Stefano Seletti

The secret to a good creative mind? Go off track

Take design and subvert it to produce something new: an interview with the owner of unconventional Italian brand Seletti.

Stefano Seletti

Stefano Seletti’s company is constantly evolving, ever since the beginning of the 1960s, when his father Romano took a series of business trips to the Far East, becoming a pioneer in the importing of products for the home. The company grew and evolved, thanks to the curious and lively spirit of Romano’s children, as explained by the current “soul” of the colourful brand that we all know. We met up with him in Cicognara, a hamlet of Viadana, a small town in the province of Mantova where he lives and works in a very small radius because “home and office are a single entity which is a daily source of happiness for me”.

What are the experiences and encounters that have led you to become a creative figure?
My introduction to the creative world came about thanks to my first trips to the Orient together with my father. I was still at school when, just at the beginning of my final year, he said: “I have decided that you have to come with me, we’re going to China for 24 days”. This crazy decision was a turning point. Seeing those countries transported me to a completely different world, almost as though I had climbed into a time machine and travelled back decades.

What did you father teach you?
His motto was “no fear”. He would repeat it continuously. I learned from him to see life from a lighter point of view, to reconsider serious problems, but which in reality were not serious at all. One could say that he gave me the key to an easier life.

I was still at school when, just at the beginning of my final year, he said: “I have decided that you have to come with me, we’re going to China for 24 days”. This crazy decision was a turning point.

What about your mother?
My mother taught me to make handmade pasta. I still clearly remember those wonderful moments.

What characteristics does someone who wants to become part of your team need to have?
Enthusiasm, a desire to be a part of what is, undeniably, a fairly crazy project. I have created a niche through a product which has broken the rules: taking something which already exists and subverting it, trying to find a completely new angle. We do not follow a process which is specifically design, we are creative, we seek to go off-track. Whoever comes here knows which way we are going. I seek to meet people who have the same characteristics as our products: joyful and light.

How important is environment for those who have a profession like yours, and how often do you feel the need to move in order to provoke new visions?
As I have got older, the way I stimulate my creativity has also changed. I used to be restless, but now I am definitely more reflective, I seek stimuli from other worlds. I observe people extensively, above all my children and nieces and nephews, I have a panorama of generations which gives me an active insight into many aspects. This is undoubtedly useful in allowing me to offer consumers something that they expect, but in a renewed form. I seek to propose products which are exclusive, brand new and curious, but which are also accessible.

Marcantonio, Jurassic Lamp for Seletti
Marcantonio, Jurassic Lamp for Seletti

What journey will you never forget?
China, India, Thailand, places where I saw new worlds and new horizons which profoundly influenced my point of view, from a professional, design and human point of view. The most important journey for me was the one I took to São Paulo to attend a wedding. There I met the bride’s sister, who later became my wife. 

What is the creation you are most fond of?
Daily aesthetics. This has become a classic, the production of disposable items with quality materials. This line was created 11 years ago, it was the first collection which allowed me to move away from large-scale retail, in a period when I was finding this environment too restrictive. I proposed the project to various prospective clients, beginning to export without, however, changing our structure.

I have always focused more on the emotive aspect, rather than on the functional aspect.

Where in the world do you sell the most?
In Italy, France, England and the Netherlands. I am putting a lot of trust in the Chinese market.

What steps do you follow in the creation of a new project?
It needs to be new and have a potential which is above all aesthetic, rather than functional. It has to have a strongly human nature, it needs to make one dream, smile, and to be the stimulus for beginning a conversation. I have always focused more on the emotive aspect, rather than on the functional aspect.

Selab, Estetico Quotidiano for Seletti
Selab, Estetico Quotidiano for Seletti

An aspect of your character that has helped you to get to where you are today. Something that encourages you, what does it say to you?
The conviction that I can change every-day objects, varying both market logic and consumer tastes, gives the energy to keep going. The courage to (not) continue to move without knowing where I am going, and to make a noise, driving motion, always and in any case. There are 25 of us in the company, a few hard-fighting workers.

Future is a word that you like a lot.
I would like to begin a new journey tied to the creation and increase in number of stores: we have a flagship store in Milan, a shopping corner in Selfridges, the London department store, a store in Verona and a temporary store in Parma. These all cover different types of client, with different needs and perspectives. All with our favourite background, to provoke (r)evolution.

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