a mind unifying Italian and Scandinavian design studio, in STOCKHOLM.
We sat down with the Italian designer Luca Nichetto to learn more about his creations and the thoughts behind the unique pieces and designs created by NICHETTO STUDIO.
A conversation about culture, language, and creative sensitivities within the design universe resulted in a deep reflection on the industry, sustainability, materials, references, and influences.
Take your time, grab a ☕️, relax & enjoy this Q&A.
You founded Nichetto in 2006 and your entire work re!ects a deep passion alongside extreme dedication to it. When has your passion for this universe, this design universe, begun?
I'm originally from Murano, a little island close to Venice that is famous all around the world for glass-blowing production with a population of approximately 6,000 people, probably not as many.
I grew up in an environment where everyone was involved in this kind of industry and since I was a kid, seeing a drawing becoming an object was quite normal for me. My grandfather was a glassblower, my mom decorated glass and all my friends & relatives were somehow involved in the same industry. Someone said that I was very good at drawing when I was a child and this is true, I was drawing everything I was creating. I was more into that than into buying new toys. And then when I started to study, I was always really dedicated to art education because I like expression.
On that occasion my teacher said to my mom and dad it would be nice for me to continue in that direction. Then I went to an art school in Venice called the Institute of Art that had a different section: one was ceramic and the other was clay, but it was a professional school to introduce the students to the work. I decided to study glass because there was a glass section, along with a classmate. Since that time, we organized a tour in Murano just when the school was finished. We prepared a folder full of drawings and knocked on the door of the different factories trying to sell these drawings.
I had no idea what it needs to be a designer, it was just for me to make some money & to have fun with my friends during summertime. When I finished studying at high school, it was the moment for me to decide what kind of university I should go to. That was a big thing because I looked around and there was architecture or art academy, there was nothing that really attracted me until I discovered that the faculty of architecture in Venice was opening up a new course in industrial design.
I was very scared about the word industrial because I was thinking of all the geometric drawings, etc. That was not really my world but when I started to read the description of the course, I said:
"Well, it's not so different from what's happening in Murano. I know maybe Murano is a bit more artistic in a way, but maybe I can try."
Another reason why I was really attracted to that course is because there was an old setup of the university where you don't have time to finish all the courses, so there were a lot of friends of mine that had been studying architecture for 10 years. I say that [it] is good because there is a structure that pushes me to do things and to be on time, so I started it and the first semester was a nightmare, because you need to consider that it was also the moment when computers became much more useful to draw and render things. I remember my first rendering — you needed to start the computer and leave it there for three days before you saw an image.
I was not into what I was doing, but in the second semester I had a couple of old professors that were retiring but they continued to teach and both of them were very connected to the old school. One was previously the assistant of Carlo Scarpa and the other was the assistant of Albini. So two of the pillars of design architecture in Italy. These two old men opened a lot of doors for me in terms of being curious, they gave me much more freedom and a different vision of what to do. Then I started to be enthusiastic again for what I was doing.
I continued to study, but I was completely naive and had no idea about famous designers from the past in Italy. For me, that was more like learning what Italian design was, but using a humanistic approach more than the real way of making things.
The year before I finished university, I knocked at the door of Salviati, it was a very famous brand. During that time, they were collaborating with very important artists in design, such as Anish Kapoor, Tom Dickson, Ingo Maurer, & Ross Lovegrove. So I had the chance to meet all these people for this reason. When I showed this folder full of drawings to the art director of the company, at that time it was a man called Simon Moore from England.
He saw the drawings and said, "I like what you are doing. I can see that you are very talented, but you don't understand anything about the company and what we are looking for. I would buy everything just to show respect for what you are doing, but I would never produce anything. As an exchange, I'm asking you if you want to come here once a week or once every two weeks, so I can explain to you what we need."
I accepted the challenge.
I was studying, but I was also going to sell the art. I met all these people and saw this different approach. People called me with a sketch, either with a model, with a 3D or just talking... That time was much more important than the five years at the university.
The year after I designed our Millebolle collection for Salviati, a family of vases with a lot of bubbles that became one of the best sellers of the company. But because normally a company pays the designer royalties, I needed to open a freelance position to invoice the company, otherwise they couldn't pay me. So I was almost obligated to open my freelance position. Since that moment I started to be a designer.
