UNSCRIPTED with Giulio Cappellini: Sophistication with a tinge of vetiver

Seen as a father figure in modern Italian design, Giulio Cappellini reflects on his four-decade journey as an architect, designer, art director, and mentor in this week’s UNSCRIPTED.

by Anmol AhujaPublished on : Aug 13, 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.”

-Giulio Cappellini

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.

  • Giulio Cappellini began his design journey early on, working in the family furniture business | UNSCRIPTED with Giulio Cappellini | Interviews | STIRworld
    Giulio Cappellini began his design journey early on, working in the family furniture business Image: Courtesy of Giulio Cappellini
  • Despite his parents not having any significant design contacts at the time, Cappellini grew up surrounded by the “smell” of design | UNSCRIPTED with Giulio Cappellini | Interviews | STIRworld
    Despite his parents not having any significant design contacts at the time, Cappellini grew up surrounded by the “smell” of design Image: Courtesy of Giulio Cappellini
  • Fabbrica Cappellini, 1946 | UNSCRIPTED with Giulio Cappellini | Interviews | STIRworld
    Fabbrica Cappellini, 1946 Image: Courtesy of Giulio Cappellini
  • The 67-year-old Italian designer is, today, a trailblazer with his discreet, functionally aligned design language | UNSCRIPTED with Giulio Cappellini | Interviews | STIRworld
    The 67-year-old Italian designer is, today, a trailblazer with his discreet, functionally aligned design language Image: Courtesy of Giulio Cappellini

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.

  • Bong Coffee Table, Marmo, 2004 | UNSCRIPTED with Giulio Cappellini | Interviews | STIRworld
    Bong Coffee Table, Marmo, 2004 Image: Courtesy of Giulio Cappellini
  • Bong Coffee Table, Marmo, 2004 | UNSCRIPTED with Giulio Cappellini | Interviews | STIRworld
    Luce table by Giulio Cappellini, 2017 Image: Courtesy of Giulio Cappellini
  • Gong Circus coffee table, Cappellini’s playful tribute to the 1950s | UNSCRIPTED with Giulio Cappellini | Interviews | STIRworld
    Gong Circus coffee table, Cappellini’s playful tribute to the 1950s Image: Courtesy of Giulio Cappellini

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.

  • Cappellini stand at the Salone del Mobile, 2013 | UNSCRIPTED with Giulio Cappellini | Interviews | STIRworld
    Cappellini stand at the Salone del Mobile, 2013 Image: Courtesy of Giulio Cappellini
  • Cappellini stand at the Salone del Mobile, 2018 | UNSCRIPTED with Giulio Cappellini | Interviews | STIRworld
    Cappellini stand at the Salone del Mobile, 2018 Image: Courtesy of Giulio Cappellini
  • Cappellini point at the Fuorisalone, 2019 | UNSCRIPTED with Giulio Cappellini | Interviews | STIRworld
    Cappellini point at the Fuorisalone, 2019 Image: Courtesy of Giulio Cappellini

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. 

  • Through his brand and person, Cappellini has come to be known for his collaborations with various designers and nurturing the best of international design talent | UNSCRIPTED with Giulio Cappellini | Interviews | STIRworld
    Through his brand and person, Cappellini has come to be known for his collaborations with various designers and nurturing the best of international design talent Image: Courtesy of Giulio Cappellini
  • The Italian designer claims Jasper Morrison to be his favourite collaborator | UNSCRIPTED with Giulio Cappellini | Interviews | STIRworld
    The Italian designer claims Jasper Morrison to be his favourite collaborator Image: Courtesy of Giulio Cappellini
  • Cappellini with Dutch design magnate, Marcel Wanders | UNSCRIPTED with Giulio Cappellini | Interviews | STIRworld
    Cappellini with Dutch design magnate, Marcel Wanders Image: Courtesy of Giulio Cappellini
  • Cappellini alongside Paola Navone with her Panda Landscape collection being showcased at his showroom in Paris | UNSCRIPTED with Giulio Cappellini | Interviews | STIRworld
    Cappellini alongside Paola Navone with her Panda Landscape collection being showcased at his showroom in Paris Image: Courtesy of Giulio Cappellini

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.

Giulio Cappellini at the launch of The Cappellini Method: A Performing Dream, 2021 | UNSCRIPTED with Giulio Cappellini | Interviews | STIRworld
Giulio Cappellini at the launch of The Cappellini Method: A Performing Dream, 2021 Image: Courtesy of Giulio Cappellini

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.

UNSCRIPTED:
Curated by Pramiti Madhavji (Consultant, Content Adviser, STIR), UNSCRIPTED is a STIR-original series of quick-witted video interviews with 30 leading design professionals who give us an undiscovered peek into their lives. A melting pot of quests, revelations and quirks, the series spans 30 weeks with a release 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.

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