It’s  a sunny afternoon in Los Angeles and I find myself riding my trusted Vespa from Venice Beach all the way to the GRAYE Showroom on Robertson & W 3rd Street,  just to meet a 21st century Renaissance Man: architect and designer Piero Lissoni,  born in Seregno – near Milano – a city well known for design and furniture. As soon as I walk in through the showroom I immediately spot a crowd of people surrounding a thin, tall soft spoken ITALIAN man.  If his jacket were not enough to give away his nationality, then his sense of style would be – please pay attention to color the coordinating scarf-handkerchief combo.  Next move? Sit back & relax. Said and done.  Here I am, enjoying small toasted pizzas and goat-cheese wrapped-fig finger foods, when, as soon as the crowd starts to dissipate, I make a beeline – a direct and quick route, taken from the belief that bees take such routes when they return to their hives – for the man himself. Ta-ta!!!

piero lissoni interview roberto croci

Mr. Lissoni is a kind and funny man...

U want to know more? After kindergarden, elementary, middle and high school – I suppose – he finally graduated in 1985 in Architecture at the Politecnico di Milano. The year after, with Nicoletta Canesi, he founded Lissoni Associati, and after 10 years, in 1996, they both created Graph.x to develop all sorts of graphics projects. The work of the studio includes architecture, interior design, graphic & industrial design projects, corporate identity with advertising, catalogues and packaging. Don’t go overboard, I just got the 411 from his brochure. The studio currently employs over 70 people including architects, designers and graphic designers and creates solutions for clients such as Alessi, Cappellini, Boffi, Cassina, Flos/Antares, Glas Italia, Kartell, Living Divani, Knoll International, Poltrona Frau, Porro, Tecno, Thonet and Wella. Incursions into the fashion world involve store design and collaboration with Italian brands such as Benetton, Serapian, Allegri, Piazza Sempione, Santandrea tailoring, and the American designer Elie Tahari. Last but not least, Piero Lissoni has received numerous awards throughout his career including the New York Hall of Fame of Interior Design.

What happened next … was a nice funny, quirky, satirical, personal conversation that took place between Piero, Me, GanzoMag, and a brunette named Chantal – CIAO – whom just got back from her honeymoon. Lucky husband!

Piero, what is the creative force behind an idea, especially from an italian designer? “The real force behind all of them are our industries, the true calling card of the trade. Without them there would be no design, no new markets and it is ONLY thanks to them that we are still growing. In the last 40 years it is our INDUSTRY that has taken most of the risks, both in expanding and exploring, looking for new solutions, materials and yes, fresh ‘meat’.”

What does it take to be successful like you? “To do this job well you need luck but you also need to have knowledge. Anything is possible but it takes a lot of work and commitment. Every moment of every day I fight for my ideas. I don’t simply come up with a sketch or a drawing. The idea that I do that is purely simpatica, not true, it is what I call Romanticism or fairy tales. I don’t get up in the morning with a BRILLIANT IDEA, and KAZZAMM I put it on paper, give it to them (industry) and all of a sudden the idea gets made. Forget it. It is a constant and daily battle between me and my clients, till one of us decides it’s time to do something about it and we sit down and maybe write up a project. The whole idea-sample-design process is like marriage, where I am a polygamist, where I have relationships with many families to whom I have to dedicate the exact same amount of time, otherwise I run the risk of neglecting someone. Design is a worldwide idea. I work for Italian companies but I try to do my best all around the world.”

Any suggestions to a young designer? “Very few, no actually ONLY ONE. Kids, change jobs and do something else, something totally different. There are already TOO MANY of us! Seriously, all jokes aside, you need to study and be serious. This is a job. It is not about celebrities, sipping Prosecco, taking pictures and hanging out with girls…. (that is exactly what Piero and I are doing right now, but who am I to point that out)?”

Inspiration? “The one we call PAPERINO, your Donald Duck, I love him, because, compared to all other guys in the comic book, he is human, stupid, and a genius as well. Humanity is a complex affair. You can challenge your emotions but be true to your feelings and ideas. You can be angry and arrogant but nice and charming at the same time. Like with any relationship, you have to balance the good and the bad. Icons for me are Gio Ponti, Vico Magistretti, Marco Zanuso, Ettore Sottsass and Achille Castiglioni.”

At this point we are pretty good buddies and beside having him sign a couple of Ganzo T-shirts, a book, my tie, and Chantal’s hand, I do really wanna know something more personal, a hobby, a passion, a dream.

piero lissoni autograph Italian designer

Signing his last book: Piero Lissoni: Recent Architecture.

piero lissoni ganzo t shirt sign

Signing our T-shirt

What are you working on now? “Can I trust you? (he laughs) I’m working on a new series of Benetton shops, and I am designing a a museum for Ferrari. Again, I’m lucky, I’m very busy, but I fought for it.”

I wish I was? “A Danish citizen. Not too long ago I was in Copenhagen for a show and the Queen came to see me riding her bike, alone. This is true civility.”

Special passions? “La Ducati. I love her. She is my love. I drive one of them. I just bought and modified an S4 Monster with racing gears which allow you to change rapidly, almost without touching the clutch, just barely going over it with your fingers.  Like with a woman’s lips, a soft loving touch. One thing with my Ducati….it’s soft yes, but I LOVE the noise that she makes when I tell her to do something. Big difference from a Japanese bike, which will always start up in a second, even though you have not used it for a month. La Ducati is like a beautiful woman, in order for her to start up, purr and follow your instructions, you have to work hard for it. You have to talk to her, convince her, show your ability, your strength, put in your work. Sometimes she believes you… while other times you …have to call for a taxi.”

Ah, l’amore e’ una cosa meravigliosa!

graye piero lissoni Italian designer

@ Graye

piero lissoni graye

Piero Lissoni & Maria Cicione, Graye's owner.

piero lissoni sofa living divani

Extrasoft sofa designed for Living Divani.

piero lissoni autograph Italian designer color sofa

Piero Lissoni's new soft and brightly coloured Cabrio chair collection. He calls them Candies.

Loft in Monza, Italy. Photo courtesy of Hatje Cantz publishers.

Leaf chaise longue.

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