Five brand new Italian design brands

They were born during lockdown, showing the desire to turn the crisis into an opportunity: Orografie, Gritti, Codega, Sowden Light and Gilda Editions offer reflections and different answers to the new way of living our everyday lives. 

Many people believe that in every crisis lies an opportunity. An old saying that seems to be confirmed by five new Italian brands: Orografie, Gritti, Codega, SowdenLight and Gilda Editions not only sprung to life during the pandemic, but have all chosen Fuorisalone 2021 for their debut. Arguments and circumstances are similar and confirm that creativity did not stop during lockdown and that many people were just waiting for the opportunity to come along. The answers, however, are many. Vincenzo Castellana and Giorgia Bartolini of Orografie, for example, had already started working “on the idea of surrendering to a hybrid life that moves indifferently between analogue and digital” before Covid-19 changed our lives. 

Marc Sadler, on the other hand, says that “during and after Covid-19, when we were all standing still, entrepreneurs and friends came to me with projects from the past that needed to be taken up and developed further. We all started inventing things, a bit like after the war”. Among the thousands of ideas, Gritti was born, as an offshoot of Sylcom; Codega, a brand of “purpose” lamps, was also born out of the reflections of a couple of entrepreneurs, Elena Baronchelli and Diego Giordani, about the changes in the way of living; while Shades, SowdenLight's first collection of lamps, is the result of the research that George Sowden's studio developed over the course of 2020 exploring the potential and capacity of light diffusion through silicone. Finally, drawing on the heritage and know-how of traditional Italian craftsmanship, Gilda Editions (based in Dueville, in the province of Vicenza) focuses on a collection of small objects, mostly tableware, finding its niche somewhere between the artisan workshop and the contemporary design brand.

Orografie: analogue responses to the digital world

After two and a half years of work, the new Sicilian brand Orografie was launched in grand style: a collection of 15 pieces for 15 designers. The idea and entrepreneurial courage come from Giorgia Bartolini, assisted by Vincenzo Castellana, as art director. In the catalogue, well-known names (Francesco Faccin, Lanzavecchia+Wai, Martinelli Venezia and Elena Salmistraro), Sicilian designers and architects and the three young winners (under 35) of the workshop held in Naples at the last edition of EDIT. The idea behind the brand “is to trace a path to help talented young people emerge”, explains Castellana. “The brief left the designers free to express themselves on the idea of a hybrid life, which moves effortlessly between analogue and digital”. Hence, the term “amphibious design”. “There are two lines: hypersymbolic and hyperfunctional”, continues the art director. “The hyper-symbolic line gives the nod radical design, with its irregular attitude, which has become a real need today. When we use our smartphones, for example, we only look for orthogonality between our vision and the device". Orografie thus responds with new types of objects. Francesca Lanzavecchia's Segni chairs are “a hymn to individual comfort”, while Andrea Branciforti's Triplex is a ceramic centrepiece that is at the same time a fruit, flower and smartphone holder. There is also Trab, a multi-supporting mute servant, designed by a duo that calls itself Standa, a sort of kneeler, designed for the bathroom and made by cabinetmakers working between Piazza Armerina and Gela. “We think there should be no capillary distribution. The product will be visible through events, stories and then purchasable. We plan to open a place in Milan soon”, explains Bartolini, “it will also be possible to purchase online: whoever buys a limited-edition handmade piece must however understand the analogue process. We will send pictures of the process to those who have bought a piece, so they can understand how it was made”.

Codega: purpose lamps to improve life

From the Greek òdegos (“guide”), the new brand Codega owes its name to the Venetian “light bearer” who, in 1450, escorted ladies to light their way at night. It sprung to life during the lockdown from the reflection of the entrepreneurial couple Elena Baronchelli and Diego Giordani on the transformation of domestic spaces, and from a double encounter with the lighting designers Serena Tellini and Francesco Iannone of Consuline and with the artisans Gianfausto and Michele Abbatinali (TOlight) from Brescia. “We are the producers”, explains Michele Abbatinali, “a small artisan company in Brescia that makes custom-made lamps designed for restaurants, hotels and so on. My father worked for 20 years at Flos, and he founded the American branch”. The idea is to create lamps that do not just illuminate, but “purpose lamps” that improve the quality of life. How? “By varying the colour temperature: from a very warm light to a very cold one, to recreate the natural world inside”, continues Abbatinali. Codega's lamps - entirely hand-made - allow you to manage the light variation manually or programming them via geolocation and Wi-Fi. There is also the possibility of activating 12-minute cycles to sanitise the surface from germs, bacteria and viruses or 45-minute cycles to sanitise the air. 

Marc Sadler and Gritti by Sylcom: products that are not slaves to the past

Gritti was born as an offshoot of Sylcom, a historic Venetian glass-making company, thanks to the encounter with designer Marc Sadler, hired to give a new direction to the company's classic and high craftsmanship catalogue. “The first collections will come out in February”, explains the designer, who presented a scenographic installation, Lumina naturae, at the Fuorisalone, a taste of the potential of a company that has an archive of over 5,000 pieces. “This installation is an exercise to show how a classic glassware company can create modern lamps and sculptures. I am working with companies that produce special, high-power LEDs. We will propose a new generation of products with roots in Italian savoir faire”, he says. Gritti (the name is an homage to one of Venice's most historic and famous palaces) will therefore combine fine glass craftsmanship and technology “like Brunello Cucinelli would do with cashmere: a technology that cannot be seen, hidden, not arrogant. I would like to make the most of the company's history and formidable experience on projects and products that are not, however, slaves to a sign of the past”.

Sowden Light, a bit of Memphis with silicone instead of glass

Sowden Light is the new lighting brand created by George Sowden and his research and development team. The idea took shape in 2020 when, while working on another project, they discovered the potential and ability of silicone to diffuse light. Silicone is also a non-toxic material that retains its aesthetic qualities for a long time. It is washable and impact resistant. The first collection, Shades, includes pendant, table, floor and wireless lamps suitable for both indoor and outdoor use; simple shapes and a choice of colours, 18 shapes and 20 colours in all, which combine to create 18 pendant lamps (in 4 sizes: small, medium, large and extra-large), 4 table lamps, 2 floor lamps and battery-powered lamps in various colours for indoor and outdoor use. 

Gilda Editions: between workshop and design

Drawing on the heritage and know-how of Italian artisanal tradition, the new Vicenza-based company Gilda Editions (based in Dueville, in the province of Vicenza) finds its niche somewhere between the artisan workshop and the contemporary design brand. The name derives from the ancient religious, mercantile and artisan mutual aid organizations widespread in Northern Europe and similar to medieval guilds. The first collection consists of small objects for the table and the home - such as a pestle and mortar made of acacia wood, salt and pepper shakers made of acacia wood and hazelnut, unbreakable glass plates, brass vases and steel centrepieces - created by eight international designers: Theodóra Alfreðsdóttir, Tiago Almeida, Marco Campardo, Sammi Cherryman, Rio Kobayashi, Michael Schoner, Norma Studio and Jamie Wolfond.

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