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San Clemente a Roma e nel Duomo di Cremona. So, I will begin my speech with some consideration about light. At the end, I will dare to enter into a delicate theme: Artificial, and namely electric light has become such an intimate part of our everyday life that to turn the switch to transform darkness into light is an almost unconscious gesture … until there is a power cut.
It is only since about years that we enjoy of the contribution of this technology to our daily life, and during this period designers, architects and artists have applied their talent to enrich the esthetical and functional features of the humble light bulb.
But the real lighting design has become a reality only in the late s, thanks to booming economy growth and the emergence of a youth-based consumer society highly receptive to experimental ideas, as well as the greater accessibility to new materials, including the synthetic ones. Not only because I am an Italian, I feel that the Italian design has offered the best opportunity to the light design to take off: In fact, the Italian design has been — and is; but for how long it will keep such a preminent role?
Going back to the light, designers and manufacturers could enjoy the development in lamp technology, from the first incandescent bulbs to the latest LED, passing through halogen bulbs and fluorescent and neon tubes as well as new plastics materials: So, adding a wide range of materials language which offers to consumers new psychosensorial experiences and emotions. Two growing concerns had recently offered in the same time new opportunities and potential turning-points. One is the growing attention to the finite nature of the world energy resources, stimulating energy-savings light appliances combined with longer-life performance.
The other is ergo-ophtalmology: FLOS is one of the about 2. Our sector is typical of the Italian industrial system, whose fragmentation is both a strength and a weakness. A strength, because every morning thousands of entrepreneurs open the doors of their plants and offices and endeavour to be more competitive, more effective, and, some of them, more innovative.
Anyway, thanks to design, the Italian lighting sector is worldwide number one in export, as far as the percentage on total production value regards: FLOS was born in , in the exciting atmosphere of the period when the Italian design sprouted. Thanks to Chairman Piero Gandini — whose greetings I convey here to you — and a highly qualified and motivated staff we are, since a long time, experiencing the sweet burden to be a co-leader, both in growth — our turnover has more than doubled in the last six years, thanks also to the acquisition of the Spanish company Antares, well specialized in technical lighting — and in position in the world market.
Despite our modest size, our internationalization policy is based upon a network of subsidiaries, aimed to have a better control of our image and identity, and to give both the home furnishing and the contract market a complete range of products and services. When, some years ago, I have met the sweet Korean singer-star Yang HeeEun, she explained to me that both Korean and Italian languages, although belonging to different linguistic stocks, have their syllable ending with a vowel — which is, by the way, the why because there are so many outstanding Korean opera singer.
As you know, the great German conductor Herbert von Karajan praised Jo Su-Mi as having the kind of voice that we can hear just once in a hundred years. Another likeness between us is that both our peninsulas are geographically allocated in the same latitude.
But our approach to innovation is different. We have just seen the presentation of his multifacet very innovative ICT designs by Mr. Also, I have read on New York Times what is happening at Songdo City, the man-made island off the Incheon coast to have it become probably the first U-city Ubiquitous city , to grant citizens a real U-life. As you know, a U-city is where all major information systems share data, and computers are built into the houses, streets and office buildings.
One example has impressed me: Here is one severe difference. In Europe, Ubiquitous computing infringes privacy. In Asia is viewed as an opportunity to show off technological prowess and attract foreign investments. So, we belong, and we contribute to create, different innovation approach and culture. And how important and valuable are those differences! Let me mention one Italian initiative which contributes to enhance the importance of a design-diversified world. The Designing Designers Convention among the Universities Design School in the World, hold in Milan during the Salone Internazionale del Mobile, organized by the Faculty of Design and COSMIT, is aimed to discuss the method to teach design in all countries to maintain the differences as an expression of each countries and design cultures.
Please allow me to make a proposal, even to propose an agreement, consistent with Korean and Italian specific talents. You go on to design ICT and high technological tools and software.
We Italian will continue to design products and interior comfortable atmospheres. Azienda nata nel , quando zio Umberto Cavaliere del Lavoro dal giugno scorso aveva 27 anni e il fratello Cesare Oggi occupa una posizione di leadership nel settore del mobile di disegno contemporaneo.
