Q&A: Catching Up with Kartell's Claudio Luti

Name: Mr. Claudio Luti
Occupation: CEO and president of Kartell
Best Known For: The 2002 Louis Ghost Chair by Philippe Starck for Kartell, and his partnership with designers worldwide to create innovative plastic furniture and household designs. 

Do you spend more time in the country or the city?

I have a house in Milan. I was born in Milano, it’s my town, my city, my university. I love big cities, which is good since I visit so many for work, but I also love the country. I have a country house surrounded by 2000 trees and many wild mushrooms. My two dogs have tons of space to run around. In the summer I spend as much time as possible on my sailboat. I try to balance my time between the city and the country.

What do you make it a point to see when you’re in town for ICFF?
This year my trip is too short, but of course I love visiting the museums. The MoMA and the Metropolitan are my favorites. I also enjoy walking down the streets and seeing all of the windows. The visual design of the storefronts is interesting to me. I usually stay in SoHo (near the Kartell shop), at the Crosby. All the Italians, we always want to eat at Ciprianni’s (laughs). If I’m working uptown I’ll stay at the Peninsula, or the Mandarin–my favorite.

As someone who travels so much, do you have any other favorite hotels?
In Rome I always stay at De Russia, which is very close to the Piazza di Spagna. They have a fantastic garden and restaurant. Hotels are only for work trips though. For the holiday, I much prefer my sailing boat or I’ll rent a house on the sea. Hotels feel too stuffy in the summer.  I prefer to feel free... somewhere that you can wear a t-shirt the whole time–and no shoes required!

What were the last three stamps added to your passport?
The Maldives, Switzerland (I visited Saint Moritz in January on holiday), and tomorrow I’ll be in Hong Kong!

At the Kartell showroom in New York City.  On left: Kartell by Laufen, the brand's newest collection of bathroom shelving. On right: An array of Maui Soft Chairs beside a wall of Only Me Mirrors.

Did you always picture yourself in the design business?
Not at all! I studied economics. I worked in fashion for Gianni Versace (as the managing director) for many years... Gianni was the creative one. I have always been on the business side. My main interest is marketing and supporting great work. When I moved from fashion to home design, I knew I still wanted to work for an international company that produces quality designs. I enjoy opening new shops, growing the brand, meeting designers from around the world. We continue innovating with plastics- it is a wonderful material- the industrial strength, the flexibility, the color... this industry is always exciting.

How would you describe your style?
Years of working in fashion taught me the beauty of a well-tailored suit. I wore classic Versace jackets and ties during my time (with the fashion house), but now I dress much more conservatively. The designers express themselves and are more creative with their uniforms... Maybe I will stick to accessorizing with ties.

You have worked with some amazing designers over the years. What do you look for when meeting new creatives.
I’m always looking for new designers to work with. The most important thing is that the designer is ready to put all of their ideas on the table. Ready to have a conversation. It’s also important that they want to continue to work with me; that they want to grow, progress, create many collections. I look for creative minds that are also hard workers, continuous collaborators.

Stacks of Taschen's recent release, Kartell: The Culture of Plastics, in the entry of the Kartell showroom in SoHo. {All photos by Kaylei McGaw}

If you could switch places with anyone for a day, who would it be?
I would like to be a fantastic soccer player! To make that winning goal in the final seconds of the game.

Do you have a favorite piece of furniture in your home?
If it isn’t my favorite, I take it away! (laughs) I like to juxtapose antiques with modern pieces from Kartell. It’s a great mix. I do have an antique wooden dresser that is very special to me. It is early 15th century from Lombardy, (the region of Italy that I am from). It was made during the height of the Italian Renaissance. The dresser is a great token of that history and culture.

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