Gilda Bojardi portrait

Milan "still the capital of design" says Interni's Gilda Bojardi

News: the editor of one of Italy's leading design magazines has denied that her country's industry is in decline and believes that "Milan is still the international capital of design" (+ interview).

Gilda Bojardi, one of Italy's most respected design journalists and the director of Interni magazine, hit back at suggestions that Italy is losing its design and manufacturing culture.

"I don't agree," Bojardi told Dezeen. "The ability of the manufacturer to produce culturally is not just making something, but also to make something culturally and interpret what the designer wants."

Earlier this year the president of design brand Alessi said Italy's manufacturing capability "could disappear" in the face of foreign competition while Italian furniture matriarch Patrizia Moroso said last year that Italy was "losing the culture behind production".

"The situation from an economic point of view is not so good, but in Italy the most important design companies export between 60 and 80 per cent [of their output]," said Bojardi. "I think that the Italian companies have the capacity to find and invent another way to export."

She added: "Patrizia Moroso herself is a wonderful example of how it's possible to create cultural manufacturing because her company is one of the first ones that does exactly that."

Italian exports are strong despite the difficult economic climate at home, and Italian companies are continuing to work with talented international designers, according to Bojardi.

"They have to be positive to continue all these efforts in exporting," she said. "Otherwise they'd never be able to carry on. Luckily there are some very good designers in the world. Italy is where they realise their ideas."

Bojardi believes that what sets Italy's design scene and furniture industry apart from other countries is the Italian companies' ability to realise designers' ideas.

"Italy right now has absolutely the best example of excellence internationally, and particularly the manufacturing and furniture industry in Italy is not just geared internationally but also has prime examples of creativity and ability to interpret a brief," she said.

Bojardi, who has been at Interni for 20 years, was in London to celebrate the magazine's 60th anniversary during this week's London Design Festival.

She said there was no contest between Milan's design week in April and the British capital's equivalent, which bills itself as "an annual event held to celebrate and promote London as the design capital of the world, and as the gateway to the international creative community".

"Everything is present in Milan," Bojardi said. "In terms of numbers, both for the main fair and events around the fair, in terms of new products and presentations, people and visitors from everywhere... Milan is still the international capital of design."

"Some of the protagonists are here in London, but Milan still remains the one with more to offer," she continued. "London is good for discovering young talents, that are not internationally famous but they are in London. There are some interesting things to see here in London, there are some ideas."

Read an edited version of the interview transcript below. Bojardi spoke to Dezeen partially through an interpreter.


Dan Howarth: What is the mood in the Italian furniture industry at the moment?

Gilda Bojardi: I think Italy right now has absolutely the best example of excellence internationally, and particularly the manufacturing furniture industry in Italy is not just geared internationally but also has prime examples of creativity and ability to interpret a brief. Not only the brief but the international creativity and the ability to interpret the idea of both Italian and international designers.

The situation from an economic point of view is not so good, but in Italy the most important design companies export between 60 and 80 percent. I think that the Italian companies have the capacity to find and invent another way to export. It is another capacity of Italian companies to adapt different propositions, and the way to propose to find the place where it is possible to put the showroom.

If you go to Soho in New York for example, it's incredible. The most important Italian companies are there, with different ways to express themselves. In Uptown Manhattan, they have another way to express this space. And I think this is a very clever and intelligent way to interpret the spirit of place, and to find different ways to adapt and be flexible to communicate the spirit of the country according to where you are.

Dan Howarth: Despite the economic situation, are the Italian companies and brands feeling positive?

Gilda Bojardi: They have to be positive to continue all these efforts in exporting. Otherwise they'd never be able to carry on.

Dan Howarth: We spoke to Patrizia Moroso last year and she said that she thought that Italy was "losing its culture of production". Do you think this is the case?

Gilda Bojardi: No, I don't agree. The ability of the manufacturer to produce culturally is not just making something but also to make something culturally and interpret what the designer wants. Patrizia Moroso herself is a wonderful example of how it's possible to create cultural manufacturing because her company is one of the first ones that does exactly that. Not only by the hand of the designer or the hand of the manufacturer but working together, the ability to work together to interpret and develop for the designer into production, which is Italian company's forte.

Dan Howarth: How long have you been at Interni?

Gilda Bojardi: Twenty years this year, this September.

Dan Howarth: How have you seen the furniture industry change over that time?

Gilda Bojardi: The change, for a start, is the incredible opening up to a new mentality towards other countries. Before the market was very interested in the Italian market so it was very easy to propose in different cities in Italy the different products, it was not so necessary to be sophisticated in its proposition. Now in the international world – because now we speak about the world and can't speak about a country – now it needs something in an international view. And this is, I think, a little more difficult. I admire Italian companies for this flexibility, intelligence and capacity to work together with international architects and designers.

Dan Howarth: Are there any companies that you think do that particularly well?

Gilda Bojardi: All the ones that you would know! It would be difficult to name them all, but you know their names. The companies who have a very good position, now it's very important to be more sophisticated. Not just to invent something new. Luckily there are some very good designers in the world and they come to Italy to realise their ideas.

Dan Howarth: We found out this week that Flos is being sold to another company.

Gilda Bojardi: Flos is one of the more solid companies in the industry with really high revenues with wonderful products that made history with Italian lighting and continues to be very positive. I want to interview [Flos president] Piero Gandini because I think this is an idea to make the company more successful abroad.

Dan Howarth: To improve the brand?

Gilda Bojardi: In my opinion, if you have a company with very good revenue, a very good turnover, what is the reason for selling? I don't know. It doesn't really reflect the way that the company is going, the fact that they're selling. It's a massive surprise.

Dan Howarth: You're in London for this week's design festival. How does it compare to Milan's design week and the Salone Internazionale del Mobile?

Gilda Bojardi: In terms of numbers, both for the main fair and events around the fair, in terms of new products and presentations, people and visitors from everywhere, so all the main, protagonists of the industry - the architects, the designers, the journalists, distributions, trends, everything is present in Milan, so Milan is still the international capital of design.

Dan Howarth: What about the feeling you get about the two events, rather than numbers, the impression on how creative and lively the scenes are in the two cities?

Gilda Bojardi: Some of the protagonists are here in London, but Milan still remains the one with more to offer. London is good to discover young talents, that are not internationally famous but they are in London. There are some interesting things to see here in London, there are some ideas.