Clerkenwell Design Week 2014: Brazilian designers Fernando and Humberto Campana have paid tribute to their "mentor" Massimo Morozzi, the creative director of Italian design brand Edra who launched the duo's career and who died last month (+ interview).
"Massimo was our mentor," said Fernando Campana. "He gave us the possibility of making our dreams come true."
"He changed [our career]," said his brother, Humberto Campana. "He changed it completely. Maybe we would have disappeared without him."
Morozzi discovered the then-unknown Sao Paolo designers in 1997, when he saw an early version of their Vermelha Chair – which is constructed from 500 metres of red rope knotted over a steel and aluminium frame – in a magazine.
In an interview filmed with Dezeen in 2008, the brothers said that people had "laughed at us when we showed that [Vermelha] project" before it was seen by Morozzi.
The designers sent Morozzi a video explaining how to weave the rope to create the chair and the product, which became part of the Edra collection the following year and launched their career.
"Our Vermehla Chair, we designed it in 1993," said Humberto this week. "Edra started producing it in 1998. Before that we sold just five pieces. And from that moment we started to be well known."
Campana pieces on show at the showroom, and in the nearby crypt of the Order of St John, include the Boa sofa, the Black Iron chair, Cake Stool and the brother's latest product for Edra, the Bastardo sofa.
Italian architect and designer Massimo Morozzi was the co-founder of influential architecture studio Archizoom Associati before starting his own studio in 1982 working on products for Alessi, Cassini and Nissan, and became art director for Edra in 1987. He died during Milan's Salone del Mobile last month.
"He had the capacity to understand design," said Humberto Campana. "Design is not just about functionality: it's about concepts, getting a reaction, not following trends, following your own heart. That's something that I learned from him."
Here's an edited transcript of our interview with the Campanas:
Marcus Fairs: How important was Massimo Morozzi to your careers?
Humberto Campana: He changed it. He changed it completely. Maybe we would have disappeared without him. He always told us that design needs to show where it comes from. Once we told him that we were thinking of moving to Italy. He said: "Please! You're going to make the biggest mistake ever! Don't do it! Because your design shows your roots, which is very important."
Our Vermelha Chair, we designed it in 1993. Edra started producing it in 1998. Before that we sold just five pieces. And from that moment we started to be well known. The Vermelha Chair today is part of museum collections like MoMA, the Pompidou Centre. He opened the doors for us to be known in the design community.
Fernando Campana: Massimo was our mentor. He gave us the possibility of making our dreams come true. Our more radical projects, he always reinforced them. He pushed us a lot.
Humberto Campana: He always teased us, you know. He pushed us to go further. He was very intense. We were like friends, like a family. Sometimes he'd visit us in Brazil and we'd take him to the ocean, to places with a lot of nature. It's funny because we took him to this place and he didn't go into the ocean because he was afraid of the tropical monsters!
Fernando Campana: We took him to our home town to meet our mum. He was always curious about our work.
Humberto Campana: Those situations [with Massimo] are connected with our work. The tropical monsters gave birth to [projects like] the Cayman sofa, the Sushi series… he took us to visit a Chinese supermarket in Paris to see the Chinese food.
Fernando Campana: That was our relationship in terms of instigating, giving birth to things.
Humberto Campana: It was like three kids playing.
Marcus Fairs: How did you first meet him?
Fernando Campana: He saw the Vermelha Chair in a magazine. He phoned us in Sao Paulo and asked us if he could produce it. So we sent him a video, showing step by step how to weave it.
Marcus Fairs: When was that?
Fernando Campana: 1997. We have been working with Edra since then.
Humberto Campana: It was a very close collaboration.
Marcus Fairs: What kind of person was he?
Fernando Campana: Emotional. Visceral.
Humberto Campana: Visceral. He was completely in the guts all the time. It's funny because he transformed his daily life into objects. It was very cathartic. It's funny because he died the best way, during the Salone del Mobile, in great style!
He had the capacity to understand design. Design is not just about functionality: it's about concepts, getting a reaction, not following trends, following your own heart. That's something that I learned from him.