by Jerry ElengicalNov 19, 2021
“If there is something wrong with my ideas, I am ready to change. Otherwise, if I say that my ideas are always perfect, I am stupid. I like discussion, not compromise.”
The Eureka! moment for most designers, nearly every single one interviewed for UNSCRIPTED, discovering their creative streak and deciding to professionally pursue design or architecture has to be early on in their lives. The seed for their creative reckoning is sowed right in their wee-years, one that grows into a perennially giving tree. This much seems rather like a prerequisite that one would cross off a tabloid list of sorts. The tale of legendary Italian designer, Giulio Cappellini, is no different. Revelling in his subtle, functionally aligned design language, the 67-year-old designer has been a bonafide trendsetter by all means, and one among many to have inspired a shift in thinking from the classical language of famed Italian design, drawn from industry giants including Achille Castiglioni and Italian architect, Gio Ponti.
Son of Enrico Cappellini, who founded Fabbrica Cappellini, a furniture producing company back in 1946, Giulio claimed to have been surrounded by the “smell” of design, despite his parents not having any significant “designer” contacts at the time. He nurtured his creativity through wood-modelling and designing small spaces with LEGO, before taking over the family business in 1977. It is that name, of the family and family business that the now legendary designer has grown to one of the most recognised brands for furniture design and product design, worldwide.
Cappellini stands at a unique temporal juncture in Italian design, and has embraced his role there wholeheartedly. While developing his exceedingly utilitarian design language, Cappellini, as a designer and a brand, came to be widely known for its collaborations: something the veteran feels is an effect of his extensive travels since he has always been on the lookout for new design talent. It is thus no secret that Cappellini is seen as one of international design’s biggest talent scouts, having worked with and propelled the careers of the likes of Tom Dixon, Marc Newson, Erwan and Ronan Bouroullec, Marcel Wanders, and Piero Lissoni. A special collaboration that he fondly remembered was one with Jasper Morrison, calling the British designer’s sensibilities clear and defined. “A father can’t choose between his children,” Cappellini claimed jovially on having to choose his favourite collaboration.
Another hat that the multidisciplinary designer effortlessly dons is one of being the Art Director for his own brand, and multiple others in the global design circuit. A moniker that he used before it caught on as a profession, “Art Director” is now synonymous with Cappellini’s name in more ways than one. Cappellini owns up to it, and personally prefers that role to that of a unitary designer. For him, the pleasure of designing a company from scratch, and designing a global concept for it to grow was far more compared to that of designing a product or building.
An architect by formal education from the Politecnico di Milano, Cappellini asserted that the pencil became his muse at first sight. Using that, coupled with a child-like curiosity for renewing himself constantly, Cappellini’s name adorns some iconic furnishings, including the Bong and Gong tables, the Break table series, the cabinets in the Luxor range, the Luce coffee table, Vendome, Flaminia, and many more. Personifying the adage that inspiration can be found anywhere, Cappellini listed his journal to be the one essential he carried everywhere, in hopes of noting conversations, and drawing to find inspired ideas for products. Another exclusive Cappellini pet peeve, an unknown, interesting fact about him, is the designer’s penchant for smelling nice. Having his perfumes made bespoke from a merchant in Milan, he wears the fragrance of vetiver in winters and orange in summers.
It was, however, Cappellini’s humility that overbore his lean physicality and brisk talking. Claiming that he didn’t know what he wanted people to remember him as, Giulio Cappellini drew simple, heartfelt contentment from the fact that he wouldn’t retire. “I will never stop working,” he proclaimed, through eyes of calm; never weary, always anticipating. Age, indeed, was just a number at that instant.
Tap on the cover video to view the full conversation with the legendary Italian designer.
Curated by Pramiti Madhavji (Consultant, Content Adviser, STIR), UNSCRIPTED is a STIR-original series of quick-witted video interviews with leading design professionals who give us an undiscovered peek into their lives. A melting pot of quests, revelations and quirks, the series releases a new episode every Sunday as designers reveal unheard and unknown nuggets from their lives, in response to 30 questions.
All photographs © Giulio Cappellini. Images may not be downloaded, copied, reproduced, or used in part or whole without obtaining permission. The photographs in this video are not licensed for personal, commercial, or public use, or use in the public domain in any form.