Following on the closure of Twiice International in Cape Town in 2011, the Kartell brand has been revived in South Africa with the opening of the new Kartell store in De Waterkant. The new owners of the store, Matteo Amatruda and his wife, currently own A+I Unlimited Design which stocks other major design pieces. We chatted to Matteo about his vision for Kartell, plans for the future and the topic of high-end decor purchasing in a South African context….
We are very excited to hear about the opening of the new Kartell store in Cape Town. Can you tell us about your plans for the brand? Kartell for me has been the first love. Since I arrived in South Africa I started thinking about Kartell and the need to have a flagship store in Cape Town. Being Italian I'm completely in love with design without compromise, so our plans are to allow people from everywhere in South Africa to be able to enjoy this amazing furniture. We are aiming to open a store in Joburg in autumn and in the other major cities in the next two to three years.
You currently also own A+I Unlimited Design. How does this store differ to the new Kartell store? Does Kartell have a more focused product range or different clientele? I think with Kartell we filled the big gap that we had before: to be able to talk with architects and interior designers not about their clients' houses, but about their own flat or villa. The concept behind Kartell is the same as at Cassina, Zanotta or Moroso: be innovative, be creative, be Italian, but definitely also be accessible to everyone who truly loves design. As the Director of A+I, I like to focus on the real design made in Italy, and this is the fil rouge between the 2 stores.
With more than 60 years in the industry, what do you think is the winning formula behind Kartell? The 60 years’ history of Kartell is told through all of its products, which express the language and atmosphere of the period they were created in. At the same time though, they are contemporary and multifunctional objects containing many other values and messages. All this has made them integral parts of the domestic scene. We call it 'democratic luxury': affordable products with unique shapes, quality and aesthetic appeal. How would you describe the Kartell range in 3 words? Creative, innovative, democratic.
How important is Kartell product development and how do you go about designing and conceptualising new products? The product development and the technological innovation that stay behind have been part of the Kartell DNA ever since its inception. A new product can be born from the creative idea of a designer, from the desire to diversify the brand's catalogue, from the experimentation of a new technology. From this point on, the creative team at Kartell develops and carries out an ongoing dialogue until a perfect balance has been struck between each design experience and the company's potentialities and requirements.
Which trends have you observed in the home decor field that you think will be big in 2012? Definitely clean lines and simplicity. Also, more attention to detail and small objects like coffee tables, small container units, lights etc.
Kartell has collaborated with some really influential contemporary designers, including Philippe Starck, Marcel Wanders, Patricia Urquiola, Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec and many more. Are there any exciting collaborations in the pipeline that we can look forward to? Kartell is used to collaborating with established designers who are able to exchange ideas on projects with the President Claudio Luti, the true soul of the company. The designers are then able to work with plastic materials and industrial production, not as easy as it seems. We will have some names that have already worked with us and maybe some new ones...but so far we are not able to unveil anything...
On the topic of high-end decor purchasing, do you feel that South Africans have the money and the inclination for top international brand purchasing? If so, how will Kartell do things differently? I spent 36 years in Italy and most of them between Rome and Milan and my feeling is that in South Africa there are definitely people that are willing to enjoy the luxury of exclusive cars, clothes... and furniture. Still, investing in beautiful and good quality furniture is still a foreign concept for many South Africans due to the lack of exposure to concept store such as Kartell. With Kartell entering the market, you are now surrounded by original design made in Italy, that includes everything from door handles and furniture pieces, to interesting objects such as designer accessories and the brand new Moschino Kartell shoes.
Are there any exciting product launches happening in the near future that we should look out for? Every year during the upcoming Milan Design Week in April, we will be presenting between 10 and 15 new products, which is a real big number for a furnishing design company. Creativity and technological innovation are two of our assets - that's why we are so appealing! So stay tuned and you will discover all the novelties very soon!
Visit the new Kartell store at the Hudson Building, on the Corner of Hudson and Strand streets in De Waterkant, Cape Town. You can also email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. Read more about the new Kartell store in one of our recent Naomi's Choice posts here. Text: Kim Grové