Giorgio Busnelli runs the world famous chic furniture brand B&B Italia, a firm founded by his father, Pieoro Ambrogio, 51 years ago. The company recently opened its first showroom in Magran Living, in Kemang, South Jakarta, where Indonesia Design spoke with Busnelli about design collaborations and adapting to Asian markets. Here’s what we learned.
PHOTO BY Bagus Tri Laksono, B&B Italia Jakarta
SIZE MATTERS. SO DOES DESIGN.
Busnelli said that the firm needed to scale down in size its pieces by 10 percent after entering the Japanese market, due to the smaller size of that nation’s people. It’s something that also happened in Hong Kong, B&B Italia’s second largest market. “I was surprised when Hong Kong became our biggest dealer of Coronado sofas in the world,” Busnelli says. “Then I realized, when I looked at the many skyscrapers, it was because the small dimension of the sofa.” Busnelli also said that timeless design sells, citing pieces from B&B Italia’s collection, such as the venerable “Up” armchair by Gaetano Pesce and “The Charles’” sofas, designed 20 years ago by Antonio Cittero—and which now sit in all 627 lounges at Apple’s headquarters in Palo Alto in the US.
THE IPOD EFFECT
As head of the world’s leading home furninshing design firm, Busnelli said that technology, bedroom use and outdoor areas were of special attention. He cited one example of how technology changed the firm’s approach when designing its wall system, “Once the flat-screen television and the iPod came out, this changed our approach.” Bedroom use is more prominent than ever, as people prefer to do more from bed, from resting to working. Busnelli said that this phenomenon prompted the firm to pay more attention to headrests and backboards. Meanwhile, B&B Italia’s biggest expansion has been into outdoor furniture, a market it entered ten years ago. The firm makes 60 percent of its products in this area in Indoneisa. Of course, the evolution of outdoor furniture design has changed how the products are sold, Busnelli said, adding that residential properties and hotels were now paying more attention to their outdoor areas. “I think once we entered the outdoor business, people believed that we have created new possibilities.”
DARE TO CRITICIZE
Busnelli said that the firm prefers to collaborate rather than to create original designs, with its R&D centre partnering with notable architects and designers such as Antonio Citterio, Mario Bellini, Gaetano Pesce to Naoto Fukusawa. The collaborations, according to Busnelli, always depends on the firm’s ability to criticize works of the designers. Another key of their success has been only collaborating with established talents, to ensure the relationship is equal. “Sometimes the architect is the mother, and the father is the R&D center,”Busnelli says. “Other times, it is the reverse. Collaboration is like a ping pong game.”