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Alessandro Calligaris

THE BUSINESS OF DESIGN

Published: 03 Nov 2021

An interview with Alessandro Calligaris

Calligaris is one of the major names of Italian design, with a reputation for creating functional and beautiful furniture. The company began in 1923 with just one chair; today it has a catalogue of 800 products and is sold in 100 countries across the world.
Alessandro Calligaris is the third generation of the family to be involved in the company and took over running it in 1966. Today, he is president of the company and here, he gives his insight into the brand…

https://www.calligaris.com

‘I don’t have a favourite product, but each decade has been characterised by a product that I became passionate about’

In your time as head of the company, what have been the key moments in the development of the brand?

The major change took place when we transitioned from being a single-product (chair) to a multiple-product (tables, furniture, upholstery) company; this forced us to start using many materials such as plastic, leather, metal, glass, ceramic, fabrics compared to only one as before. 

This affected our plants and it became necessary to reorganize them completely. The only manufacturing process that we kept completely within our company was that of wood. Today, we have a company in Ravna Gora (Croatia); we purchase the wood from the State Forestry, cut the logs and dry the boards in order to be able to proceed with the first part of the process; the last step is sending the semi-finished products to the plants in Friuli to be assembled and stained. 

We also have a processing system for the metal extension mechanisms that we use on our tables. We manufacture them in a company in San Stino di Livenza which we acquired five years ago from one of our suppliers in order to protect the know-how and the patents that we have developed over the years. 

Lastly, in December 2017 we acquired Ditre Italia, an upholstery company in Cordignano (TV), which allows us to work with these kinds of products in the best possible way. Previous to this, the group did not have a specific expertise.

How would you describe the ethos of Calligaris?

One of Calligaris’ main features has always been the insatiable need to improve, from the research of new materials and new production techniques all the way to the most ingenious design solutions. In regards to materials, we have introduced innovative solutions such as ceramics coupled with glass, which allows us to take advantage of the beauty and characteristics of ceramic along with the resistance of glass. 

What are your favourite Calligaris products?

I don’t have a favourite product, but each decade has been characterized by a product that I became passionate about. Over the years there have been several chair models that I appreciated, from the fifties to the Sabrina or the Cerchio. Recently, one of my favourites is the New York chair. 

How do you decide which designers to work with? 

Calligaris decided from the beginning not to collaborate with big names in design because we have strong expertise within our company. Nevertheless, we have had some ongoing collaborations with several excellent designers depending on the type of product we wanted to develop. The ones we collaborate with more often are Archirivolto, with whom we created the Saint Tropez and the Liberty chairs, Edi and Paolo Ciani who designed our Igloo chair and Michele Menescardi, who designed our Lazy armchair and Stefano Cavazzana who designed the Mies and Lounge sofas.

What is the Code Collection and why was it created?

CODE, stands for Complements Design and was created in 2014 due to the need of the brand to extend its offer into furnishing accessories in different categories. The CODE collection allows small extravagances thanks to the collaboration with young and talented national designers. Calligaris decided to make this collection a playground and an occasion for professional growth for young Italian designers, offering them a serious opportunity to enter the international market with products that reflect the latest market and creativity trends. The objects that are part of the CODE project are expressive, fresh, surprising and colourful accessories.

Alpha Private Equity 7 recently acquired a majority stake in Calligaris – how will this impact the brand?

The project with Alpha started in order to make the company grow through the acquisition of companies specialising in different sectors. This is because we want to give the consumer a wider choice among the Calligaris-branded products. 

Calligaris is represented in Malta by One Percent