Sound Identity interviews Stefano Seletti, the innovator of "pop design"
Pic on the left, via Facebook, a smiling Stefano Seletti during Design Pride 2016
Stefano Seletti - dynamic, positive and creative entrepreneur at the helm of the famous brand Seletti. Following in the footsteps of his father, he revolutionized the family business; not surprisingly that (R)Evolution is a keyword which represents the company, known for his "democratic design".
Sound Identity: Seletti is an anti-conformist free spirit in the design world and this new approach was the inspiration behind idea to ennoble everyday objects in the ‘Estetico Quotidiano’ line and the colourful SELETTI wears TOILETPAPER collaboration. So, is there a strong underlying pop culture influence?
Stefano Seletti: Definitely. The origins of my company are very pop. When my father started the business in 1972, he was importing ‘pop’ items from China and I mean ‘pop’ in the literal sense of the world: bamboo bread baskets, woven trivets, floor cloths, enamel mugs… the classic items that you still come across in your grandparents’ cupboards. I have always believed in this category because it’s what we do best, it’s the real DNA of the company. The idea behind the Toiletpaper imagery was to go ‘viral’, what better combo than a product and a ‘pop’ company?
Sound Identity: Speaking of Maurizio Cattelan and Pierpaolo Ferrari, the combination of your design and the art world reached its peak of irreverence and provocation with them, with a foray into music as well. How do Design, Art and Music influence each other?
Stefano Seletti: What we’re doing with Maurizio and Pierpaolo is absolutely wonderful, fun and extremely new. We have the power to create infinite and continuously evolving connections. I like to look at this collaboration as more of a nascent “movement”, a “factory, which is attracting other extremely interesting parties, rather than a combination of “just” these three things.
Sound Identity: The first million copies of Toilet Paper were celebrated with a special golden vinyl of Daft Punk’s 1995 track “Da Funk”. Last year, Cassius came back on the scene with “Action”. The video, directed by Cattelan, was pretty much a homage to the surrealist imagery created by SELETTI wears TOILETPAPER. How were you, and therefore the Seletti brand, influenced by and involved in this project?
Stefano Seletti: It is immensely satisfying to see the interest that this collection has aroused in diverse interlocutors and it opened some previously unexplored sales channels for us… museum shops, concept stores and even art galleries and photography exhibitions that are giving space to our product. We were invited to exhibit in Miami in December, during the most important art fair in the world (Art Basel), by the Foundation Beyeler, one of the most renowned museums in the world. Maurizio had a huge influence, as did Pierpaolo. My role revolved more around the product, but naturally it all ended up in a great creative melting pot which we were connected to every day. The consequences of this resonated not only through the TP project but in everything that Seletti has done of late.
Sound Identity: You have never been afraid of engaging with multiple artforms and collaborations with various artists. Have you come across any really distinctive features and/or common denominators in the diverse creative processes?
Stefano Seletti: I have to approach every creative process differently. It’s a question of survival and evolution. Over the years, we have worked in many different product sectors such as “table art”, “lighting” and “outdoor furniture” and this year we will start working in furnishing. They were all established sectors, meaning that our only possible strategy was to look at these worlds with fresh eyes and a different perspective. Ten years ago, “Estetico Quotidian” was born, a range of tableware that is perfect even for clients who have never dealt with that sector. I couldn’t compete with the historic companies that have been producing porcelain for hundreds of years, meaning all I could do was to take a different approach to the product and its distribution. I adopted the same concept in the lighting industry. It was impossible to compete with companies of such calibre as Flos, Foscarini and Artemide so we tackled the sector with completely different and revolutionary concepts. The “Neon Font” letters are the perfect example of this, the Marcantonio monkey (a global bestseller) demolished every single basic rule of academic design.
Sound Identity: You are the person behind the Design Pride initiative, the first parade dedicated to design with floats, music and dancing, which will come to life in the 5VIE district during the Salone del Mobile. We’re expecting another big party this year. Where did the idea come from and what can you tell us about the 2016 event?
Stefano Seletti: I believe that design should use a more immediate, almost ‘stupid’ dogma, in order to have an immediate impact without necessarily having to explain with words. It was from here that we decided to try approaching a younger public, using ‘Design Pride’ as a tool, without necessarily giving it a complex or excessive intellectual depth but rather enhancing the instinctive mood provided by electronica. A healthy and educated protest where we are inebriated by the joy of being together. We need to go back to talking in an accessible way to a cosmopolitan public that doesn’t speak a single language but something with less grammar and less words.
Sound Identity: Naturally we are curious to know what the line-up is or what we can expect from a music and sound perspective during Design Pride 2017?
Stefano Seletti: Stefano Fontana, Radio Deejay with Shorty, a local band, a group of Brazilian percussionists and, before we start, a short concert by Gaia (runner-up on the latest X-factor), who happens to be my niece 😊
Sound Identity: What do you predict for Italian design on the international scene?
Stefano Seletti: Like I said, we aim for “fresh and direct” design, which means we want to reach a cosmopolitan public free from the restraints of academic design.
Sound Identity: What are your plans for the future?
Stefano Seletti: So many… in collaboration with Studio Job, we have founded a brand called Blow. Once again, the objective is to make their art and pieces available at much more accessible prices. The basic idea is to destroy the concept of exclusivity. It’s no longer a question of economic exclusivity because our prices are accessible to a larger public, it’s about “mental exclusivity”, in the sense that some people might not understand or appreciate our objects.
I’m working on another project that I really care about with Maurizio Cattelan and his art, but we still need to finalize a lot of aspects so I can’t reveal too much.
We’re also working with Marcantonio a lot. To summarize, my three musketeers aren’t half bad.
Sound Identity: What is your relationship with music?
Stefano Seletti: I always have music playing in the background, whether I’m at home or in the office. I listen to online radios and various genres, although my favourite for a while now has been electronica.
Sound Identity: What track gets you psyched up?
Stefano Seletti: It changes almost every week 😊 Anyway, the top list of the week is: Twenty One Pilots (whole album); Rabbia by Samuel; Golden by Jill Scott; Loud Places by Jamie XX (feat Romy); CASSIUS.