Last spring, as retail sales were tanking worldwide, the Italian design firm Alessi ramped up. On Wednesday, at its flagship Soho store in New York, the company announced that it would unveil three collections in 2010 instead of the usual two, so as to accommodate the firm’s record number of products (see the collections in this slideshow).
From curvaceous mixing bowls, done in collaboration with the world’s most renowned pastry chef, to a cunning bathroom trash can, conceived by one of the masters of Italian design, the spring collection offers an extraordinary marriage of form and function, as well as a resounding vote of optimism that the global economy is poised for a sharp rebound.
Asked about last year’s sales, Silvano Guglielmazzi, from Alessi headquarters in Crucinallo, Italy, was candid: “Usually, when sales are bad in one region, they’re better in another,” he said, over cappuccino and pastries at the coffee bar in the front of the Greene St. shop. “But last spring, they came to a dead stop everywhere at once.”
By contrast, by the fourth quarter, things were looking decidedly rosier, says Paolo Cravedi, director of Alessi’s U.S. operations. “In December, business went like this,” he said, describing a hockey stick-like trajectory with his arm. What’s more, he says, even after Christmas, sales continued their brisk pace.
Marti Guixe, a Catalan designer, who created Alessi’s Boulevard Raspail shop in Paris, was on hand at the preview to show off his new line for the company. One of the most charming items was a blank wall clock, that buyers can personalize with their own way of marking time. At the clock he created for the Soho shop, it was 10 after “Desire” when the meeting broke up.
One of the most intriguing items in the collections was the set of pastry tools by matali crasset and Legion of Honor winner Pierre Herme. The mixing bowl features a bright orange bump on its side, the better to cuddle while whisking. “You hold the bowl like this,” Cravedi demonstrated, tucking the vessel in the crook of his arm. “The design is based on the carnal relationship chefs have with their bowls.” Indeed!
Other stand-outs were a plastic cutlery set based on the design of Czechoslovakian fighter planes by Jan Kaplicky, a set of bamboo accessories by the Campana Brothers, and a collection of bathroom products–including the aforementioned trash can–by Piero Lissoni.
Take a look at the slideshow for a preview of the spring offerings.