Designer Carlo Contin has turned his name into a brand: Carlo & Contin. An independent Italian design label that stems from the designer’s two souls: an experimental and and entrepreneurial one.
When he talks about his new brand, Carlo Contin (more about him here) mentions independent Italian design (but not auto-production). And slow, one-to-one sales strategies rather than online communications. In this chat, he explains why.
Did the world need another design brand or did you need it?
«Nothing is necessary. But experiences that are born to feed ideas and energies add a touch of vitality to the independent Italian design scene. The sort of fuel that is needed for people not to sit on their own successes. Personally, the creation of a brand is a challenge that puts me in front of new opportunities and pitfalls, certainly a professional and human enrichment ».
The name Carlo &Contin seems to suggest two souls.
«Carlo & Contin indicates the splitting of the personality that I expect to see in progress. Because it is natural that the designer and the editor often do not see things the same way. One will push on creativity and research, while the other on commercial feasibility».
So should we expect a lot of research design? Or more commercial products?
«A mix. The most personal and radical expression of my design mixed with good entrepreneurial sense. After all, before becoming a dsigner, I managed the production of a furniture company and I also know that part of the system».
What is design research for you?
«I work on the objects’ role and the way we use them. And I apply small changes to what already exists to allow people to see things in a different light. It is a way of thinking that is opposit to the traditional one. But also one that is very typical of my generation of Italian designers. Because we do not start from the forms but from the behaviour of people in relation to them».
How do you apply this approach to your objects?
«For example in the salt and pepper: a unique object that performs both functions and creates a new daily gesture. Or the oil / vinegar. As for the work I do on production techniques, think of the stool. I had made it for an exhibition for the gallery Subalterno1 in 2013 and the idea was born by chance by visiting a craftsman who showed me some old tools to make wooden screws. So I created a collection of furniture that comes from the many different ways in which you can use a wood screw. In this case the innovation is in the use of the object and in the transformation of the typology, with the addition of a bit of irony. Everything is very “Italian design” ».
Why do not you want to say that Carlo & Contin is a brand that makes self-productions?
«I never liked the term self-production. It is a container that brings together experiences that are too different from each other. It is made of artisanal, often almost amateur works (I think of makers who sell at the flea markets) and it goes as far as art design, which ends up in the galleries. I do not recognize myself in any of these two poles».
«And so I opted for the word independent Italian design. It is a word that is suitable in lots of fields. Think of journalism, music, independent cinema: that produces stories that are not aligned, critical, alternative, original and courageous».
Design editions often cost a lot. Will your products be expensive?
«I do not care to do projects to see them published on blogs or to get hold of some Likes of social networks. But not even to sell them in snobbish galleries. At the base of every object there is the conscious effort to control the price to the public, working on materials and production techniques, as designers do when they work in industry. I will use, for example, basic materials: wood, iron, borosilicate glass. Because, as Bruno Munari said, it is the idea that counts ».
What will you make?
«I would like to create a collection of pieces that goes beyond what is currently in production. It is useless to compete with what so many companies do best: what is the point of proposing a 50-year-old bon-ton armchair? My projects will be more radical, strong, but without ever losing sight of functionality and common sense because this is my DNA».
Distribution is a fundamental theme for today’s design. How are you coping with it?
«I’m betting on” slow “mode. On human contact. It took months of work but I identified a list of architecture and interior studies that work in both residential and contract. I will try with them a direct relationship, a dialogue that tells the product and its value but also allows me to listen to their needs and to respond accordingly. I do not know if it’s the right approach. But I am convinced that independent Italian design should be communicated and disseminated in “slow” mode, whatever it is»
No internet and social networks, then?
«There are enough small publishers to prove, data in hand, that the web is not enough. It is important to propose and show ideas. But the peculiarity of an independent project, due to its characteristics of craftsmanship and originality, needs a less superficial look».
Carlo & Contin officially exists from April 1st 2018. Cover and all photos Andrea Basile