Alessi (Italian company)
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From the 1990s onward, Alessi has been associated with the notion of "designer" objects — otherwise ordinary tools and objects executed as high design, particularly in a post-modern mode, from designers such as Philippe Starck. Many of the early memorable "designer kettles," "designer toothbrushes," "designer kitchenware," and so on were Alessi products, though competition in this product category has greatly increased since then.
1920s to 1940s
Alessi was founded in 1921 by Giovanni Alessi. The firm began as a workshop in Valle Strona near Lake Orta in the Italian Alps near Switzerland. An area known for its tradition in making small objects of wood or metal for in the house and in the kitchen in general. Alessi started with producing a wide range of tableware items in nickel, chromium and silver-plated brass. The company’s intention was to produce hand-crafted items with the aid of machines. Design in the current sense of the term began when Carlo Alessi (born 1916), son of Giovanni, was named chief designer. Carlo was trained as an industrial designer. Between 1935 and 1945 he developed virtually all of the products Alessi produced. In 1945 he ascended to chief executive and designed the coffee service. Alessi now is a worldwide company which offers many kitchen objects and tools.
1950s and 1960s
In 1956 the company was under the leadership of Alessi Carlo. It was his brother Ettore Alessi who introduced the collaboration with external designers in 1955. With some architects, he designed a number of items which were created for the hotel needs. Through his intervention caused many individual objects, which were best-sellers, such as the historical series of wire baskets. One of the key designs of this period is the shaker from 1957 by Luigi Massoni and Carlo Mazzeri. This was designed in a series with an Ice bucket and Ice tongs as part of the Program 4 for the 11 Triennale in Milan. This was the first time that the Alessi products got shown with manufactured goods. The 1950s were a difficult time to sell designer objects, as it was only a few years after World War II, and many people could not afford them.
1970s and 1980s
In 1970, Alberto Alessi was responsible for the third transformation of the company. Alessi was considered one of the "Italian Design Factories". In this decade under the leadership of Alberto Alessi the company collaborated with some design maestros like Achille Castiglioni, Richard Sapper, Alessandro Mendini, and Ettore Sottsass. In the '70's, Alessi produced the Condiment set (salt, pepper and toothpicks) by Ettore Sottsass, the Espressomaker by Sapper.
The 1980s marked a period in which Italian design factories had to compete with mass production. These movements had a different view on design, for the Italian design factories the design and therefore the designer was the most important part of the process while for the mass production the design had to be functional and easy to be reproduced. Also in the 1980s, they changed their marketing image from factory to industrial research lab, a place for research and production. For Alessi the '80's are marked with some designs like the Two tone kettle by Sapper, their first cutlery set Dry by Castiglioni. Alessi collaborated with new designers like Aldo Rossi, Michael Graves, and Philippe Starck, who have been responsible for the some of Alessi's all time bestseller like the kettle with a bird whistle by Graves.
The company make unusual market greatly expanded, Alessi faced increasing competition from other international manufacturers, especially in lower-cost products mass-produced for retailers such as Target Corporation and J. C. Penney.
In the 1990s Alessi started to work more with plastics, at the request of designers who found it an easier material to work with than metal, offering more design freedom and innovative possibilities. The 1990s were marked by the theme "Family Follows Fiction", with playful and imaginative objects. Artists designing for this theme included Stefano Giovannoni, and Alessandro Mendini, who designed Fruit Mama and the bestseller Anna G. Metal still remained a popular material, for example the Girotondo family by King Kong.
2000s to the present
During the 2000s, Alessi collaborated with several architects for its "coffee and tea towers," with a new generation of architects such as Wiel Arets, Zaha Hadid, Toyo Ito, Tom Kovac, Greg Lynn, MVRDV, Jean Nouvel, and UN Studio. These sets had a limited production of 99 copies. Another remarkable design in the 2000s is the Blow Up series by Fratelli Campana. The brothers played with form and shape to create baskets and other objects that look like they would fall apart when touched.
In 2006 the company reclassified its products under three lines: "A di Alessi," "Alessi," and "Officina Alessi." A di Alessi is more "democratic" and more "pop," the lower price range of Alessi. The Officina Alessi is more exclusive, innovative and experimental, marked by small batch production series and limited series.
Designers and their designs
From 1945 until today Alessi has collaborated with designers and even other brands or companies for their products. Some key designs and their designers:
- 1945 Bombé tea and coffee service by Carlo Alessi Anghini
- 1978 Condiment set (salt, pepper and toothpicks) by Ettore Sottsass
- 1979 Programma 5 barware by Ettore Sottsass
- 1979 9090 espresso maker by Richard Sapper
- 1982 Dry flatware/cutlery by Achille Castiglioni the first cutlery produced by Alessi
- 1983 Bollitore whistling water kettle by Richard Sapper. Alessi’s first "designer kettle", with a whistle whose pipe sings two tones, miand si, in harmony
- 1984 La Conica by Aldo Rossi. This was Rossi’s first mass-production design and its image earned immediate success for the then-new Officina Alessi brand, as well as becoming an 1980s design symbol. Therefore, it was soon to be followed by more Rossi designs in this theme.
- 1985 Kettle by Michael Graves. The Graves' kettle is known for its singing bird when the water boils. Followed by matching products like a sugar bowl and a creamer, also designed by Graves. This product has sold the greatest number of units in the history of the company.
- 1989 Girotondo family by King-Kong
- 1990 Juicy Salif by Philippe Starck
- 1993 Fruit Mama by Stefano Giovannoni. The first design for the Family Follows Fiction series; noteworthy for its aesthetic juxtaposition of plastic and stainless steel.
- 1994 Anna G corkscrew by Alessandro Mendini. A best seller since it was first produced, with its smiling face, it engendered thef Anna family of related objects for the table and kitchen.
- 1995 Mary Biscuit by Stefano Giovannoni. Biscuit or cookie container.
- 1997 Nono di Antonio garlic crusher by Guido Venturini
- 2004 Blow Up range of baskets and citrus holders by Fratelli Campana
- 2006 Kaj watch by Karim Rashid
- 2013 Dressed dinnerware and flatware by Marcel Wanders[further explanation needed]
- 2015 Collo Alto cutlery set by Inga Sempé
- 2017 Forma cheese grater by Zaha Hadid
- Chief executive
- Alberto Alessi, The Dream Factory: Alessi since 1921, Milan 1998 pp. 16-18.
- "Alberto Alessi, Design as Art: Postmodernism at the International Design Symposium". 15 November 2012. Retrieved 29 August 2017.
- Cutlery set Collo Alto www.ingasempe.fr, retrieved 15 november 2015.