Mattiazzi wins fans with quality-before-profit philosophy
Big-name designers are collaborating with a small Italian furniture-maker that puts quality before profit, writes Giovanna Dunmall
MATTIAZZI HAS been supplying furniture to some of the world’s top brands for more than three decades. But only now is it making a noise.
“We want to raise our profile – show what we are capable of,” says Cristina Salvati, the company’s sales and marketing manager. Based near Udine in the northeastern Italian region of Friuli Venezia Giulia, Mattiazzi was founded in 1978, and is headed by brothers, Nevio and Fabiano who launched their line of chairs and tables. They asked Israeli Nitzan Cohen to design the first branded collection in 2009 and to oversee the line’s creative direction. “With little investor backing they couldn’t offer much besides the possibility of working together,” recalls Cohen.
Luckily for Mattiazzi, Cohen – who trained at the Design Academy in Eindhoven and was assistant to top German designer Konstantin Grcic before setting up his own studio in Munich – is not motivated by money. He was raised on a kibbutz at a time (the ‘70s and ‘80s) when this was a much more socialist experience than it is now. He got his first wallet at 16, spent most of his time outdoors playing and wore mostly hand-me-down clothes. “It sounds utopian but it was like that.”
Cohen was drawn to the honest way Mattiazzi operated. “For them it’s like what we produce is what we sell is what we can eat from. It’s honest.”
Since 2009, Mattiazzi has worked with top designers such as British practice Industrial Facility, French brothers Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec, and this year Grcic. Next year it will launch a product by Jasper Morrison, arguably one of the most influential designers working today. “It’s unusual for a small company to work with these designers,” says Cohen. Other companies that have those designers are Vitra, Magis and Cappellini. And they are the best in that field.” The Mattiazzi factory may be comparatively small (54,000-square-foot and 20 employees) but it has built a reputation for using the latest milling machinery and making objects that look and feel hand made. Located in a small industrial park surrounded by hilly vineyards, Cohen says the factory is almost Nasa-like in its cleanliness and efficiency. It is also powered by solar energy and the wood is sourced responsibly from neighbouring Slovenia and never treated (the off-cuts are recycled or used in winter to heat the factory). The designers get excited about the close contact they have with the people producing their designs. “This is almost non-existent in the design world,” says Cohen.
When Brit Sam Hecht, half of design practice Industrial Facility, first visited the Mattiazzi factory in 2010 he was struck by how different it was. “It applies a craftsman’s attitude to everything. Anyone can buy a manufacturing machine, but Mattiazzi uses the machine like it would a hand tool. It crafts the mechanization. With this commitment to quality, it has pioneered a new typology for woodwork.”