Kartell's design-led solution to the plastic issue
For the Italian furniture brand, single-use plastic means simply creating classics that you never throw away…
Since its founding by Giulio Castelli in 1949, Kartell has been devoted to a progressive design approach design – not least in its attitude towards material and process. Of course, the material that the brand is most synonymous is plastic. So who better to provide some informed debate on the issue of single-use plastics that Lorenza Luti, Kartell’s marketing and retail director?
Kartell has, after all, been responsible for transforming the perception of plastic, elevating it into a rich, luxurious material associated with innovative, world-class design. ‘First of all, what we do should last for a lifetime, it’s not just one use and then you throw it away,’ Luti explains. ‘And there’s is a lot of confusion too – the plastic we use isn’t the same as the plastic used it bottles, there’s lots of polycarbonate that can be recycled [in fact, Kartell was the first company in the world to use polycarbonate to produce furniture] …in fact we are now working on new plastics – not because the other part of the collection is not good, but it provides us with another reason to explain this material.’
There are, she points out, issues to address not simply around the sustainability of the material used, but also in the manufacturing process, from reducing CO2 emissions to adopting better, greener work practice. Kartell, she notes, sign up to the Greenguard Certificate of Compliance – something Luti feels is important because it requires a certificate for each product, rather than being awarded per company, meaning the testing is far more stringent and frequent than other comparable schemes. ‘It’s very important because this is our future,’ she says with beautifully simple logic.
Kartell once famously championed ‘transparent design’– a very literal take on the clear polycarbonate used in products such as its best-selling Louis Ghost chair. But transparency in production is also vital for Luti. ‘Our process is very clear,’ she says. ‘You put the plastic in the mould and you have your chair – there is no waste.’
Luti was talking at the launch of the Kartell Wander project earlier this year, featuring new products including the Venice and Catwalk chairs and the Cara armchair, designed by Philippe Starck. With his usual sense of playfulness, Starck portrayed the chairs as the protagonists of a unique tour across the better and the lesser known corners of Italy. Noting the classic silhouettes of Starck’s Venice collection, Luti makes the contrast between the uglier side of plastic that often blights one of Itly’s most picturesque and photogenic cities… ‘This is something we are trying to explain – you see plastic bottles in the sea, but you only see our objects in museums!’