Welcome to the world of Alessi
In 1921 Giovanni Alessi set up a metal workshop at his family home on Lake Orta in the Italian Alps. His son, Carlo, joined him at an early age and went on to develop virtually all of the products between 1935 and 1945. Today, the business is into its third generation under the careful watch of Alberto Alessi.
From the 1950s, Alessi stopped employing inhouse designers and worked only with freelancers who, free from corporate dullness, added a variety of cultural influences to the mix. Beginning with just metal work, Alessi have expanded their horizons over the years to include plastics, wood, crystal, porcelain, appliances and electronics but in spite of the changes still consider their products to be handicraft – just assisted by machines.
We came across some of their earlier designs, like this range of metal cake and biscuit stands (Giovanni Alessi, 1929) and the iconic Bombé teapot (Carlo Alessi, 1945):
Their designs are intriguingly timeless and some items produced in the 1970s remain bestsellers today. These Alessi cutlery (Ettore Sottsass, 1987) and condiment sets (Ettore Sottsass, 1978), for instance, would hold their own beside Massimillano Fuksas’ white and black Alessi serving dishes designed over 30 years later (2007).
The mission and the products
Alessi’s design philosophy is under-girded by a real sense of mission – far from being purely commercial, their goal is to design products that meet the consumer’s needs and requirements while at the same time making the consumer happier.
The current catalog, which they describe as eclectic, is the result of Alessi’s collaboration with many internationally-acclaimed designers including Sottsass, Castiglioni, Mendini and Fuksas. We love the quirkiness, freedom and fun of their products and the quality of their packaging speaks a thousand words.
Recognising that trends are constantly changing and that mass production becomes simpler and less costly with quantity and time, Alessi encourage freezing ideas that have potential but would be better released at a future date. They keep the ‘frozen products’ for 20 or even 30 years and revisit and produce them if and when it’s viable.
Where are these people?
Alessi HQ is situated about an hour outside of Milan where they have their own museum and a large concept store. From decades of designing and experimenting, Alessi have built up a ‘vast and fascinating body of prototypes’ which provide a fascinating glimpse into their history. Check out this video about the Alessi museum:
Alessi’s products are part of more permanent museum collections around the world than any other design company, including the Minneapolis Institute of Art, MOMA in New York, the V&A Museum in London and the Pompidou Centre in Paris. They have 26 flagship stores worldwide and supply over 275 multi-branded stores (like us).
We stumbled on a video that includes some of their advertising over the years, a fascinating watch for those tickled by old school print ads and slogans:
On top of it all, they’re good people
We were delighted to discover that Alessi are involved in social responsibility, releasing a limited edition Anna G Corkscrew every year and donating the proceeds from sales to help vulnerable and abused children across Italy. Read more about Alessi’s Dream Project with AIBI (an Italian NGO for orphans).
Alessi are doing great things and we think they are deserving of the highest five. Check out some more of their products and do your best not to fall in love. In closing, we love this snippet from Alessi founder, Alberto Alessi, on the raison d’etre of design:
“a true work of design must be able to move people, to convey feelings, to trigger memories, to surprise, to go against the grain… We work on expressive languages and on the expressive potential of the items… From this point of view, design intended to conjure up images in people’s minds and which makes them a bit happier has tremendous potential.”
Browse all Alessi products on Yuppiechef. What’s your favourite?