The dynamic Italian duo and EDIDA Designers of the Year 2018 are leading the way to approach design with experimental material investigations that can transform any space, and their love for craft

Moulding Tradition collection: The casual ethos of folk craft is reflected in the form of decorations that also make a political point

Rooshad Shroff interviews EDIDA Designers of the Year 2018, Formafantasma

by Rooshad Shroff Jun 13, 2018 It’s not often that you come across designers from the same generation who begin to formulate your design thinking and never cease to inspire. Following the works of Andrea Trimarchi and Simone Farresin of Formafantasma since their graduation in 2009 has not only made me more interested in the world of furniture and product design but also taught me to celebrate craftsmanship traditional know-how and bridge the gap between craft industry, culture and user. The stellar duo and newly awarded EDIDA Designers of the Year 2018, talk about their fascination for traditional crafts, local production techniques, and the steady shift towards embracing rural culture in design.


Given that you are from Italy, Milan might have been an obvious choice to set base. What made you decide to live in Amsterdam?
The geography of different cultures is undergoing a rapid change and we are thoroughly enjoying it. Although we live in the Netherlands and have a global network, our design references are mostly inspired by Italian culture. However, we are not defined by an Italian design context or by a Dutch one for that matter. Studying at the Design Academy Eindhoven in the Netherlands has sharpened our critical and conceptual attitude. It has also led us to rediscover a propensity typical of Italian design, a critical one that has recently been overlooked in Italian design education. This is probably the reason why we decided to stay here.

Your work has always had a deep connection with craft. What draws you towards it? Describe its significance in your design process. 
Our interest in traditional production methods is rooted in its ability to connect with the user, evoke memories and thoughts. Moreover, we are fascinated by the way traditional crafts can entrench itself in everyday objects as narrative decorations or symbols. 
Take, for instance, our Moulding Tradition collection where the casual ethos of folk craft is reflected in the form of decorations that also make a political point. We have noticed a renewed inclination among designers towards rural culture and traditional production methods.This, in our opinion testifies a shift in the needs of society. 
Industrialisation has rendered objects as functional tools that can be produced everywhere. In contrast, handmade objects with all its imperfections possess an ability to evoke human touch. It’s also apparent that today’s urgency to find sustainable solutions has brought back to life the rural way of following natural time cycles and adopt a production process that’s driven by nature.

Material research and development is core to your practice. Take us through your process.
Every time we initiate a new project or investigate a material our first intention is to question stereotypes and cliches. Rather than coming up with solutions we often pose questions, or possible alternatives. To give you an example, with Botanica commissioned by Plart Foundation, we investigated pre-industrial polymers and translated them into a collection of handmade vessels. While plastic is considered to be modern, with Botanica we wanted to highlight the historical background of the material. Since it’s popular for having a perfect surface we decided to craft plastic by hand. Although industrial evolution has discarded it, and researchers are strongly in favour of petrol based polymers, we revisited the potential of plastic. According to us the role of a designer is to respond to the social and cultural necessities of
a society. They should be critical and open up new ways of looking at design as a discipline.

I believe you had visited South India and worked with artisans while you were there. What was your experience like?
The project sadly did not materialise as Simone fell sick and we had to return to Holland. Our purpose of visiting workshops in India was to ensure there was no cultural exploitation. Often designers who go to work in the East make everything look exotic and end up misinterpreting the local culture. We despise that.


You have worked with different artisans across countries. Is there a common thread that binds them and their design application?
In comparison to industrial design, working with a limited production setup in collaboration with craftsmen calls for improvisation. With craft you can always change direction, let the process guide your decision making but with the industry that’s not possible.

Did you chalk out a career path from inception? How has that manifested through the years?
Our goal is to develop both commercial products and independent works with an aim to rethink production. We want our work to become more radical. Our recent creation Ore Streams moves in that direction. For us, the main focus is and always will be ecology

Moulding Tradition collection: The casual ethos of folk craft is reflected in the form of decorations that also make a political point