Claudio Luti, CEO and president of Kartell, aims for perfection in each and every product, writes Jacqueline Tsang
Q. You left Versace in 1988 and became president of Kartell. What was the biggest change that you brought to the company?
A. At the time, my idea was to remain industrial. Being industrial means having longevity, achieving good sales, reasonable pricing but, most importantly, the ability to give emotion. We started working with plastic and presenting it as a luxury material. Now, it’s easy to see good plastic around the world. At the time, that was not the case. Kartell was the first to move in that direction.
Q. The world of luxury was very much associated with materials such as rare metals and precious stones. What was behind your decision to develop plastic?
A. We spent two years working with General Electric to develop the polycarbonate that we now use in our products. We were the first one to use this material and feature this kind of transparency in furniture. It was transparent and light, but solid. This material used to be a completely industrial material. Designers have to be innovative this way.
Q. Kartell is known for its collaborations with designers. What motivated you to pursue these partnerships, and what made you choose these particular designers?
A. We need to work with designers to push the creative envelope. I wouldn’t ask them to do something I can already do myself. I give them the freedom to be creative, to try something new. Each design is a collaboration, a compromise between the designer and the company. We started working with noted designers such as Philippe Starck and Antonio Citterio, and these first pieces were exactly what we were looking for – they were industrial, innovative, highquality and emotive.
Q. What was behind your decision to create the Kartell by Laufen collection?
A. The bathroom is a very important space in the home, and when I started researching this, I decided not to limit ourselves to accessories in plastic. I wanted a holistic approach to the bathroom. I looked around and decided that Laufen was one of the best manufacturers in the business, a good partner to collaborate with. It was so important not to design iconic pieces, but to design one entire project, with the right balance between different materials – Laufen’s ceramic with Kartell’s plastic. The idea was to provide different moods through the use of colour, whether it’s minimalist, baroque or modern. This was my concept, to offer different moods and possibilities.
Q. What was the biggest risk you took since joining the company, and why did you decide to go ahead with the decision?
A. The first time you do anything, it’s a big risk. If you want to create an industrial product, you have to invest first and risk everything in advance. Each and every time, it’s a risk. You only get to see the reception later. Even with the “easy” objects, you can never guarantee success. It’s not an easy process with design products – it’s not just about functionality; from an aesthetic point of view, it has to be perfect as well.
Q. You’ve been named a visionary in this field, and a few years ago, you were presented with the “Visionaries” career award by the New York’s Museum of Arts and Design. How do you ensure that you remain successful and inspirational?
A. I only work in the top tier of the industry, producing products of the best quality. It’s so important to trust the brand’s philosophy and your vision. You need to be flexible and understand that something has to change every day. It’s an evolutionary process.