The first presentation by La Manufacture, the groundbreaking design brand split between Paris and Milan
Interview by Gianmarco Gronchi
After a two-year forced stop, Milan Design Week is back. Celebrating craftsmanship and manufacturing excellence, this event is an opportunity to discover emerging designers and leading brands that aim to stand out through the quality of their pieces. Born a few weeks before the pandemic, La Manufacture is certainly among them. Conceived by Robert Acouri in cooperation with designer Luca Nichetto, La Manufacture is the unprecedented experiment that aims to merge fashion and design. France born, La Manufacture is inspired by Italian know-how and there could not be a better occasion than the Milan Design Week to introduce itself to the public. In fact, hosted by Poldi Pezzoli Museum, La Manufacture presents its first collection, conceived before the global health emergency, and put on standby for 871 long days. This very number – 871 – gives its name to the temporary exhibition, curated by Nichetto himself, where results of the collaboration between La Manufacture and well renowned international designers are shown. And it was precisely at the Poldi Pezzoli that we met President Acouri, who told us about the early years of the French company.
Gianmarco Gronchi: 2022 represents a restart even for the design world. How does La Manufacture look at this new beginning?
Robert Acouri: For us it is not a restart, but a first real presentation to the public. We did the inauguration in January 2020 and then the world stopped. After two years of work and 871 pandemic days we are presenting both the pieces we had made for the first launch and many new creations that are being shown here for the first time.
GG: How did the collaboration with the Poldi Pezzoli Museum, one of Milan’s iconic venues, come about?
RA: When I met Annalisa Zanni, director of the museum, very positive vibes were created right away. A very strong union of intent flourished. Then Luca Nichetto, our Art Director, came and we created a very cohesive team. Annalisa was willing and trusted us, because she knew we did not want to turn her museum into a showroom. We were looking for a home, and Poldi Pezzoli’s house-museum turned out to be the ideal place to feel welcomed in Milan. We did not want a showroom, but a place where design pieces could interact with their surroundings. We tried to bring contemporary design into dialogue with the art of the past, and we hope that this collaboration will create an unprecedented cultural enrichment. Past and present come together. I believe that design is also a form of art, which is also based on aesthetics. Design furniture is not all about functionalism, but also about emotions and identities. For this reason, I thought it was right to seek a connection with the art world as well. Mr. Poldi Pezzoli has created an intimate and familiar place, and we are happy to be hosted in his house.
GG: The exhibition features the participation of many designers, who collaborated to create the pieces. What are the characteristics of La Manufacture that bring these designers together?
RA: First of all, you have to understand what characterizes La Manufacture. Luca had already worked for Parisian houses, while I have always defined myself as Lebanese born, French adopted and Italian at heart. There was a sort of priesthood between Paris and Venice, between French allure and Italian craftmaship, between Parisian sophistication and Made in Italy tradition. Together we started from scratch. We wanted to make this project international, and we involved designers from all parts of the world. Luca’s idea was to make each product unique, able to express its own identity independently. Subsequently, Luca was able to find a common thread that united all these projects. Each piece lives by itself and lives with the others. Every time you change objects, you enter a new world.
GG: And does the choice of this monochromatic orange tone have any specific meaning?
RA: Manufacture is still an incoming journey, a work in progress. Entering the halls of the Poldi Pezzoli Museum we feel like guests so much so that the exhibition is not permanent, but temporary. This dimension of impermanence, evolution and continuous renewal is symbolized by orange. In fact, orange is the color of workers’ vests when they work on construction sites. Thus, orange identifies the work in progress of La Manufacture.
GG: In this presentation we see the result of the first 870 days of La Manufacture’s life. What should we expect for the next 870 days?
RA: We are now developing an international network, with sales directors who help us popularize our product. We hope that Design Week could be an event that bring people to see our creations and to rediscover the joy of touching and seeing, physically, design pieces. We are also looking to open some flagship stores and the first one would be in Milan.
GG: And for you, what does Milan represent?
RA: The center of the world!