On Murano, an island near Venice, Italy, glass artisans go to work before dawn. Inside one workshop, the kilns have been howling all night, preparing colored glass for the day’s work. In 1921, Paolo Venini, a Milanese entrepreneur and designer, took over this workshop. He founded a company in his name, which has been making, among other things, Finnish designer Tapio Wirkkala’s Bolle vessel for 44 years. Roberto Gasparotto, Venini’s art director since 1993, shows us how it’s done.
Though some might say that you can’t buy good taste, Cok de Rooy has built a career out of doing just that. He refined his design sensibilities as a buyer for big brands like Liberty of London, and in 1992, he and his business partner, Dick Dankers, opened the Frozen Fountain in Amsterdam. Today the Dutch design shop is renowned for showcasing both homegrown and international talents, hosting twice-yearly exhibitions, and rotating original art and prototypes among its curated wares for purchase.
Alessi—In the 1970s, Alessi invested $300,000 to develop its first cooking appliance: a stovetop espresso maker by Richard Sapper. The northern Italian family business had made stainless steel serving accessories for decades, but the risk of engineered cookware proved contentious. Alberto Alessi’s uncle, Ettore, the technical guru, was so incensed by the project’s challenges that he once stormed out of a meeting, “leaving me and Sapper very embarrassed,” Alessi recalls. Today, the 9090 is an icon housed in the MoMA collection, and Alessi produces 50,000 of them a year.
Designers and manufacturers bemoan the profusion of cheaply made copycats, but it’s been proven time and again that truly great design can never be obscured by poor imitation. For evidence, look no further than the Italian lighting company Flos, which debuted Achille Castiglioni’s Arco in 1962 and watched it become the most-copied and best-selling lamp in the company’s history. Thirty-six years and many iconic products later, Flos produced another sensation—Jasper Morrison’s glass-and-steel Glo-Ball—which overtook the Arco as the best-selling series of lamps in the Flos catalog. Dwell recently visited the Glo-Ball manufacturing facility, which was, it must be said, inimitable.