Yesterday in Italy, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte lifted the country’s strict lockdown order surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. Around four million Italians go back to work today, as modest re-openings begin for businesses. With health and safety guidelines ever-present, restaurants are reopening for takeout, construction continues, and factories resume production.
With Italy closed for nearly two months, brands that denote the country’s fame for furniture design joined together for “Design Doesn’t Give Up.” The initiative—led by Poltrona Frau, B&B Italia, Bisazza, Boffi, Cappelini, Cassina, Flexform, Giorgetti, and Molteni Group—is a respectful response to the shutdown; a manifesto of motivation to continue business.
The impact of the spread of Coronavirus has not just taken a toll on human life, it has caused unexpected damage to the economy. With “Design Doesn’t Give Up,” these brands share an objective—to create encouragement within the industry, and to create new design objects as soon and as safely as possible.
Whitewall spoke with Nicola Coropulis, CEO of Poltrona Frau, about “Design Doesn’t Give Up,” how their century-old legacy is alive in craftsmanship, and what the brand’s upcoming releases will reveal.
WHITEWALL: A big push for the brand right now is to resume production. Can you tell us a bit about what is currently happening at the brand’s production sites?
NICOLA COROPULIS: I am pleased to announce that Poltrona Frau production facilities in Tolentino safely reopened last week, while our offices are still operating via smart working. As we look ahead to the coming weeks, we know there is a great deal of work to be done, but I am confident that we will rise to the challenge thanks to our hard-working and talented staff, including our craftsmen and client services associates.
WW: If it weren’t for the pandemic outbreak, Poltrona Frau would be presenting at Salone del Mobile 2020. Can you tell us a bit about what the brand would be showing?
NC: While we have decided to postpone some new products to next year, we have several exciting launches in the works. This year we will celebrate the 90th anniversary of our iconic armchair, Vanity Fair, with the launch of a new edition. We will present a new project entitled “ColorSphere” in collaboration with Giulio Ridolfo—a renowned “color master.” We have also partnered with AB Concept, the talented design and architecture studio, on its first product—the Viola chair. This design lends itself to a variety of spaces, from fine dining to al fresco dining at home. The attention to detail and quality of materials creates a truly comfortable seat.
WW: Tell us a bit about how Italian design and craftsmanship at Poltrona Frau is special, opposed to its direct competitors at other brands in Germany and France. What materials or techniques do you feel set the brand apart?
NC: We are 108 years old and we have maintained the same craft techniques we used 100 years ago. A great of example of this is the Chester Sofa. We haven’t industrialized the making of this design. If we had, we would have had to change the ergonomics and the shape of it. We also take great pride in our leathership. We have developed such special relationships with Italian tanneries that offer original treatments.
These artisans learn the art of manual intelligence, impeccable execution, and they ultimately acquire a legacy of knowledge that has been continuously refined over the generations in order to leverage the full potential and beauty of this material. All of our design collaborations reflect this inherent respect for material and craftsmanship.
WW: After a few days into the pandemic, the brand’s operations were transferred to the company’s employees’ houses, where they worked remotely. Tell us a bit about this and how the projects were still executed efficiently.
NC: As soon as the pandemic had started in Italy, we created a task force across all of the lifestyle division’s brands and by March 8, when the lockdown started, all of our employees were enabled to work safely from their homes. I am proud of how our staff adapted so quickly to the circumstances.
WW: How has the pandemic impacted the way the brand plans on designing in the future?
NC: This concentrated time at home will certainly shape our viewpoint going forward. I feel that certain furniture should be more hybrid and multifunctional, products that are versatile for a living space and home office. To that end, I feel we may see a revitalized interest in a dedicated workspace in the home. Outdoor living spaces may also become a more meaningful extension of the home.
WW: What is the brand working on now?
NC: As of last week, we have resumed all production activities while our office activities will continue to be conducted remotely. We have developed a dynamic new series, “Design Talks of the Future” to bring conversations between myself and some of our most trusted design partners directly to our consumers via Instagram Live.
So far, I’ve had the pleasure of speaking with Ed Ng of AB Concept, Roberto Palomba of Palomba Serafini Associati, and designer Roberto Lazzeroni—another longtime collaborator. We also launched a social media campaign in the beginning of April to have people invite us into their homes by sharing a favorite space designed with Poltrona Frau furnishings with the hashtag #StayAtHomeWithPoltronaFrau. This has been a great success.