As the tenth of 10 children, Daniele Lago readily admits that his role as innovative lead of a thriving design business is the result of “a little bit of inertia,” but also “a lot of passion.” He might have been born into a company started by his family, but Daniele has proved to be a visionary designer, capable of balancing who he is as an individual with what he does for LAGO.
One of LAGO’s most interesting projects is the LAGO apartment. With the intention or rethinking how the customer experiences design, LAGO furnished a big apartment at the 2009 Fuori Salone entirely with their products then the staff of 15 people moved in and opened the door to over 10,000 visitors.
The project has continued in Italy and across Europe as people open up their living spaces in order to receive discounts on LAGO product.
In a sense, the outcome has been revolutionary because “for people who are used to a world coated with the falsehood of often elusive advertising messages, entering a real home to see a kitchen or a wardrobe becomes a revolutionary experience” which makes each apartment “ a sort of embassy of design and innovation in a given city.”
Now, After leading LAGO through another successful Design Week in Milan, Daniele spoke with us about how he is taking the company on a journey that not only is commercially successful, but also imagines a new breed of living design.
What sets Lago apart from other Italian furniture companies? In other words, how have you positioned yourself as unique in the world market?
I think a brand’s value comes from its unique point of view: on the world, on capitalism, on society, on design. I really like how Rino Gaetano creates reality in his songs through fragments of life that are seemingly unrelated, but that in the end create a clear image of what he is trying to say. I believe we have taken a similar direction.
More than being unique, we are ourselves in the sense that a clear identity develops from the direction a company sets – a path of exploration. Because we have shifted the focus of creativity onto the product, our consumers have become involved in our project. We design alphabets, rather than set sentences.
Our modular products allow users to mould them. We have brought some energy into homes – a bit of irony, a bit of color – because we have a waiting room that is an art gallery, because we have a non-factory, because we have a creative center (Lagostudio) that engages young creatives from all over the world through the most interesting design universities, because we believe that a good company is 50% culture and 50% profit or 50% engineers and 50% artists. In other words, we believe in creating good short-circuits. I also believe that all of our projects must be expertly orchestrated because what counts is the orchestra: the soloists have to be a part of that group.
What are the pros and cons of entering the global market as an Italian company and how important are they?
I see many advantages … the ability to communicate your point of view to the entire world, to open rather than close off opportunities … to make make your days rich with new things.
For a design brand like ours, I think it is absolutely necessary to be global … Over the last 5 years we have grown significantly as our sales have multiplied by 6. Nonetheless, 70% of our business is the Italian market and the rest is primarily Europe. There are still a whole lot of markets out there for us to enter.
Lago gives the impression of being a very young, forward-thinking company, is this an accurate reflection of the company culture as it is experienced by you and your staff?
Picasso said “it takes a long time to become young” and I believe it’s good policy for Lago: youth as a synonym for freedom, as a constant quest for happiness. I think that more than being young we should be considered youthful. We strive to think of the company from many points of view.
The idea of participation is implicit in many of your designs and indicates that your creativity is further transformed by the consumer. Where does your inspiration for a product come from and who do you think is the typical consumer of that product?
I believe in the circularity of things, and it is in this sense a participative approach comes into play. I believe that the world is headed in that direction. Alas, there is no magic recipe for creativity, but an desire to explore helps…
I design for a world that is young at heart. Once I was in our London showroom and I saw an old man of 75 buy a Fluttua bed (a bed with a single leg) with a smile on his face. Well, this says a lot about all the how the rules are unexpectedly changed by special people.