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Interviews | October 6, 2017

Rossana Orlandi

Her space in Milan is a must for creative people and fashion-makers. A gallerist and talent scout, design guru Rossana Orlandi has identified, year after year, emerging trends about to make history and the pieces destined to become a cult. Just like her own oversized, iconic and totally unmistakable glasses

words Simone Zeni

Your downtown space in Milan is a landmark for artists, designers, creatives and enthusiasts from all over the world. How would you describe it to someone who has never visited it or is likely to visit it? What might they find in your own spaces?

I like to think of my space in the Sant’Ambrogio area not only as a gallery in the narrow sense of the word, but as a sort of home, a place for meeting, sharing, for designers and all of the other characters involved in this discipline.
Over the years, I have had many confirmations that my own vision has been understood perfectly, from those who have visited the Rossana Orlandi Space, and I believe that has been the strength of the project since it began. Inside the space, you can find a selection that goes beyond the logic of the market: in the gallery, as well as in the shop, I have always made sure that everything I love and find striking is there.

From the opening of the Rossana Orlandi space up to now, what do you think have been the biggest changes in the ways of designing?

When I started out, I had mostly foreign designers in my gallery, mainly Dutch and that was understandable; in the Netherlands an entire generation of designers who were eager to get their hands dirty had emerged at about that time. They weren’t merely confining themselves to pure design, but were also helping to produce their own collections. I have to say that nowadays, this attitude has conquered most of the younger Italians who have, accordingly, started to gather in my space.

What aspects of your work do you prefer, and what pleases you most now?

I can genuinely say that I am really proud of many of the rookie designers, those just starting out, who over the years have been hosted in my spaces, as it has given them not only visibility, but also by comparison, enabled them to expand their network of contacts, which is a fundamental aspect of this work too. Among them Maarten Baas, Nacho Carbonell, Nika Zupanc, Front Design, Formafantasma, Manuela Crotti, Sebastian Wrong, Scholten and Baijings, Enrico Marone Cinzano. And then there is Piet Hein Eek, I was the first to propose him outside Holland and in recent years he has established himself as one of the most interesting designers and manufacturers in the international scene.

The world of design is a constellation of the iconic pieces that have succeeded because creative people and companies launched them onto the market in the most successful period. In your opinion, are there any must haves that a collector or a simple enthusiast just has to own?

In my space, I have two pieces that I genuinely consider very representative of my design concepts; its right that everyone should focus on what they find most striking or exciting. The first of my pieces is a wooden S Chair designed by Verner Panton, the other is a chair that the same Danish designer, who disappeared in 1998, designed for Ikea in the 1990s. This choice clearly represents my love not only for research projects or gallery productions, but also for a certain kind of democratic design that enables everyone to approach this world of creativity.

As regards iconic pieces: your own look is strongly characterised by massive glasses, a detail that everyone can identify you by immediately and that you wear at every occasion. Can you tell us their story?

To cut a long story short, the story of this pair of glasses is much simpler and shorter than you’d imagine. They came into my life by accident, spontaneously: I found them when I opened a drawer in my sister’s house, I liked them immediately, and since then, I can confirm, I have never taken them off.

Are there any fashion or eye-wear brands that you find particularly interesting or that you refer to?

To be honest, there are a lot that I always love, in the way they are communicated and produced, from the Missoni fashion house, as well as those by Antonio Marras. Nowadays, I can also appreciate the work of Jeremy Scott, with the ironic originality that distinguishes him, since he’s been working for Moschino.

What advice would you give a design and fashion illiterate, who is about to buy their first pair of glasses, readers or sunglasses, whichever? What characteristics of a product so small and so important do you find striking?

In my opinion, even before you look at the aesthetic appearance, you have to look at two characteristics: glasses must be comfortable and enable you to see as clearly and as far as possible. It’s not by chance that mine are huge…