Stefano Giovannoni

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 27 March, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 27 March, 2005, 12:00am

He sounds like an Italian chef. You have the nationality right, but he's a product designer.

What kind of stuff is he known for? Think of Alessi home accessories - what springs to mind? Many of the colourful, quirky and humorous little numbers are Giovannoni's.

Any specific examples? Last year's Siemens II Telefono Alessi, a curvy, cordless domestic phone that incorporates hi-tech functions. Then there's the wall-mounted Up Pill cotton-pad dispenser (2001); his various-sized Ethno stainless-steel baskets (2000, pictured); cult Merdolino toilet brush (1993); or the shiny chrome platters and tea and coffee cups (1989), adorned with cut-out stick men, which are still very popular. In addition, there are notable Alessi collaborations, such as with cult European lighting company Flos (bulbous lamps), and commissions, for example with watch manufacturers Pulsar and Seiko, and car-maker Saab.

Sounds like he incorporates a lot of fun in his designs. His products do scream for attention and often induce a smile, but please don't call them toys, as he often says in interviews.

Has he said anything else worth noting? 'Everybody in a developed society is in possession of the objects that answer every functional need,' he once said - almost making himself seem redundant. 'But to create wealth, companies have to produce in larger and larger quantities - on the one hand, we have no need for new products but on the other hand we must develop ... in order to anticipate a new and increasingly sophisticated architecture of our desires.'

He sounds a cynic. Perhaps it comes with age. He's in his mid-50s and has been a creative leader in his field since the mid-1980s. But his domestic accessories and appliances remain young at heart. Giovannoni's success pivots on his ability to pioneer the use of the latest materials - notably high-quality plastics - and marry them with his signature light-hearted forms.

How is he a plastic pioneer? Giovannoni introduced gas-assisted injection plastic moulding to new realms - allowing forms of pure fantasy that no longer required visible skeletal struts of plastic or metal for support.

Where can I find out more about Giovannoni ? For more information, visit Seibu and Lane Crawford stores stock some of his homeware - mostly tableware - and there is a good representation of his work at the Alessi Showroom (104 Ruttonjee Centre, Central, tel: 2869 6377).