Made in ITALY
Known for his sleek, Italian-made furniture and minimalistically designed buildings, Piero Lissoni talks to Style:MEN about fame, “eco” buildings and skiing, and, incidentally, about design.
Piero Lissoni's eponymous coffee-table book.
Italian furniture designer Piero Lissoni is mischievous: He comments cheerfully that he has a love-hate relationship with his "superstar" reputation and cites Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges who wrote six books under fake names and had the world buzzing about the amazing "new author". And, he tells us, he's pulled off something similar: "[We even thought] of making interviews only on telephone, sending out images of this new designer running with the dogs or playing in the factory!"
Trained in architecture at the Milan Polytechnic, Lissoni has designed furniture for Alessi, Boffi, Pierantonio Bonacina, Cappelini, Kartell, Matteogrossi - among many others - and designed the interiors for numerous hotels including Singapore's own Studio M hotel. When asked what Lissoni-designed furniture he tapped for that project, he shrugged and said: "It's without. Low budget, so none. When you design a hotel, you design with a special client in mind; Studio M was designed for a special client."
However, his work has meant that he is in Asia, and Singapore, relatively often. He tells us that he likes the "street restaurants near the river" as well as Mezza9. "I like street food, spicy food..." he insists, "I'm not provincial, every good food is good, you know?"
Lissoni's characteristic generous, sensuous furniture.
He cooks and likes following traditional recipes, in which everything is done for a reason. "If you cook a classic Italian tomato sauce, you have to cook every ingredient, disconnected [from] the others and last minute we add all together... I copy classic three-star Michelin chefs doing that.
"When I design kitchens - for instance, for Boffi - I never design it [just to] design 'another kitchen'. I design a kitchen around a food rituality. What kinds of movement you do? How many people stay around? Which kinds of knives [do you use]? When you fix some [guide ropes] like that, it's easy to design a kitchen!"
"I think that our quality is to work with a lot of limits. I never work with a pure, white paper. You have to respect the qualities of the factory, you have to respect the humans inside, you have to respect cost, you have to respect time, you have to respect materials."
Lissoni likes to take sly pokes at reactions to his fame. "[Journalists] ask me if I am creative or if I wake up in the morning with one great idea or they ask why I design something in a way and not another. Come on," he snorts in exasperation. "Or they ask me if I like Italian clothes."
His suit is, of course, impeccable. And Italian. "In that way I am absolutely chauvinistic, more than a Frenchman." He will only admit that English clothing might also be acceptable, adding, however, "the manufacturing is not fantastic".
So what does he wish journalists would ask? "Ask me if I am a good skier..." Is he? "Yes. I am very good at that, better than [being an] architect who designs!
He has quite a few easily pushed buttons, including the whole eco-building thing: "Often, now, we talk about 'responsibility to the environment'... But then we put inside [buildings] a lot of air conditioners and use a lot of electricity. Why are we talking about a green movement, [when we] design some horrible, huge building, with an incredible quantity of glass and a trick for controlling temperature, for washing the glass? These, I say, are idiot things."
That's a good one, given that he is best known for huge furniture. He laughs and says: "I design some smaller pieces...small houses, too. But sometimes you present huge sofas or big kitchens because...it's sensual, the sensation. You have to think, to breathe...
His best design? "My son [Francesco, whose mother is Nicoletta Canesi, of Lissoni Associati]. I'm working very well but I was not alone in the production. Strong collaboration with me and a 'factory'..."
"I think that OUR QUALITY is to WORK with a lot of limits..."
- PIERO LISSONI
PHOTOGRAPHY ROY LIM STYLING IRENE ARIFIN & GERALD TAN