The fusion of plastic and design is the longstanding ethos of Kartell, known for singlehandedly reinventing the constantly used industrial material into sought after pieces for the home. Founded by Giulio Castelli in Milan in 1949, the chemical engineer created a now global empire which is celebrated as one of the most revered symbols of Italian design throughout the world.
Although established over ten years earlier, Kartell made their mark in the design industry during the colourful era of the 1960s where the pop culture generation willingly adopted the exciting new concept of bringing functional design into everyday life. The vibrant and free-thinking designs spoke to the people of the time making Kartell a household name and their portfolio expand to match their success.
The fusing of research and efficient production systems together with modern technology has kept this Italian company at the forefront of innovation for over half a century. It is thanks to Kartell that plastic has become precious and refined whilst still maintaining its nature as an industrial material. Dedicated to making forward thinking products that are also affordable and accessible to all is part of Kartell’s successful philosophy, alongside the desire for strong aesthetic value and long lasting quality.
Altering the perceptions of plastic
A widely used industrial material that due to its low cost, versatility and manufacturability has steadily replaced traditional materials in the production of everyday objects, plastic can be found in every aspect of our daily lives. Instead of shying away from this readily available and commonly used substance, Kartell embraced it and have made it entirely their own.
Taking what we know about plastic and turning it on its head, Kartell’s product range is an ever evolving reimagining of the material which offers unequal aesthetic qualities whilst maintaining the functional properties that plastic presents. Constantly experimenting with new processes and techniques, the brand continues to bring a sense of innovation to everything they create. Due to their extensive research into their field, Kartell have been able to incorporate a wide range of new properties into the plastic they use including satin finishes, resistance to atmospheric agents, flexibility, texture and intriguing colours.
These state of the art techniques transform Kartell plastic from simply practical to sensual & precious and transport the objects from functional items which surround us daily to an enviable luxury item. The continuous pushing at the boundaries of innovation enables the brand’s designers to create industrial revolutions for interior spaces through using newfound technologies and substances to express their limitless creativity. In turn, Kartell’s design power is ever growing due to the inclusion of new and exciting products in the portfolio that their ever reaching research enables them to create.
Classic yet contemporary style
Through their incredible collection of furnishings, furniture, lighting & home accessories, Kartell display an iconic aesthetic which many have tried to replicate but none have succeeded. Taking inspiration from different eras, Kartell’s designs are reminiscent of the periods in which they were created but also draw from other key moments in history.
Baroque inspired elements can be seen on many of the brand’s products such as the Bourgie lamp and Ghost chair which both display ornamentation associated with the era, whilst 1920s glamour oozes from more of Kartell’s lighting options and their tableware. One of Kartell’s main sources of inspiration which can still be seen in collections released today is the decade which launched them into the limelight - the 60s. Bold pops of colour meet clean lines to give a care-free and fun, yet effortlessly chic feel long associated with this point in time.
Whilst influenced by numerous design eras throughout the decades, Kartell have an unparalleled aptitude for ensuring their pieces remain unequivocally contemporary. The plastic which forms every product in the entire Kartell collection provides a modern base on which individual designers can leave their own stamp, whilst maintaining the brand’s instantly recognisable and world renowned style.
Perhaps most legendary about Kartell, apart from their endless exploration into the world of plastics, is their collaborations with many of the globe’s most prestigious designers. Huge International names including Philippe Starck and Ferruccio Laviani are among the talents that have joined with Kartell on iconic designs, helping to establish the perfect balance between strategic vision, offer and demand.
The Ghost Chairs by Philippe Starck, Componibili storage units by Anna Castelli Ferrieri and Taj lighting by Ferruccio Laviani are just a few of the iconic pieces in the ever growing Kartell collection which continue to stand the test of time. If gathering together a vast range of leading designers over the years is not impressive enough, many of the resulting designs have also gone on to win prestigious awards, with accolades from the Good Design Awards, MACEF and ADI Compasso d’Oro - the oldest and most influential design award - to name just a small few.
The Kartell Museum
In 1999 the brand’s President, Claudio Luti, opened the Kartell Museum to celebrate fifty years of design. Located at the Kartell factory in Noviglio just outside of Milan, this showcase aims to conserve and promote the company’s values & ideals and is an exploration into the rich heritage that Kartell has amassed over the years. Winning the Guggenheim Business and Culture Award for the best company museum, it houses over 8,000 items, 5,000 designs and 15,000 photographs which paints a detailed image of the brand’s evolution.
With over 130 flagship stores and 250 pop up shops, Kartell products are also sold via 2500 retailers in over 130 countries around the world cementing their place as one of the leading design houses in history. Determined to create beautiful objects of exquisite design quality which are still accessible to a wide audience, the brand’s global appeal is never ceasing and continues to grow year on year. As trendsetting now as they were in the 1960s, Kartell is constantly exploring the infinite potential for beauty and functionality in plastics to create products that are renowned style icons across the world.