It was just something organic.
Exactly. Everything that has happened around me until now. Nowadays, I have a little bit more experience to know how to drive a little bit more, but never really create a taxonomy of what I wanted to do. Everything was happening naturally, never forcing anything. Then, I moved to Sweden after meeting a girl in Venice who is now my wife.
I was going back home to open the second studio here, and then I became a father.
So I needed to decide on a place to live. The studio also maintained offices in Venice, but there were a lot of people asking me if I had opened a studio in Scandinavia, but it was just that I'd met this girl. So I always try to see if this kind of job absorbs a lot of energy and time and it is also my passion. I always tried to put my life first and then look around. What is the occasion to maintain my passion? That is what I'm doing. And luckily, it has worked until now.
You mentioned your studio in Venice and then your going to Sweden. Not only were you crossing geographical borders, but also reaching a place like the Scandinavian design or a kind of aesthetic. How do you feel about creating these projects, working between Italian design/culture and Swedish design/culture?
Maybe because of the culture or because there are a lot of designers and companies in Italy, we have this big backpack filled with the old masters of the Italian design tradition. For the young generation, there was a lot of pressure because you were constantly compared with that time. They're all Italian design, tradition, etc. For the young generation, there was a lot of pressure because you were constantly compared with that time.
And this is not only in design, this is typically Italian. So there you go to Rome, people start to talk about the empire. You go to Venice, they talk about their republic. So it's, you know, always looking back to how good we were.
I never noticed that attitude because I was born and raised there, but it was something very heavy to deal with. In design, the only way to pop up is trying to work and to make products that somehow simply "sell". The most important thing is that they appear, so there is a sense of aesthetics and beauty that is something connected with the Italian heritage of the Renaissance and was something that drove most of the generations of Italian designers, in my opinion.
So you always tried to design the new icon, but it doesn't matter how good you are you will never design an icon. So the icon happened for many reasons, not only for the creative process. When I moved here, I found out that there was not so much pressure in terms of looking back and there was no pressure when it came to something that worked well and was honest.
“A chair is a chair. That seat needs to be comfortable and ergonomic, needs to have the right price and good quality.”
You can never do something like that with the same approach in Italy. On the other hand, when I moved here, I discovered that sensibility now is very fashionable. They talk about ecosystem ability, but when I moved here ten years ago and was talking about life circles, it was important to use Chrome 3 and not Chrome 6 in the production and creation processes of these products. Sustainability is also about how you ship the product.
I had never had this kind of discussion with Italian brands, the important thing was to do the most beautiful thing. I started to have these new layers of information that I found interesting, but also important for us and for a legacy for the new generation that is to come.
“Designing is also a person that absorbs situations. It changes your perspective of your work and your craft when you come to Sweden.”
When you move to a new country as an immigrant you have this curiosity to understand how things work and you also try to adapt yourself to this new culture while you try in a way to forget about your origin because you want to be part of something new — it's normal behavior. You have the second phase that you start to see that you don't want to renegade where you came from. I'm one hundred percent Italian, I just have the chance to absorb other things.
It's not an easy moment, not even as a person, to deal with, because that also happened at work. Some say if I want to work here, I need to adapt to these times because here there are a lot of horizontal organizations. If you want to move on with a project, everyone needs to say something and accept that. In Italy, it's much more like this straight hierarchy, you talk with the opinion leader. If they say yes, it's yes. Then you start to learn different dynamics.
“For me, my desire, I think, still connects to the Italian tradition of design that is coming from craft mostly with the idea of quality. But in a way, I also saw many other situations that are typical of Scandinavia, such as thinking about the lifecycle of a product, thinking about a different way to recycle a product.”
In Italy, in regard to the desire to go with something that draws attention, you have to think about the lifecycle of the product. You also have to keep an eye on the industrial part of the process for you, for the Nichetto studio. Was it a desire as well or a need to take a good look at that aspect of creating a product?
From my point of view, if you want to define yourself, a designer should be the ABC to know how things work and how you produce things.
In that sense, I'm very critical right now because I think there are a lot of designers that have zero clue about how to make things. They make nice drawings, but there is no real knowledge of how to do things and that's not designing for me, it's more like styling. There's nothing wrong about that, but we should be much more careful about how to define things. I always say it's very interesting because, for example, in Italian design, when I was a student at Disegno Industriale, my question was whether it translated as "Industrial Design."
