MILAN — For the next two months, Kartell stores worldwide will highlight the best of the brand’s transparent furnishings in their window displays.
The Milanese design company is celebrating the 15th anniversary of its “La Marie” chair, which was designed by Philippe Starck and the first of its kind to be made of polycarbonate, an industrial polymer. It debuted at the Salone del Mobile in 1999.
“Transparency has almost become part of our very brand,” mused Kartell president Claudio Luti at a presentation here on Oct. 7, gesturing toward Starck’s new, 66-pound polycarbonate sofa, the “Uncle Jack,” which retails for 950 euros, or about $1,200 at current exchange.
Luti, who is also chairman of Cosmit, the Federlegno-Arredo company behind Milan’s Salone del Mobile, and vice president of luxury-goods association Fondazione Altagamma, also spoke forcefully about another type of transparency: product origin. All of Kartell’s products are manufactured in Italy’s northern Lombardy, Piedmont, Veneto and Emilia-Romagna regions, and Luti took a firm stand in favor of making origin labels mandatory for goods circulating in Europe, referencing an ongoing dispute the EU Commission has yet to resolve. Labels, he said, are an important barrier to the circulation of counterfeit merchandise.
“We have a legal office that, every day, tries to go after those making counterfeit [Kartell products], and we have cases open around the world. Also, online, it’s a constant battle to close [illegal] Web sites….It’s a shame because it damages business, and we don’t receive much help from our country,” he said, adding, “What upsets me the most is that [counterfeit product] degrades all those involved, including us by association.”
Kartell currently has an estimated 140 flagship stores, in addition to about 250 shop-in-shop and 2,500 multibrand sales points, Luti said. Eighty percent of Kartell’s turnover is derived from exports, and the firm would like to strengthen its position outside Europe, with greater investments in India, Russia, the U.A.E., China and the Asia-Pacific region. In May, the company unveiled a new e-commerce platform that it developed with Yoox Group.