Young Milanese label Colé was launched at the 2011 Salone del Mobile. We recently met up with founders Laura and Matteo to talk about their influences, their inspirations, good design, Argentina and Italy. But before we start there’s a story we’d like to tell you. It’s a story that captures a fragment of Laura’s past, of her country, Argentina. It’s a shard of vivid colour that explains the label’s name and its ethos. One day a parrot flies into her parent’s garden. It has a strong urge to remain there and never leaves. A good sign, you might say; a symbol of life, of the vital force that can be found in simple, everyday occurrences when you accept them as unique. Colé’s logo encapsulates the essence of that parrot: a black tail feather, the bright body and a clear blue sky. Written, the name has a feathered ‘c’; the acute ‘e’ symbolizes an upward swing, capturing the spirit of flight, while the colours pay muted homage to the Bauhaus movement the designers so love.
Colé is still a young label. What did you do before you decided to start your own label?
Matteo worked at Driade for 15 years before founding Colé. He grew up in a family in which architecture, design and, of all things, sport were taken incredibly seriously. His father was an important doctor with a passion for sport. Recently, we’ve spent a lot of time in Berlin, a city we love and in which our eldest son was born. We visited the Bauhaus Archiv and our kids were really excited because they knew a lot of the furniture from their grandmother’s house!
I worked for L’Oréal after I finished my MBA. Later, I worked for European House-Ambrosetti where I organized workshops with prime ministers and senior management as well as consulting on projects. My family in Argentina has a background in history, economics, literature and the arts. Both of my parents are lawyers. My father is also a writer whereas my mother is a very practical person who can repair almost anything. Matteo decided to leave Driade three years ago. Our experiences complement each other. We both love art and design, especially with a good dose of craziness, and so we decided to launch Colé.
You work with a number of designers. How do you decide whom to work with? What criteria does a designer have to fulfill to fit well with Colé?
Our point of departure for any project is a Colé brief. We have a Colé mood-board, which we use to explain the brief with images, literature and colours. If there’s a connection with the designers, we’ll get back a brief that’s very consistent with our still young but clearly defined DNA. The main criterion is really empathy in the end. Some of the designers are, like Aksu and Suardi, old friends; others, like Lorenz and Katz, we met through Francesca de Ponti, our art director and cataloguer, who has an extensive network. Others contacted Colé themselves – that’s how we fell in love with the work of Israeli artist Hagit Pincovici and French designer Emmanuel Gallina.
What is ‘good design’?
Good design is, above all, about the quality of the project, production values and communication. It’s about a final product that has strong roots and a light impact both aesthetically and in terms of social cost. Good design is something that lasts a lifetime rather than something you buy then throw away. Objects, just like people, need to develop a soul; the test of time is an object’s soul.
What’s your favourite product?
A favourite product? A simple Hamaca, the La Chaise by Charles and Ray Eames, anything and everything by Mies van der Rohe and the work of the Brazilian architect Mendes da Rocha.
How does being based in Europe’s first city for design, Milan, and the high quality of the design around you on an daily basis influence your work? What inspires you?
Being in Milan means that we’re confronted with leading designers and producers all the time – that’s definitely a great challenge. Milan is a challenging city, a city that strikes a balance between the arts and technology; Leonardo da Vinci, who lived here, is a clear example of that. Northern Italy is, and always has been, a land of innovation. Modern accountancy developed in Piedmont, modern finance in Lombardy while trade with the near and far east was an innovation of Venice in the Middle Ages. These innovations spread northwards into Northern Europe because Italy was not a unified country but rather a number of smaller city states and kingdoms that were often at war with each other. Capitalism needs a bigger critical mass to reach an economy of scale – but it’s no wonder that the main street in London’s financial heart, the City, is called Lombard Street! It was also in Milan that that extremely disrupting and prescient movement, Futurism, was born in 1909. It was Futurists, incidentally, who said that “design is serial art.”
What’s next for Colé?
We’re definitely going to develop a new show room in Milan in partnership with Off Brera, a product of the Brera Academy of Fine Arts. We want to create a laboratory of trends with an emphasis on the cross fertilization of art and design. As for products, you’ll just have to wait and see.
Text: Petra Neye, Images: Colé