Daniele Semeraro, aka Danne, is a perfect example of a young, dynamic Italian guy who is ready to export creativity and fresh ideas. Besides his outfit choices, which always match his designer character perfectly, Daniele Semeraro`s main peculiarity is probably his double ethnicity, since he was born and raised in Sweden. Swedish design made in Italy could be his motto, but not only, since he has also lived in Los Angeles for a few years…
Daniele Semeraro aka Danne, we would like to hear more about your double identity – to me, you look and sound 100 percent Italian, so what makes you half Swedish?
I was actually born and raised in Sweden, in a city called Vӓsterås, to Italian parents: my mom is from Carrara (Tuscany), and my dad is from Cisternino (Puglia). My parents met in Sweden and I grew up there.
When did you decide to become a designer?
Well, in a way that`s my mom`s fault, meaning that after high school I applied for the faculty of Architecture at the university, but that didn`t work out and for a little while I lost track of where I was going. Then my mom had the idea to let me try this school in Florence, called Accademia Italiana di Moda e Design, in Piazza Pitti, which ended up being great for me!
I have always been fascinated by form and design though… I recall a specific episode: when I was about 8 years old, my family took me to a trip to Helsinki and we went to visit a beautiful church built in the bedrock. I remember I was so fascinated by the idea that the architect had to plan everything so well before even starting to work on the actual material! I found that very inspiring. After that I started paying more attention to shapes and buildings. I pursued my curiosity through a family friend first and then by going to school, as I told you.
Well, the opportunity to study design in a beautiful city like Florence must have meant something special to you…
Of course! If you live in Florence and your mind is set to exploring forms, aesthetics and art in general, you get endless inspiration just by taking a walk in the streets. For instance, looking at the cathedral’s cupola, thinking that Brunelleschi found a solution for building it without scaffolding in the 15th century really makes your brain spin, and gives you motivation…
Being surrounded by the work of Michelangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci is obviously a constant reminder of how to take on artistic and technical challenges.
The historic center of Florence is so pure in its aesthetics and architecture that you can almost consider it a Disneyland of the Reinassance!
And how did you mix those elements with your Swedish upbringing? We know that Swedish design also has a very important tradition…
The Swedish approach and the Italian approach to design are substantially different, and it`s not always easy to find a happy medium, but they can be very compatible if you are familiar with both. While I could describe Swedish design with a formula, like problem = function to solve it, the formula for Italian design would be problem = passion + a wish to solve it. In my case, I love the simplicity of Swedish design, and I like to use the material to define the rules. BUT my Italian side comes into the picture to redefine the scenario in which the material is used. For instance, a glass is used to store liquid and while glass is the best material with which to build it, the form doesn`t necessarily have to follow the rules. Hence my idea of taking out the stem, and making it a revolving object. That way, I am also adding a function since the beverage gets decanted while the glass is spinning.
Work-wise, what are the best things to get in Italy and Sweden in the field of design?
Sweden is somewhat similar to the USA in a way, meaning it offers real opportunities to be hired by a company. For instance, after I finished school in Florence I was hired by Borgstena, a company that makes automobile interiors for companies like Volvo and Volkswagen; my position was design account manager.
The beauty of Italy, instead, is the fact that design is so appreciated and present in everyday life, that you get a lot of ideas if you pay attention. In my case I had the idea of the revolving glasses when I was in Florence, and it was so easy to start exploring. I opened the yellow pages, looked for glassmakers and started driving around to them in order to define my project.
And – since we are having this conversation in Los Feliz, California – what brought you to Los Angeles?
I originally came to LA to visit my friend Melissa, and I ended up falling in love with her. While I was here, I also fell in love with the weather and the new opportunities offered by this place. If you know how to do it, the USA is still good at letting you develop projects just by connecting with people. After 2 weeks in Los Angeles, I already had quite a few interviews and based on that I called the CEO of Borgstena, who understood the situation and encouraged me to pursue my career here. I ended up being hired by HBA Design in Santa Monica, in 2007.
What about your present and future plans? What are your current projects?
My company Sempli makes these special glasses we mentioned before: the “Cupa – DS” for brandy e whisky, the “Cupa – VS” for wine and the “Cupa – XS” for shots e liquor.
Ok, but why are these glasses “special”?
These stemless glasses have a cone shaped bottom that rotates on its own axis. In doing so, the tumbler spreads the aroma in its surroundings, the wine glass helps oxygenate the wine, and the shot glass creates an amusing show on the table! There is also a tray, to help with serving the beverages, and a coaster to keep the glasses still on the table when desired. My intention is to present them at NYIGF (New York International Gift Fair) this summer, but meanwhile the first glass will be launched in the US at an event in LA next month!