Interview by Annalisa Rosso
2016 is a special year for Federico Peri. In his early thirties, the designer from Treviso has been nominated for the German Design Award 2017, and he consolidated the recent collaboration with Nilufar gallery. At the same time, the most important specialized magazines hail him as one of the most interesting talents of the moment (Wallpaper called him “Italian Design Star”).
Peri has participated for two consecutive editions in Operæ, in 2014 and in 2015. We talked with him about the meaning of such an initiative, about emerging and independent design, about future, collectibles and much more.
ANNALISA ROSSO: Tell us about when you first found out about Operæ. Why did you decide to participate?
FEDERICO PERI: It was a constructive experience in both editions where I took part. The last, in particular, for me marked a watershed. But the biggest bond I have with the event is the feeling of having grown – professionally speaking – with the organization of Operæ. I sent my first application on the advice of a couple of friends and colleagues who had participated in previous years. In 2014 I met the company that today produces and sells my library “Enrica”. So I decided to return in 2015 and that’s how I came into contact with Nilufar gallery. Two good results, I would say.
AR: Yours is design to collect. Even when you are not dealing with objects, but designing interiors and installations, it is always site-specific projects. Why is this preference for unique pieces?
FP: Interior design and collectibles are two areas that develop in parallel, but in different ways. As for the furnishing projects, I like to be apart from serial production dynamics, studying the details and the union of different materials. It is not that I am disinterested in industrial production, but at the moment I feel I express myself better within limited editions. The interior projects generally are the answer to a customer’s needs, whether it is a brand or a private home. I always try to convey my taste.
AR: How do you see the current landscape of contemporary collectible design? Are you a collector yourself?
FP: It is definitely a growing industry, the interest is increasing and now to associate design to the idea of collecting seems no longer a novelty. Of course, we speak of a different type of design. It doesn’t always come to products that are manufactured to meet precise requirements. Rather, we often tend to create a concept to convey emotion. I also collect: I like history, I appreciate the past. In the case of design, I think it’s a matter of knowing its value. In recent years I have been collecting small objects from different eras. I prefer the ’20s and’ 30s, but the set of different styles is always interesting.
AR: Operæ is an independent design festival. What does this definition mean from your point of view?
FP: I feel a I am freelance designer in the sense that I like to be free to express myself in designing furniture or products, and produce works that reflect me. This leads to a good chance to present yourself on the market showing your skills, but at the same time it is only the top of the iceberg. For independent designers it is essential to know and have a network of trusted craftsmen to collaborate with, exchange views, information, and – if you are lucky – learn some secrets of the business. But it is tricky: besides to the work of designers it is necessary to develop certain entrepreneurial aspects. And probably this is the most complex issue, since the designer by vocation tends to be related to creativity and not numbers. I partly recognize myself in this definition. I love to act freely along the entire production process but I also appreciate working with galleries or brand, it all depends on the project.
AR: For 2016 edition, the selected theme is “Designing the future”. A call to awareness and courage of the designer, an invitation to an assumption of responsibility. What effects would result with your work?
FP: I think the number of designers is constantly increasing, but we cannot say the same about the request of objects. Hearing about “Designing the future”, awareness and responsibility, I immediately think of a Munari’s sentence: “There are more chairs than asses”. Statement, both direct and true. Whether it is an industrial product or a limited edition, the consciousness that you are entering into the market a new element should make us think about what we’re doing. To design and invent new things is my passion, but I try to do it considering that they will have to last a long time and especially I use materials that can be recycled (wood and iron, among others). Many define eco-design as a trend. In some aspects I agree, but it would be ideal everything was subject to a tendency to improve their environment.
In the future, I would like my work to be considered honest. That the same product could be used by many generations, as happened with the great masters. For this reason, rather than caused effect, I would speak desired effect: I’d like to be part of a new generation of designers who will, in the distant future, deserve the same consideration of Scarpa, Albini, Parisi, Borsani, etc. And this will be possible only together with my fellow Italian designers.
AR: What advice would you give to an emerging designer? And a student?
FP: I would recommend to a student to read up as much as possible, reflect on their choices and above all be curious. Visit events like Operæ and talk with designers is much more useful than you might think. The creative environment is fascinating, but it is crucial to have a great passion for this job. In any situation there can be bad times and for this reason, if you do not firmly believe in your choice, it would be very difficult to pursue it. To an emerging designer I would say to be very patient, find your own language and do not follow fashions and trends. One has to find his own design philosophy and ask himself a question: “Do I get excited when I design?” If the answer is yes, then no doubt you are on the right track. Commitment is crucial, my best projects have always been the result of long nights made of reflections and attempts. Talent is an important aspect, but I think it is mostly a matter of application and being fully aware of what you are doing. Last advice: read at least twice the interview with Sam Baron recently published on the blog Operæ.
AR: What is the most important feedback you’ve ever received?
FP: I do not know whether if it is a feedback, but I was pleased by a remark I received several times: “who knows you knows that the furniture you’ve realized reflects yourself at the 100%.