IFDM met Enrico De Lotto and George Kolliopoulos, two of the four who created Mandalaki: a clear path in their heads, politically incorrect like all those who go off the rails of routine, politically incorrect like all those who do not follow fashions and trends, paradoxically heretics of light because they do not look at the illuminating body but at the illuminated object. Halo, the product that brought them to everyone’s attention, is the milestone on which they are building their present and future.
The world of light is a black and white world, you come in colour: strategy? Taste? Entertainment?
In nature we see gradations of different colours, we are fascinated by the nuances of colours, we did not grow up in a big city, but in the midst of nature, at the sea and in the mountains, we want to bring (or bring back) the natural colours within the four walls. Light in general, for us, is an expression of mood, creativity and freedom. With Halo we create sunrises and sunsets, we expand the visual horizons that in interiors are interrupted by walls. The wall becomes a window to see other worlds. Our studio does not really have a strategy, we try to solve clients’ problems: problems always hide opportunities, from problems come ideas. And we like problems. Today our main objective is to continue to develop the theme of coloured light and, for the time being, to abandon the so-called white light. The colours of Halo have been imprinted in our minds for as long as we can remember and they are primordial colours: just look at a candle or a hearth and the colours that form around it are those of Halo. We are also very attracted to the world of psychedelia: before we designed products we used to organise parties and concerts, we were bored with the classic lighting set of rotating spotlights and came up with psychedelic solutions. Psychedelic light is now also being asked of us for organising moments of ‘visual meditation’, Nike also involved us in their Yoga Day project this year.
A French designer recently told IFDM that real design has almost disappeared and that the industry is dedicated to decoration, do you agree?
Design for designers and for us is not confined to a project or a product, design is all life, it is a mental habit, a style, design never stops. For Mandalaki, design is 24 hours. Today, design is and must be global, it must adapt to all cultures and the intertwining of them. Design is a daily challenge, it is interactive, psychology and social currents are also involved. 99% of objects have already been invented, we don’t actually need anything, everything exists and has already existed since the 1960s, what you see around today is a formal and marketing exercise. In the projection (but not too much) of the future we will need objects that bring well-being to people, sanity will have to be at the centre of design. The physical place where design can make a big contribution is in user interfaces, those of smartphones and digital devices in general. Mandalaki is focused on that 1% that is missing to make 100.
From light to Monocabin, it seems like another world…
Monocabin is a totally sustainable prefabricated house: the message is that you can live in a small but luxurious size. All existing prefabricated houses have the characteristic of having modest finishes and a school lighting system. With Monocabin we wanted to design every millimetre, bring in as much natural light as possible and make people in 25 square metres feel like they are in a villa. Natural and artificial light is at the heart of the project. Each area of Monocabin has over 15 combinations of artificial light created by the Halo.
How did Bulgari come to you?
We were working for the emerging fashion brand The Attico, they bought the HALOs for their homes and then asked us to create a setting for their garden, word of mouth started to work and Bulgari and now Nike came along. With Bulgari we created a lighting system that would enhance the mannequins wearing the brand’s novelties: a motionless fashion show, ‘moved’ by light.
You speak of an interdisciplinary approach, what do you mean?
Great innovations often arise from short circuits between different disciplines, the short circuit we are looking for is between art and technology: technology makes it possible to miniaturise and make usable something that was previously only for an elite. The most recent innovations are the daughters of technology, art has also landed in this territory. Along with technology, it is then necessary to think of a sustainable production process, to have a logistical plan and legal support to protect ideas. All these pieces represent different disciplines, the intersection or, as we said, the short between two or more of these disciplines can lead to the innovative idea.
What’s new in 2023?
Mandalaki is presenting itself at this year’s Show with numerous collaborations and two projects where it is the protagonist: in a former industrial space – the Morel Milano – the Halo Expeditions project envisages an immersive audio & light installation where extreme natural places will be presented, the first chapter is dedicated to the Dolomites illuminated with HALOs. They are in fact works of art (the Dolomites are already works of nature). In the Rossana Orlandi Gallery, a new line will be presented, the Halo Home with the Halo Mag System collection, a family of floor, pendant and also portable lights that interpret Halo in a domestic dimension. In a few (really very few) square metres, the four partners of Mandalaki conceive, design, assemble everything, and have even built their very own drone. “The path is clear though no eyes can see”, sang Peter Gabriel: because the eyes, paradoxically, are not enough to enter the Mandalaki world, all the senses must be left free.