In England it's more about foreign cars or consumer electronics and design is more like a discipline that covers everything. In Italy and Italian design, it means designing drawing for industry, every kind of industry. Does it matter if it comes from super mass production or an artisan? The important thing is that there is a series of products that you need to repeat. It can be either 20 or one million and, because in Italy the size of the company is small or medium. So I think that's the reason why Italy has become so attractive for so many designers all around the world.
Because it was the perfect playground to perform.
If you knock on the door in the States and you work with a company that is a corporation, it's much more difficult and there is much more compromising to achieve what you want because there are so many things. I always tried to compare designers to directors of orchestras: the directors of orchestras don't know how to play other instruments, but they know how to make them sound perfect to do a concert. I think it's the same for designing a chair that is in plastic or metal, it doesn't matter if you know exactly how this is done, you need to have the idea of how to make these work with the other things and then you make something that works properly.
Your studio works and creates in several areas of design, light, interior structures, exhibitions, furniture. Could you talk a little bit more about the process of creation and production in all these areas?
From the beginning of my career I have always been more attracted to designing things that I never designed before. Because I always live this job thinking that every new project that you are doing, you are also learning something new. You give and you receive and you move on. So the process of designing different things is different in terms of scale and efforts. The core, however, I think is always the same.
You are making a chair and need to understand what the chair needs to do and what the function of that chair is. When you are moving in and out, it's a policy that you need to understand. So what is the function and what do you want to communicate with that? The same thing with the interior installation.
I mean, I always think that every single action that the creative person is doing is almost a political action because you want to say something.
If you are a good politician, what you say is very connected with your ideology. If your idea is design, you need to be connected and it needs to be done considering also many aspects from environmental to the function, material, investment, and approach. The result is not so that you need to adapt to a different scale, it's just a process that's the ingredient you put to cook. You cook many different kinds of food, you can cook pasta or risotto, you can make bread or pizza, but you can cook one thing just because you want to eat it or you can cook it in another way because you want to invite people to dinner or you can have a wedding party. The action is the same, what changes is the ingredient and the vision: what do you need to do?
We think that in the design world the ingredients can be the shapes, the color & the materials, but you talk a lot about function. So we would like to understand more about your vision, the vision of the products that you create. What does that mean to you, the functionality of the products?
It's a good question because I think I was talking about a function, it's something that I learned more when I moved to Sweden:
When in the rest of the world there was a movement that was called modernism, in Sweden, it was called functionalism, only here.
That gives you a perspective of how the people here feel about the things and how things need to work. It doesn't matter if a sofa is very comfortable, the important part is that it has beauty and elegance and is outstanding in certain circumstances, so the functionality is secondary. We'll see that it's not as comfy as a Swedish sofa, but it's much nicer to look at.
I still think it's very important, but I also try to see if I'm able to maintain that kind of direction and at the same time make something that works properly. In that sense, I'm a little bit more hybrid compared with many other Italian designers. The interesting thing that we never talk about is this combination of two different cultures: Italian and Swedish. Sweden gave to us and to me a kind of unusual position to have two offices in two different countries with two different cultures in design. That kind of match gave me a lot of opportunities to work worldwide. So the most interesting thing about this encounter of the two different cultures is how much the combination offered me. Our mindset and the way to design that can really work worldwide.
How do you think sustainability fits into the choices you make in your work and in the things you create?
Talking about sustainability and about being eco-friendly during these years, I arrived at a point where I'm seeing something that is not really politically correct, but I find hypocritical the idea that we should produce better with a specific material just because it’s supposed to leave or make your product, design or project better.
Every action of the industry is poisoning, it doesn't matter if something poisons more or less, there are consequences to actions. The action is also connected to the fact that the poisoning depends on how big the volumes are, the things that we are producing.
When I think about design in general, design is just for a niche of people all around the world, it's not for everyone. That niche exists because long ago there were artisans doing customs for a person. What happens to the products when they become mass-produced? The quality of the product goes down and also the life of the product becomes much shorter and that creates these consumers. You need to buy more and capitalism and everything pushes you in that direction.
So when I start to design a chair or a sofa or a bookshelf, my goal is always to do something that would be timeless.