La liquidità è alta e crescente: Una delle conseguenze probabili del , quando il mercato avrà orizzonti più ampi da Palermo a Copenaghen, da Lisbona a Norimberga, sarà infatti che le aziende saranno indotte, proprio per far fronte a una concorrenza qualitativamente e quantitativamente diversa, a diventare più grosse. Vorrei fare una parentesi di tipo più tecnico: La terza ragione, collegata alle prime due ma più psicosociologica è che ad un certo punto gli innesti fanno bene.
Una parte del prezzo di acquisto è stata incorporata in azioni della Strafor Financière, creando quindi un certo tipo di collegamento organico fra queste due aziende.
Ho citato Demattè per dire che questa nostra vicenda potrebbe effettivamente essere uno dei modi, non certamente il migliore, Per le aziende italiane di avvicinarsi al Mercato Europeo Unificato del , per prepararsi dunque ad una modifica fondamentale di scenario.
Questo significa diverse cose e forse significa anche che noi italiani siamo consapevoli di avere una capacità di recupero e una capacità di gestire le opportunità, che altri non hanno. Il rischio è che il nostro settore si avvicini a questo appuntamento senza avere compreso alcune cose fondamentali. Intanto che, proprio per continuare ad avere successo come lo si è avuto nel passato in un mercato diverso, bisogna modificare le strategie sulle quali si era costruito, prima, il successo. Al primo gennaio mancano oggi 1.
In altri termini, è inutile che una azienda faccia tante cose. Dovrebbe piuttosto cercare di capire quali sono i suoi punti forti e i suoi punti deboli, concentrarsi sui primi e quindi cercare di avere una posizione forte nel proprio mercato. Un altro aspetto, di cui in particolare noi mobilieri dobbiamo tener conto, è prendere posizione nei confronti di un affascinante dilemma: Dunque permettetemi di accennare appena a un tema affascinante e complesso ogni azienda deve capire se in base ai propri prodotti e al proprio, posizionamento nel mercato debba accentuare le somiglianze o le differenze.
Nel ci sarà un Mercato Europeo Unificato, passo intermedio per arrivare a una autentica unificazione di taglio culturale e politico. Rodrigo is probably the leading expert in this area and one of the most actively committed people in this field that I have ever known. We felt that it would be a travesty to have Rodrigo Rodriquez here with us and not ask him about his current work as CEO — among other things — of Cassina. I should like to start by asking Rodrigo to tell us a little about Cassina: RR Thank you, Vittorio.
As you well know, the music that heralds every meeting in the big tent comes from the William Tell overture by the leading Italian composer Gioacchino Rossini… and yet William Tell himself was Swiss. In actual fact, Brianza is an area to the north of Milan where furniture has long been not just a matter of business, more something of a tradition. They manufactured all the parts for chairs, armchairs and small tables for export to France, where they were then assembled.
By the way, this is an unusual aspect of Italy: That is the reason why we have the pleasure of being in Aspen today and of meeting so many nice, interesting people. I would like to clear up a possible misunderstanding that you cultivated people may have in mind, which is that all the Italian furniture is designed by clever designers and is an anthem to innovation and creativity.
Total furniture production in Europe is worth about billion dollars. In Italy, we manufacture about 18 billion dollars worth of this. What I mean by this is the furniture that is manufactured by companies that partner with designers and run the risk of launching innovative forms, shapes and concepts to markets that are not yet mature.
But there is a bitter paradox at work here, as we actually have to thank those who follow the innovators — in other words those companies that decide that is not worth investing in research and development, because is easier just to imitate already successful furniture — for the fact that the phenomenon of what appears to be design furniture is widespread.
But what I want to tell you today, after a long, charming, marvellous high immersion in design and culture here in Aspen, is that furniture in Europe is in fact not just a cutting edge. To do this, let me tell you something about Cassina. It is a company that employs people — and almost all of them are happy to work there. If we include Cassina products manufactured under license in the United States, Japan, Brazil, Argentina and Spain, our consolidated turnover is about 90 million dollars.
