Johannesburg - Kartell, the beloved Italian plastic furniture brand, has been acquainted with South Africans for some time through stores like Glo Lighting, but recently it made a discreet debut with its own flagship stores in Cape Town, and now Johannesburg.
Its mono-brand store in Parkhurst, following one in De Waterkant in Cape Town which opened in February, has been quietly trading and word is spreading of this exciting brand’s presence.
Remember the Louis Ghost chair, designed by French designer Phillipe Starck for Kartell in 2002?
Starck’s transparent chair, made from polycarbonate, was produced in a single mould, and can also be stacked.
Ten years on, and the Louis Ghost chair, which was inspired by the baroque lines of Louis XV seats, is the most widely sold “original design” chair in the world. And now it has been joined by a range of eye-grabbing new chair designs.
Kartell is famous for its perfectly crafted furniture collection, and has always set trends instead of following them. It uses cutting-edge research and collaborates with leading minds in the design world, including Starck, Ron Arad, Tokujin Yoshioka and Mario Bellini.
On display in the Parkhurst showroom are pieces that exemplify Kartell’s ability to unite technology, innovation and a contemporary aesthetic, including bar stools, chairs, tables, lamps, plastic vases that you’d swear are crystal glass, and my favourite, a funky fold-up step-ladder.
The only piece I couldn’t relate to this exciting brand, and frankly didn’t take to, was a gold table-stool in the shape of a gnome, again by Philippe Starck.
Kartell shows how visionary design can elevate something functional into a work of art. It’s also a luxury design brand accessible to everybody, though you might balk at some of the prices.
“Kartell does not just make furniture. We create products that capture the imagination. We want to take your breath away,” says Kartell director Matteo Amatruda.
Trend expert David Nemeth says Kartell’s mono-stores are testimony to a strong trend towards favouring real craft in items people buy, as well as brands that “tell a story”.
“Kartell is a 100 percent Italian brand, and it has a recognised and unique commitment to innovation. That is a compelling story,” he says.
That said, look out for Chinese knock-offs. They do exist, and you’ll be able to spot them simply by looking at the price, which would probably be missing more than one nought. Also, those who’ve tried the knock-offs say they are not comfortable.