lot, so we have decided to open in Bologna.

A dream for the future?
The dream is to bring Mo.1950 to the forefront, to build it with a precise profile, to transform it into a perfectly recognizable brand.