A story: Paola Lenti
Two sisters are writing the history of the Paola Lenti company. You founded it in 1994, and Anna joined you in 2000. To what extent did the partnership lead to more creativity and better management?
When I started, I was young and inexperienced. I had a diploma in design from the Milan Polytechnic and worked as a graphic designer, but my aspirations were higher. I wanted to blaze a trail of my own, rely on my own curiosity and stubbornness. Back then, outdoor furniture was made of metal and plastic.
It was uncomfortable, with hard lines and few colours. But I thought it could be captivating, customisable, refined by handmade details and be a presence that related to its architectural setting. So I rolled up my sleeves, studied a lot, respectful of this work, experimenting and coping with the problems. Then Anna joined me. Her arrival made it possible to scale up a small business into an industrial enterprise. She gave it a precise approach and enabled me to devote all my time to creativity. Our partnership is crucial. We evaluate everything from two different viewpoints, so we always manage to find the correct direction.
What role did Milan play in this story?
I couldn’t have achieved this anywhere else. We’re from the Piedmont region. Next door, in the Brianza area of Lombardy, we found people able to shape our products with rare skill and dedication, making the combination of sartorial furniture and innovation a distinctive feature of the company. Milan is a crossroads of cultures, an active and generous economic engine full of potential, constantly driven by the future.
You’re about to open your first showroom in Milan.
More than just a display, it will be a venue for encounter, exchange, exhibitions and events. Naturally, the place will have a large urban garden. It was designed
by the landscaper Paolo Pejrone, and bears a connection to the neighbourhood.
It will be a chance to showcase your concept of a living space and the essential elements of your design with its sensitive use of fabrics.
At Paola Lenti, we have two lines of pursuit. One deals with raw materials; the other creates furniture. Our fabrics and materials cover the collections and become an integral part of them. We have hand-woven yarns
in hundreds of colours, which define the unique details
of each piece, just like in haute couture. Our first yarn was Rope, based on our memories of boating holidays as children. It revolutionised the image of outdoor fabrics. Many other materials have followed. Craft skills like braiding are an endless source of inspiration, of richness.
Colour is a very important part of your style.
To have a sense of colour is a gift. Over time, we’ve developed a broad and exclusive chromatic alphabet, which we use to diversify indoor and outdoor furniture, from seating to movable screens and awnings. Colour expresses the character of the different components of the space, and stirs the most pleasant sensations in the people using the items. We use colour as an architectural material and as a tool for personalisation.
Where does your inspiration come from?
Nature is a precious source. All you have to do is look closely. Our respect for nature guides our way of designing. We prefer recyclable, non-toxic materials that can be natural or industrial, but not of animal origin. Our products have few and easily separable components for safe and immediate reuse. Manufacturing durable, ecological objects is a moral duty for designers today.
What are your new products for 2020 like?
In addition to expanding some of our iconic collections, we’ll be presenting new versions of Twiggy, a single-fibre yarn that is eco-friendly, resistant and durable. We had to build special machinery to produce it.
You plan to be a sponsor of the next Venice Architecture Biennale. How do you interpret its theme How will we live together?
Recent events have made our need for community, dialogue and closeness to nature very clear. Design’s task is to eliminate barriers and encourage flexible thinking that combines the many visions of home living. We must aim for living together consciencely and peacefully on this planet.
Article published on the April/May issue of ICON DESIGN.