If you have the opportunity — and I take this opportunity to invite you to come to Meda — I suggest you pay our company a small visit and look through our three facilities: Generally speaking, this blend between craftsmanship and an industrial culture is one of the secrets that have made the Italian industry successful.
It is a blend that also comes across from the sense of ownership and even emotional involvement on the part of our blue-collar workers in what they do: What we have is people who strive: Because a dynamic process of quality assurance based on checking every step of your own work is part of the spirit of craftsmanship. When a design-oriented firm creates a new piece, it will be the result of teamwork that has been guided, steered and organised by somebody who knows how to translate an innovative idea into a product, in this case a piece of furniture.
Our designers never come to us with ready-made drawings in their bags: We have programmes and schedules: Nevertheless, the process of designing a product, the continuous dialogue between one step and the next, between a Castiglioni or a Bellini and the man in charge of using his hands to make the first rough prototype, is the secret of this genius: VML I am aware — and now you are confirming my feeling — that there is no clear border between the role of the designer and the role of the producer in the Italian furniture industry.
So the designer who comes to you has to know something about production, but the producer for his part also has to go quite a long way into the realm of the designer, not telling him what he has to do, of course, but telling him very clearly what he wants and why. Would you tell us something about your choices, your cultural choices? Why do you select a Magistretti or a Bellini, for example, and not somebody else? What kind of cultural programme do you have and what kind of tolerance do you have in the realm of this cultural programme?
RR Vittorio, I am afraid that your questions are more intelligent than my answers will be … Nevertheless, let me try …. RR …and you have succeeded! What happens is a mutual, reciprocal selection, the result of a shared understanding that is partly immediate and partly built on reciprocal patience. Our product policy is not one that we cultivate: We are aware that design is a key ingredient for us to be successful and keep one step ahead our competitors. When you innovate — and design is innovation — you have a competitive advantage.
A voice from the audience: Which market segment do you address with your products? As you know, the market in so-called developed countries does not look like a pyramid any more. For consumer durables, in the 60s it looked like an onion: From the 60s to the 80s, the market gradually took on the shape of an hourglass: This did not happen because we are disrespectful to Pharaohs and rather like onion producers, or have fallen in love with Ctesibios, the third-century Greek engineer who invented the hourglass.
It happened as a consequence of the socio-economic evolution that you are all familiar with. Nevertheless, our market segment the top is quite wide, because both in Europe and in the USA the average income has grown, as well as average taste.
To put it differently, I could say that the tendency to aspire to have a nice home, a nice habitat, is affecting more and more consumers.
This is the market segment occupied by Cassina and the other Italian interior decor manufacturers. It comprises affluent people from a variety of different cultures, with different tastes and different social, ethnological and vernacular backgrounds.
We have to respond to this diversity by providing as many different furniture languages as possible: RR Yes, of course. Let me start by saying that one of the reasons why Italian furniture design is so successful is that we lost the Second World War. It was an atrocious war, a tragedy: From the debris, we had to start rebuilding our towns and our everyday lives. But we then have you, the American people, to thank for the Marshall Plan do you remember it?
The way we went about it was consistent with the characteristics of our identity: I was once at a dinner with a German industrialist, who said: Apart from the heavy human losses, we are now enjoying the highest grow rates of our respective GDPs, the same as Japan.
But while we Germans used the Marshall Plan to build mainly heavy industry, you Italians decided, on the contrary, to find a way to rebuild your light industry and to cultivate your cultural potential: Firstly, we Italians decided to rebuild Italy, with an overwhelming urge to change, to forget the past and give ourselves a very different environment from the one we had in the previous thirty years. We were thirsting for something new and ready for it. As my friends already said this morning, moreover, there were some clever entrepreneurs who, without having read any of the books by Igor Ansoff, had been able to pick up weak signals, including the fact that people wanted to buy newly-designed furniture.
They understood that a new and unprecedented space had opened up for furniture manufacturers. On the other hand, we had talented architects with practically no work, because there was not enough money around to employ them constructing important buildings, so they were ready and willing to design objects.
That is why we Italians are a wonderful hybrid people and our design is able to satisfy tastes all over the world: You may be interested to know that there was a transitional phase, just after the end of the Second Wold War, before Italian consumers were really ready to accept the many new ideas created by our own talented designers.
