#45 - Milan 2018

Foscarini: Freedom Stimulates Creativity

Courtesy of Foscarini

An Italian treasure in the heart of the Brera design district, Foscarini showcased its new outdoor furniture and lamp collections. Pre-event, Foscarini President and Co-founder Carlo Urbinati and designer Marc Sadler spoke to ArchiExpo e-Magazine about the inner workings of the company. Learn how not having a factory can actually be beneficial.  

 

Freedom is the catalyst of creativity, Carlo Urbinati believes. As president and co-founder of  Foscarini, Urbinati has helped ensure the Italian lighting brand’s survival in a challenging market—where landmines such as the death of the incandescent bulb can lead to the death of a company. Founded in 1981 on the Venetian island of Murano, Foscarini now distributes in 88 countries. Urbinati told ArchiExpo e-Magazine: 

When you have a factory, you have constraints. We are a company without any factory, and because of this we are totally free.

What Urbinati means is Foscarini has no in-house production. The company currently collaborates with three factories for its 60 lamp collections and works directly with more than 30 designers to both develop ideas and create technological solutions for more than 20 different materials. The factories are strictly Italian, garnering Foscarini the Made in Italy stamp.

A company without a factory can experiment,” Urbinati adds. “Though that means we have no excuses if we fail.

This try and try again philosophy is built into the Foscarini corporate manifesto, as it has to be when you are a pioneer. There are few players in the lighting field creating products that are both industrial and handmade.

Years ago, when we decided to settle on this concept of manufacturing with all these composites—fiberglass, carbon fibre and Kevlar synthetic fiber—,” says designer Marc Sadler, “we had to do prototypes and prototypes and prototypes to take away all the non-necessary [parts].

An avid sportsman, Sadler conceived Foscarini’s highly successful coated-fiberglass composite Twiggy lamp while thinking about the flexibility of a fishing rod. He continues to be a key player in many of Foscarini’s experiments, addressing form, material composition and the cheapest production methods.

The Twice as Twiggy pendant light by Marc Sadler. Photo courtesy of Foscarini.

“I would call him our source of inspiration,” says Urbinati.

“Foscarini is really my baby,” admits Sadler.

Taking each product from design to production can take years—Twiggy took three. With its slender, flexible fishing-rod-like curve, the lamp was much too expensive at first. However something is impossible…until it isn’t. As Sadler recalls, workers struggling with initial very expensive, faulty molds said in frustration: “Why don’t you just make Twiggy straight?”

My idea, of course, was to make it curved,” Sadler laughs. “Originally, it was a nice piece for me and you, but not a piece for production….every product, every product family has a little story behind it.

With the advancement of Twiggy continuing with its larger cousin, Twice as Twiggy, the challenges continued. When creating a four-meter-high outdoor version, wind was a factor.

“We had to start from scratch because it was very heavy,” says Sadler.

We tested it with strong winds, and had to build a spring system on the bottom which allows the cane to turn and accept the wind. It flexes with the wind and then, when the wind passes, it goes back to its original position.

Dancing a delicate ballet in the wind, Twice as Twiggy proves once again that sometimes a little freedom is all you need.


About the Author

Mairi Beautyman is a journalist based out of Berlin. She's been
writing about design and architecture since 2001.

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