At the time of year when Italy would usually welcome the international design community to Milan Design Week, instead the country and its manufacturers are in lockdown. Yorgo Lykouria, founder and creative director of Rainlight Studio, writes a letter to Italy at this difficult time
Words from Yorgo Lykouria, founder and creative director of Rainlight
I am writing from London, listening to Max Richter’s resurrection of Vivaldi - Four Seasons Recomposed, a fusion of 17th Century Lombardy and 21st Century London. We witnessed Italy’s devastating battle with Covid-19 and the numbers tell us we are not far behind. The effects of the lockdown are beginning to be felt as the world’s economy goes into disarray and we try to live our lives internally; introspectively as well as being shut indoors.
We are asking ourselves many questions. Last year, Notre Dame, the forests in Australia, and the rainforests in Brazil were on fire. We watched with a sense of helplessness as this precious cultural artefact and our thriving ecosystems were perishing before our eyes. This year we are experiencing the surprise attack on our cultural and social freedom in a completely unprecedented way. On one hand we speak about acceptance as nature fights back against our abuse on the planet, and on the other, I am concerned about what it means for another precious artefact: the civilisation we built.
As we are physically disconnected, trying to stay in touch remotely, I am reminded of the immense cooperation needed to continue building this grand work in progress that is our civilisation. From the children who remind us to play and experience wonder, to the grand-parents who remind us that all challenges are surmountable; and all of us in between who had been flying all over the planet chasing our pursuits. Everyone contributes to this grand project, everyone counts.
Every day since the crisis began, I think of Italy, particularly in April as this is the month that the design world congregates in the indisputable design capital of the world. The many wonders coming out of Italy, the food, the wine, the clothes, the cars(!), have an essence, a quality that is distinctly Italian. Italians are known for being fussy about their food. In fact, I believe Italians are fussy about everything and that is why they demand and indeed achieve such a high level of quality in all they produce. Italy reminds us that a beautiful life requires commitment.
Over the last century, Italian Design has earned its aura of greatness. What I came to realise through my experience of working with great Italian furniture manufacturers, is that the magic surrounding what we revere as ‘Italian Design’ was due to the great craftsmanship that is found in the many factories surrounding the flagship design companies we know by name. Here are the minds that construct the processes and the hands that wield the power to produce things of great beauty and refinement. What we call Italian Design is in fact a testament to Italian manufacturing.
Italian manufacturing is the secret ingredient that has made great designers of all of us, the world over. Italy is the dream factory that answers the aspirations of the human will to manifest innovative artefacts and builds them. No questions asked. Every object to come out of these great Italian design houses: Arper, B&B Italia, Cappellini, Cassina, Fantoni, Molteni, Scavolini, Tecno, and so many others, are touched by so many hands, in mostly family run factories, each with their specific mastery over a material and a process. I think about the men and women who work in these factories to feed their families that keep our design culture thriving; a major part of the grand civilisation building project.
These are difficult times and I would call on the governments of Italy and of Europe to remember this grand heritage site that is Italy, and to keep Italian manufacturing alive. Alas, the greatest show on earth, the Salone del Mobile in Milan, is still the reference design show. As we miss this celebration of design, coming together as an international design family, I would like to raise a glass to Italy, and to the people who make the beautiful things we dream up. We will return when you are ready. Forza Italia!