Milan Preview: Poliform
Tuesday, March 25th, 2014
Portrait by Pierre Monetta
JEAN-MARIE MASSAUD, Designer
In Jean-Marie Massaud’s world, the lines between working and dreaming are continuously blurred. This is a man who proposed a whale-shaped flying hotel dubbed “Manned Cloud” and designed an electric concept car for Toyota made largely of recycled materials and bamboo. At 47 years old, he co-owns Studio Massaud with architect Daniel Pouzet, and his life’s work thus far spans industrial design, architecture, technological innovation, and, of course, furniture design.
At last year’s Salone, Massaud unveiled the Bristol sofa system for Poliform, rooted in timelessness and elegant easy living, along with the Ipanema Poltrona armchair and bed, both based on the archetypal idea of a light wooden-frame structure, leather strips, and a duvet. Lastly, the sleek Seattle leather chair, which Massaud describes as sharp, elegant, and comfortable, rounded out his exhibition at the 2013 fair.
Massaud has attended the Salone every year since 1993, and despite his opinion that the fair has become too big to truly enjoy, the designer still finds himself curious and eager to annually scope out fresh ideas from his fellow designers. And although he kept mum about what we can expect from him at this year’s fair during our interview, he did reveal that the Salone will see him launching new products with Poliform, a family-run, Italian luxury brand with global operations in 70 countries.
The brand began as a small artisan shop back in 1942 and established itself as a major player in the design world in the 1970s. Today, Poliform offers custom-made cabinetry for closets, bookcases, and kitchens, as well as high-end living-room and bedroom furntiure, which falls right in Massaud’s wheelhouse.
How would you describe the Salone experience?
The Salone is more than itself. One week a year, all of Milano and its citizens are celebrating design everywhere within the city. It’s a popular communion around creation, exhibitions, and partying. The Salone is also the most important event in the world concerning con- temporary home furniture.
How do you think Milan stays so relevant in this industry?
Milano is still a fertile place because of the local culture and the flexible network of companies. But these companies are not so big, and sometimes fragile to face the new stakes and challenges of a global world. Today, innovation with a powerful industrial and distributional support is the way to lead a field where the good design is copied by Chinese producers.
How is your working relationship with different brands? Can you elaborate on your collaboration process with Poliform?
I began working in this field with Cappellini and Cassina. But it’s interesting to create very close relationships with company owners in order to design not just products but also strategy. With Poliform, I work very closely with Mr. Alberto Spinelli, who has a clear feeling of what he wants to accomplish. With confidence and vision, we are able to accomplish the right work together. It’s more relevant and comfortable to work this way, but because in design the processes are longer than in fashion, designers often need to work with many companies.
Have you experienced issues with your work being copied?
Yes, many times. The last product was the MDF flow chair, which sold at one-fifth of the price. But really, this is the result of success. We need to concentrate on qualitative growth, which is the only way to fight against quantitative growth, for better results and a virtuous circle.