In 1949 did Giulio Castelli found Kartell in Milan. Besides Alessi, Brinovega, Danese or Flos it belongs to the traditional, Italian design businesses. But Kartellis reckoned as a pioneer business of the plastic-furniture-production.
While many manufacturers thought plastic is a cheap material, Kartell stacked to this material and made plastic as equal as all the other materials.
Kartell is known since the beginning of the 1950ies with its production of houseware. Chasing power was the house designer Gino Colombini, who still serves comfortless and plain kitchen mashines like lemon juicer, garbage bins, or storing boxes in new, delicious colours and shapes.
From the beginning to the middle of the 1960ies people experimented at Kartell with new production methods through which strong and tough plastic was won of which they could produce furniture. An earlier and - like it was said - first plastic chair ever, the chunky, but stackable and weatherproof children's chair "K4999" was designed in 1964 in cooperation with the designers Marco Zanuso and Richard Sapper. While they produced only householdware and little lamp series at Kartell, was the century of the plastic furnitureintroduced by the small "K4999".
In the 1960ies Kartell managed in the labs the research, so that designers could design their designs with always new patent plastics. Italian Design-like Joe Colombo, Achille Castiglioni, Vico Magistretti or Anna Castelli Ferrieri designed on this basis different furniture series made of plastic, which are today classics. To this belong e.g. Joe Colombos stackable chair 4867 (1968), which is a bestseller or the stackable Container-Element 4970/84 by Anna Castelli Ferrieri (1967), which are build without any screws and other fastenings and which are still a inherent part in the programm of Kartell.
After moving from Milan to Noviglio in 1972 got Kartell into proper crisis. The oilprice shock of 1973 didn't leave Kartell out either. The expensive oil as base of the plastic production didn't just make the prices of the plastic furnitures higher, it also gave the plastic as a material a big image-problem. Especially because of the ecological movement of the 1980ies plastic products got into affliction and achieved a reputation of disposable products.
In 1988 business manager Giulio Castelli dropped out and Claudio Luti, who was advisor of the couturier Gianni Versace, became the new manager. A design of Philippe Starck helped Kartell out of the crisis. With Starcks Chair Dr. Glob (1989) the business got the turn and the rehabilitation of the plastic in the furniture area. Several successfull designs followed: the Container system Mobil by Antonio Citterio or the shelf Bookworm by Ron Arad (both 1994), the Chair Dr. No by Philippe Starck (1996), the Chair Maui by Vico Magistretti (1997), which is today one of the most sit-on chairs of the world or the Bubble-collection by Philippe Starck (2001), just to name some of them.
Today the business enters growing growth numbers. And the problems, which they got from the bad image of the plastic, belong now to the past. With visionable view does the Manager Claudio Luti look into the future. Most likely will the brand Kartell stop producing furniture out of plastic and starts to produce furniture with innovative materials. For now, Kartell is known with its 21 Flagship Stores, the 250 Shop-in-Shops, and the 4000 other selling-stations from Hongkong to Miami - but as a demonstrative business for Italian design furniture.
Website of Kartell