Flos, the Italian lighting company that collaborates with many of the best designers working today, opened a San Francisco "store"—a shop within the cavernous DZINE design showroom. I was fortunate to visit the space on opening day, when Flos CEO and Chairman Piero Gandini and designer Ron Gilad were present, and I had the chance to sit down and talk with them about Flos's new retail approach and the company's latest designs.
As Gandini pointed out, this was the first time in America that the company was able to integrate their three lines—their decorative line, architectural products, and "soft architecture line"—into one space. I was particularly intrigued with the company's "soft architecture" concept, which they introduced in Milan in 2010. "Normally you put a sconce on a wall," Gandini pointed out. "Here, the two elements—architecture and light—diffuse into each other. It's a totally new dimension of architecture. Architecture is made to accept and give light."
Gilad, the Tel Aviv-born, New York City-based designer, showed me some of the products he's created for that line, including Wallpiercing: a semi-circular ring that appears to "pierce" the wall, and which you can arrange in a variety or forms, including a long chain, an interlocked ring, or as shown in DZINE, a series of four loops, repeated across a wall.
"All the engineering is inside the wall," Gilad pointed out. "You buy a piece of the wall" (the fixture embedded into a piece of drywall) and inset it into your existing wall, then plaster around it to cover up the seams.
An adjacent wall was dedicated to other examples of Soft Architecture, including a scattering of Round Lights and Sebastian Wrong's Spun Light. All the lights, including the Wallpiercing series, were on a computerized cycle of different colors, giving this corner of the showroom a kind of nightclub feel.
Like 90% of all the new lights Flos has introduced in the past year, all of these pieces are LED-based. Though Gandini thinks LED technology still has a ways to go before it is able to provide the same light quality of incandescents, Flos is investing in the technology, trying to "push the technology to serve people."
Another value of Flos is giving the designers they work with total creative freedom. "Flos is a total product-driven company," said Gandini. "We don't do market research, we develop pure products with the most creative minds around. We never worry 'will this be a success or not? Is this good or bad?' We just follow innovative ideas. We strongly believe in the talent we work with. In each piece you see the voice of the designer."
"Flos is so innovative, there are no limits," said Gilad. "Designers have the total freedom of dreaming. It's the closest a company can be to the joy of being back in the academy."
Gilad also showed me some of his designs from his Decorative line, including his clever Mini Teca Renaissance Cupola (a bit twee for me, but certainly charming) and the sleek Light Spring, a wall-mounted LED fixture whose head can be rotated 45 degrees on its vertical axis. As Gilad explains: "Power LEDs have become an excellent and functional source of lighting. The Lightspring collection has been created from 3D designs that reproduce classic candelabras and sconce lights."