Alessi is one of those companies which embodies a typical phenomenon of Italian industrial culture, namely that of “Italian Design Factories”.
Since time immemorial, my family has been firmly estabilished on Lake Orta. In this poor, narrow valley in the Italian Alps, close to Switzerland, a long-standing tradition in wood and metal handicraft has survived up to this day.
Within the Alessi company, design in the current sense of the term began to gain a foothold under my father Carlo, who drew on his training as an industrial designer in order to develop virtually all of the products which appeared in our catalogues between 1935 and 1945.
In the 1950s, my father replaced my grandfather as corporate general manager, giving up altogether his activity as a designer and increasingly relying on the contributions of freelance designers, in accordance with a practice which was to become typical of all “Italian Design Factories” To this day,
Alessi products are still considered as being handicraft items made with the aid of machines: by this I mean that, even though we rely on contemporary, industrial technology and processing equipment, at depth our practice – the one I believe we ought to stick to, our inherent attitude is still rooted in a handicraft culture.
When speaking about the “Italian Design factories” I am referring to a historical group of companies for whom design is-f I may use a somewhat exaggerated term – a Mission, an activity which has gradually broken away from its original meaning as a simple formal project for an object and has become a sort of “overall philosophy”, a “Weltanschauung”, underlying all of these companies’ operational steps: we believe that our true nature comes closer to a “Research Lab in the Applied Arts” than to an industry in the traditional sense of the term.
Research Lab in the Applied Arts, the role of which is to mediate continually between the most advanced and stimulating expressions of international creative culture on the one hand, and the public’s requirements and dreams on the other. A lab that should be as open and dedicated to the world of Creation as possible.
The right type of contribution that an industry such as Alessi can make to the civilised development of the consumer society is to be an artistic mediator, attempting to create new objects, introducing a touch of transcendency, helping us decipher our own modernity.