But if something needs to be timeless, it cannot be affected by this kind of process, so it is against the politics of where to push the people and it's also against the idea of design in general. That is why I'm not a big fan of the IKEA policy, because I think IKEA educates people like H&M.
For example, consider what's happening with the food industry: you have this moment when fast food was the cool thing, then you have the movement in opposition to that. That is the slow food that started to be produced locally, with better quality and ingredients and it doesn't cost more. You know what you are eating and it has a sort of quality. I think that's what I hope is going to happen also for nature and design in general. But when you are buying one of these things, you are sure that that problem would be with you for your entire life, and that is the point: being more eco-sustainable because you consume less. If you are buying a chair that is made of plastic, it doesn't matter if it's well done, it's still plastic. That chair will be with you for under 10 years.
Talking about that relationship with project and sustainability, we think about leather because it has been used and inserted in the design, fashion, furniture industries... since basically the beginning of times. How do you see the use of this material in the projects that you work with?
I'm smiling because I remembered that three years ago I introduced a new sofa here in Sweden and this sofa was introduced completely in leather. There was a Scandinavian journalist who said to me that it was always possible to continue to design a sofa in leather but it was completely against the idea of sustainability. I was very shocked by this kind of approach.
And I looked at her and I said, "can I ask you a question?" She said I could. Then I asked her, "do you like milk?" And she said she did. I asked, "you are from Sweden, right?". She would say, "why would you ask me that?" I said, then, because the cow that produces the milk that you love is also in this same industrial production process, so everything is connected.
If we really, really want to be equal, we need to go back and to live again as we were living probably 200 years ago. I think we should for sure be more cautious about what we are using and how we are using it. We think that before having that conversation, it's important for people to understand all the processes, all the industry that is behind your leather. It should be common sense that before you talk or say something, you should have knowledge about it.
When we don't know woolen fabric and from where it comes, we need to use everything artificial. The main problem right now is that a lot of companies and people are talking about the ability to preserve the world. I think we are at the moment when we need to do something. But they say: no, you are a designer.
It's a delicate question because we have industries that simply end their materials in a wasteland. But at the same time, for example, an industry that works with leather ends up turning these possible wastes into products. A sustainable action.
I agree. Because you don't throw away the rest of the animal. I mean, pork is famous because you eat everything, right? If we manage to consider other industries that don't work that way, there could be a bigger result.
Now, there are a lot of things also related to how to recycle a plastic bottle. Then you discover that the main company that produced plastic bottles now also owns the company that recycles the bottles and produces other materials. So they decide that the price of the recyclable bottles will be higher than the normal bottles and people continue to buy bottles. So everything else in that sense is based on profit.
YEAH, guys, this is an amazing & rich interview. Keep going cause we kept the flow and started talking about aesthetics, cultural references, and all the studies & processes that exist within this universe of design and what drives a mind to create and dedicate itself deeply. And yes, we also talk a little bit about the future.
A little bit more about your Italian heritage, you see that people still use and love things such as leather products. We believe that there are many reasons for that, but there's a nostalgic view of leather. And you being Italian, do you have a nostalgic view of leather or is it just some material that you use for your work?
To be honest, I'm not nostalgic because I can be nostalgic if I don't see any more of that. I continue to see it everywhere, so I'm not very nostalgic in that sense. I'm more nostalgic when maybe a small store of handmade shoes disappears because people don't want them anymore. Then maybe I become nostalgic because that kind of peculiar situation disappears. Or when I see that the skill of the artisans disappears more than the material itself.
And you design it. And you worked with brands around the world. For example, you collaborated with Brazilian brands and design stores in China. Could you describe a little bit more about the process of just trying to understand and figuring out these places, these markets, these countries?
As a designer, you live with this dream in the beginning and it would appear that you are able to design for everyone and everyone loves what you are doing and the world will follow you. That is the biggest part of the creative process, to have this kind of ambition and your ego helps you go through a little bit of double personality. You did think about the identity of Italian designers, luxury, elegance, whatever, and they want that. But then you realize as a designer that you still export something and you never work locally.
And the desire to also work with different companies all around the world for me was to understand that there is a business perspective in that. But there is also a reason to work because you can find similarities with your own culture. You can find a lot of diversity and learn all the time; you're also learning why the Chinese want that kind of product or what is going on in that particular society.
