kartell – the culture of plastics

Recently we attended the launch of the new Taschen book The Culture of Plastics to celebrate the design house’s innovation and longevity. Held in the Kartell store in Newmarket and filled to the brim with beautiful Kartell pieces, it was the perfect place for the launch. I got to stare longingly at the Comback Chair by Patricia Urquoila, which may possibly be my favourite Kartell piece ever. Watch out as this is definitely going to be ‘classic’ Kartell.  The book ‘Kartell: The Culture of Plastics’ by Elisa Storace, Hans Werner Holzwarth, published by TASCHEN, distributed by New Holland, is available now, and retails for $125. Below is a review by Michelle Weir who also took the photographs of the launch (as always).

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It was while polishing cheap, clear plastic herb canisters that it hit me, ‘Would these even exist today, if it weren’t for Kartell’? The catalyst for this bizarre revelation was ‘The Culture of Plastics’ by Taschen. Even as a Kartell devotee, I hadn’t realized that their influence on life in the 21st century stretched much further than just the pieces in my living room.

The Milanese chemical engineer, Giulio Castelli and his architect wife, Anna, were behind the ‘plastic revolution’ from which Kartell was born. Pristine white kitchens are a fashionable choice today, but in 1948 post-war Italy they symbolized frugality and scarcity. Twenty years later, the Italian kitchen was unrecognisable through pops of colour, transformed by the new autonomy Kartell offered.

‘The Culture of Plastics’ is more than a historical account, but the story of a family with a vision spanning six decades. From the colourful homeware and award-winning furniture of the 60s; through to Kartell’s looming demise in the 80’s (when plastic lost it’s allure) and the fresh start in the 90’s with son-in-law, Claudio Luti at the helm. Luti (of Versace fame) brought in emerging designers (Philippe Starck, Antonio Citterio, Ron Arad), working with Kartell’s original principles of innovation and quality reinvigorated the culture of affordable luxury.

Sixty years on, the book reminds us that Kartell is more than a clear polycarbonate chair, but a ‘inexhaustible energy’. More than just a coffee table book, this a story of a family legacy, a city, a revolution and a reminder that with Kartell what we see today will be new and different again tomorrow. The images below are reproduced from ‘Kartell: The Culture of Plastics’ by Elisa Storace, Hans Werner Holzwarth, published by TASCHEN – which retails for $125.  Available from Kartell Flagship Store, 35 Teed St, Newmarket

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