A Conversation with Design Master Giulio Cappellini

Giulio Cappellini at his Milan Showroom

Giulio Cappellini at his Milan Showroom

Even if you’ve never heard of Giulio Cappellini, or the eponymous design studio he’s run for three decades, chances are you’ve seen some of the furniture maker’s quizzically shaped, brightly hued tables, couches and cabinetry.

If not in top style mags like Elle Decor, Dwell and Architectural Digest, then on display at prestigious museums like the V&A in London, the Museum of Decorative Arts in Paris and New York’s MoMA.

Part of what has made the 59-year-old so successful is a singular ability for discovering, developing and collaborating with untapped talent: much lauded stars like Marcel Wanders, Jasper Morrison and Tom Dixon all got their first big breaks by working with the Milanese master.

When Cappellini was in Toronto recently to give a lecture at the Design Exchange, we caught up with him to talk about his sense of colour, humour and how he finds his bright young things.

You’ve got a knack for spotting fresh talent. How do you do it?

I travel a lot. I visit universities and schools. I meet a lot of people. Sometimes I just see a rough prototype or a sketch. Or sometimes I meet someone and I just think that this person can work well with Cappellini. The feeling I get for the person is very important, because sometimes it takes years between the first prototype and the final design. And I never just want to make one piece with a designer. So we need to build a strong relationship.

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A Rigorous Sort of Happiness

Mavis Gallant at the Standard, Montréal, May 1946 (courtesy Library and Archives Canada/PA-11524).

I’ve never read a Mavis Gallant short story, something that, as I write this blog post, I’m ashamed to admit. But every so often I come across a mention of this escaped Cannuck — who has lived in Paris for over 60 of her 90 years — that re-asserts her importance in the world of writing. As a result, I have a certain sketchy understanding of her life through the Globe and Mail, the Walrus, the National Post and other media outlets. The first time I really took notice was in a charming 2008 radio interview on CBC’s Writers and Company, but it wasn’t until last week, when I listened to another CBC radio interview on Ideasthat her life strongly resonated with me. She seems to have achieved something that I find deeply admirable — independence — and I wish I knew how to do the same.

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