At the same time, you can feel but not understand. If you're working with either Brazilian or Mexican brands, they need to understand that you can also design for this brand in the same way you design for other brands. Maybe Europe that, for some reason, has more couture in design and in that sense, this is very interesting because it's similar to going back to the past. It's also a way to look back to what you studied or what you heard and finally find a field where you can play with the same rule.
When you create something with a lot of Brazilian things, do you study Brazil before doing so? Have you read about it? How do you research?
One thing that I really understand working with this is that it's not about really working for Brazil, there is more working for the ego of a lot of Brazil as a company. If you look at the design in 🇧🇷, there are only international designers and most of them are Italian, but the only thing that connects Brazil and the brand is the use of leather.
On the other hand, we have the Campana brothers, Fernando and Humberto, that for some reason are very much connected with Italy and they also worked to and became famous in Italian brands in the world. For them the main characteristic was that they were born and raised in Brazil and they take a characteristic in their design of these favelas and assemble things. They also find their own way to represent that particular style, which is also interesting because later on a lot of other Brazilian designers followed it.
I call a favela design style, but it's not the only thing that you can do in Brazil. For the rest of the world, everyone from Brazil should do that kind of thing, but it's not true. Some use of material that was connected to the past, meaning the heritage of the nation. And that was what we tried to do at the same time to make something contemporary that can match.
Could you share with us the plans or what you see in the future of Creative Studio?
We are trying to become even more multidisciplinary in this sense. What I mean is that we're trying not to be only connected so much, but we're also trying to see and to open up collaborations that have more to do with lifestyle and trying to work with companies that have this strong heritage on their shoulders. Real action. I like to work where I can really perform and try to make the best out of it, that's the reason why I would love to reduce the collaboration in the furniture world and open up new directions.
What are the plans for you?
For me, as Luca? To travel less and spend a little bit more time with the family. At the same time, I was very ambitious in the beginning, then I become a little bit more humble in terms of accepting where I am and what we need. Now I want to go back to being ambitious again and I need to do everything to achieve that. I will achieve that, but in my own way, and that's the difference from when you are younger.
And the last question wasn't even in the script. You were talking hours ago about being a basketball fan and player. Could you share with us how Kobe Bryant influenced your life and work?
That is a tough question. I played against Kobe Bryant because he grew up in Italy and he was playing in Reggio Emilia since his father, Joe Bryant, also played there.
I was playing for Reyer Venezia, an important team in Italy and once we played against Reggio Emilia and Kobe was three years younger than me. So I have this memory of this guy that was younger but was from another planet compared with everyone. Apart from that, I grew up with Michael Jordan and he was really an aspiration. Kobe was a surrogate OF Michael Jordan for me, in the way he played, the movements and everything.
Now they use 'Mamba Mentality' as a marketing tool, I hate that, but I can accept that somehow. It's working hard even if you're talented, if you want to achieve something and that for sure is an inspiration for any kind of work, any kind of sport, everything you're doing.
It wasn't just Kobe Bryant, it was the love for basketball and to be in a team. You learn so much because you also learn that the guy that is in your team and plays 30 seconds per game, and maybe you are the best scorer, but that guy that played 30 seconds sometimes can be more important than you.
It doesn't matter if you are the face of something, everything needs to work if you want to perform. It's not just the individual in the team, and I think that works everywhere.
Kobe died in January. I was flying from Stockholm to Florence and when I landed I took the phone to check the news and then I saw it and I thought it was fake news.
When I started to slowly understand it wasn't fake news and read about the daughter and the other people, I became so emotional. It was the first time in a long time that I started to cry. I was really touched and I never expected that. That was the moment and they're still thinking that they've never realized how much Kobe Bryant was so important for us as an inspiration, not only for me. It's quite strong, considering that in Italy normally it's a football player who is an inspiration.
But maybe a football player is always more connected to the country and in this case, it was really worldwide and even more considering that he spoke Italian perfectly. He was probably the most Italian of the American players. So there was also this really strong connection with my own country. It was and still is tragic, really.
Considering also that he played until he was 38, he was a billionaire and like that, gone. That also gives you perspective, one day you're here and then you're not.
So it is best to enjoy our time.