In that period, furniture from Scandinavia, mainly from the Sweden, was successful and even fashionable. Swedish design catered for the need for a new environment devoid of frills, one that was easy to live in: One consequence of the European Common Market set up 32 years ago — the treaty was signed in Rome on 25 March — is that we in Europe have introduced the free circulation of people, including designers. So, if you will allow me a touch of arrogance, they come to Italy to find what they cannot find in their respective countries.
So what we are all wondering is this: RR Firstly, let me start with some facts. C A recent British law has made our safety regulations in Europe, for instance fire regulations, as strict as the Californian ones, since our tendency in Europe is to harmonise our business rules.
That much being said, the rest is very segmented, i. But note that the umbrella of those verbs does not cover knock-offs, which are variously expressions of criminal practices from misdemeanours felonies.
There is room for every firm that is capable of competing by making keen use of its talent. To illustrate this, let me describe a project undertaken by UNIFA, the French Association of Furniture Manufacturers, an educational programme comprising two concepts and two steps and tailored for entrepreneurs.
The two concepts are. This programme has been implemented with the assistance of expert consultants and some of the results have been quite remarkable. RR Our product policy, which will also guide our forthcoming developments, is based on two basic concepts. The first of these concerns how we relate to our market: These are designs that do not appear to cater for any existing market demand, but stimulate latent demand to come out into the open.
One good example is Gaetano Pesce. We recently held an exhibition of his products in New York. Gaetano designs furniture with unusual and sometimes shocking forms, to be made using unusual and strongly expressive materials. The idea behind our launching products of this kind is to reinforce the image of Cassina as a company that proposes the cutting edge. Have I answered your question? VML I imagine you probably go down a certain line of design. When that happens, do you often find yourself handling a process that you would like to discard?
But that would actually be a wrong answer, because almost all projects generated from a new idea change along the way, being enriched with new details, like a living organism. Details are very important, as you know.
VML When we started, you told us that one of the keys — or one of the major advantages — of your kind of production is the fact that you are a rather small firm with many hand-crafted operations, although of course you use tools etc. I mean changing from this scale half-way between craftsmanship and industry into a real industrial dimension?
RR The question you raise is the issue of the optimal size of a corporation. In simple words, the scale or the point on that scale where a given company finds the optimal ratio between its resources and its turnover. But you also mentioned craftsmanship and industry: I shall not forget them in my answer, which I shall articulate in several points. Firstly, we want to keep a size that enables us to be perceived as a leading company. Rather than because they are proud to be our authorised outlets, with a guaranteed exclusive for their area, it would be mainly because Mr and Mrs Smith may come into their show-room waving an advertisement they have seen in a magazine.
But almost all of those outlets are very professional: Thirdly, we would have to invest in equipment and in manufacturing and warehouse space, as well as hire more employees, running the risk of reducing the highly professional profile that is a characteristic of our workforce. Fourthly, also in connection with production, we would have to expand the number of our suppliers of raw materials and semi-finished products. Once again, that would mean running the risk of diluting the effectiveness of our supplier network, which is based mainly on another one of the secrets of the Italian industrial system although it is actually too well-known to be called a secret: No Italian furniture manufacturer — all of us are SMEs — has all the stages of the manufacturing process in-house.
As a consequence, growth does not call for a proportional increase in fixed assets and investments or for a drain on the cash flow. Because — even without reading the American-German economist Schumpeter — the Italian furniture industry has organised itself on the basis of the concept of the cluster of companies, which we call the distretto: We have small, no-brand companies that specialise in certain semi-finished parts.
For instance, when you make an upholstered sofa, you have steel frames and cold-cured polyurethane foam covered with polyester fibres, usually high-quality Dupont de Nemours fibres, then we have either fabric or leather to cover. That is why in Italy, more than in any other country, we have clever steel frame manufacturers, cold-cured polyurethane moulders, polyester fibre processors and so on.
Each one of these specialised companies supplies more than one furniture manufacturer, while each furniture manufacturer, with its own strong market presence and its own brand, has more than one, usually two, of these specialised suppliers.