Kartell belongs to the traditional, Italian design companies
Giulio Castelli founded Kartell in Milan in 1949. Besides Alessi, Brinovega, Danese or Flos it belongs to the traditional, Italian design businesses. But Kartell is 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 1950s with its production of houseware. Chasing power was the house designer Gino Colombini, who still serves comfortless and plain kitchen machines like lemon juicers, garbage bins, or storing boxes in new, delicious colours and shapes.
Furniture collections made of plastic
From the beginning to the middle of the 1960s people experimented at Kartell with new production methods through which strong and tough plastic came out to be a material of which they could produce furniture. An earlier and - like some say - 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 household ware and little lamp series at Kartell, their chair "K4999" introduced the century of the plastic furniture.
Innovative, creative and functional Kartell furniture
In the 1960s Kartell managed the research in the labs, so that designers could always design their objects with new patented plastics. Italian designers like Joe Colombo, Achille Castiglioni, Vico Magistretti or Anna Castelli Ferrieri designed on this basis different furniture series made of plastic, which are today considered to be classics. Joe Colombo’s stackable chair 4867 (1968) belongs to these furniture pieces, which is a bestseller or the stackable containers 4970/84 by Anna Castelli Ferrieri (1967), which are built without any screws and other fastenings and which are still an inherent part in the program of Kartell.
After moving from Milan to Noviglio in 1972, Kartell got into proper crisis. The oil price 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 furniture higher, it also gave plastic as a material a big image-problem. Especially because of the ecological movement of the 1980s, plastic products got into affliction and achieved a reputation of disposable products.
The designer Philippe Starck took Kartell out of the crisis
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 successful 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 used chairs of the world or the Bubble-collection by Philippe Starck (2001), just to name some of them.
Buy Italian design classics in the home design shop
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. The manager Claudio Luti looks into the future of the company with a futuristic view. Most likely the brand Kartell wants to stop producing furniture out of plastic and start producing 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 Hong Kong to Miami - but as a demonstrative business for Italian design furniture.
Website of Kartell