Italian designer Samuele Mazza is behind the Louvre Gallery's Visionnaire collection, an assortment of neo-gothic-style furniture made from unconventional materials including reptile skin, chrome and crystal. The furniture and fashion designer was in town recently to promote the collection, which is produced and distributed by Italian brand Ipe Cavalli. Which is your favourite item in the collection? 'The bear [a soft chair in the shape of a reclining black bear]. It's very relaxing and comfortable. It's a very strong expression of the theme I'm working on, which is neo-gothic. The style is a little dramatic and retro, and a little bit rock. It represents the European identity. I don't like to think of myself as just an Italian but a European.' There's a lot of black and white in the collection. Why? 'Many years ago, like 30 years, wearing black for me was the beginning of being myself. It was the first time I decided for myself what to wear. Before that my mum bought me clothes. Then I grew up with this idea that black was the colour of my generation and personality. I don't like colours in the middle. I like black and white, grey and natural colours. Maybe I have some problem with colours. Chromophobia? I don't know.' Is it also an Italian thing? 'Yeah, we are not like the English or French. The French like a lot of pink. You never see people in Milan or Rome wearing pink. We wear beige, brown, grey, black and white. I think it's part of being chic.' How do you compare fashion design with furniture design? 'For me it doesn't make any difference because I always work on the concept of luxury and glamour. People who buy Dolce & Gabbana or Gucci also buy our furniture. But then fashion is a big business today, and with [the emergence of] Zara and H&M, things have become harder [for designers]. But it's good because poor people also have the right to dress well. [I'm] very democratic. I'd really like to work for Zara Home and design for Ikea.' So your home is filled with luxury and glamour then? 'My home is a home. It's not a boutique. I live in a very high building, which is very eccentric in Italy. It's very glamorous but still it's a home. To be glamorous is not a matter of money but mentality. You can be glamorous with cheap things that have glamorous colours and shapes.' Some items in the Visionnaire collection feature animal skins, such as the bed decorated with eel skin. How does that square with conservation concerns? 'There is no contradiction because we use recycled eel skin. We are absolutely working on the concept of environmental protection. Italian design is going to [evolve] depending on people's desire. But don't forget we're still the land of the five Fs: fashion, furniture, food, Ferrari and football. We enjoy life. We have 40 holidays a year. We don't have a big pollution problem.' Anything you'd like to add? 'Chinese people must be themselves. Don't copy. I'm not talking about Hong Kong but [the mainland]. They must have respect for copyright and the creativity of other people. Sometimes it doesn't happen. It's very sad to say but we do have some problems with this.'