Meet the Showroom: Visionnaire
Based in Bologna, Visionnaire exemplifies the continuing prowess of Italian design and manufacturing. Production is spread out across a network of 30 workshops across the country, and in many cases the brand keeps long-held skills and traditions alive, in everything from furniture-making to metalwork and glass. Its new showroom in the South Dome is the place to discover just a fraction of the 3,500 pieces in its collection and learn about its bespoke capabilities; below, its CEO Leopold Cavalli explains more.
What brought Visionnaire to Design, Centre, Chelsea Harbour?
London is one of the cities with the highest buying power on earth, with a million people working in the creative sectors and 1,000 design studios that focus on major real estate developments, from the Middle East to the Far East, Europe and the United States. In this context, Visionnaire’s ‘one of a kind’ home philosophy makes it an ideal partner, not just for residential projects but also for ‘soft’ contract applications such as hotels and yachts.
What should we expect from the showroom?
The concept was formulated by the company’s in-house styling division and reflects the aesthetic codes and values found in the brand’s other flagship stores in Milan, Los Angeles, Miami and Hong Kong: technology and lifestyle, interaction with talents from different backgrounds, and a low-impact approach to 100% Italian craftsmanship.
The space has been organised as a dwelling with rooms, with walls that alternate between ribbed wood and fabric wallcoverings with early-20th-century floral decorations and pastel shades of sage green. There are two living zones, a home-office, a dining area and a bedroom. Highlights include the new ‘Babylon Rack’ modular sofa by Alessandro La Spada; and the ‘Amos’ table (pictured above right) and ‘Sputnik’ chandelier, both designed by Draga & Aurel.
Why should customers visit in person as opposed to looking/buying online?
Our products and collections are made with great attention to detail and it is precisely these that make them unique. It is for this reason that we strongly recommend a visit.
What’s Visionnaire’s design philosophy?
The brand bases its activity on research into the concept of contemporary beauty, creating design projects and products of outstanding sartorial workmanship. We also foster and restore value to the skills of artisans across Italy: a network of over 30 hubs of craftsmanship, located all over the country, enable the company to create extraordinary, unique objects.
Is there a ‘hero’ product that you feel encapsulates that philosophy, or a product that’s been a long-standing bestseller?
The ‘Babylon’ sofa is both. This year we have worked on an evolution of this product with its designer, Alessandro La Spada: ‘Babylon Rack’ is a work of modular mini-architecture, with functional features for studying, working and relaxing. Compartments created by recessing the padded back contain shelves and caddies, with built-in LED lighting, while an innovative wireless system, inserted in the armrests, allows the recharging of lamps and smartphones.
Can you tell me any stories about how and where the products are made? What craftsmanship or innovation goes into them?
We have a particular dedication to technological research. For example, for the ‘Lego’ console and low table by Draga & Aurel, industrial materials such as concrete and aluminium are approached with an artistic attitude. Before pouring the concrete, Himalayan salt is placed at the bottom of the mould; the result is an irregular, tactile stone that looks like lava; the same was done in aluminium, using sand instead of salt, and then the two elements are overlapped. No table will ever be the same, because the grains of salt and sand do not follow a fixed pattern, they are unpredictable.
Alessandro La Spada’s ‘Egmont’ low table is an example of how marble can come to life and breathe again. Today marble is worked by laser or hydro jet, with machines that create textures that are millimetre-perfect – yet are deprived of the artist’s touch. We wanted to make that touch central again, so we rediscovered a Renaissance technique that brings out the three-dimensionality of marble, highlighting its natural veins with a chisel – that is, with a sculptor’s approach.
Is there anything else you’d like the Design Centre community to know about your brand?
Sustainability is one of Visionnaire’s fundamental aspirations. In Milan in September, we presented a new sample book entitled Re-generation: every single fabric has its own sheet containing information about the materials’ composition, and the spinning, weaving and traceability of those materials.
We’re also working with a performance fabric, ‘Iris’, which is composed of polyester threads, obtained from the reuse of plastic bottles; it is 100% recycled and 100% recyclable. And in our use of wood, we have worked hard to obtain FSC and PEFC certification, which demonstrates our commitment to responsible forestry and our desire to ensure that the timber used comes from legal cuts and certified supply chains.