Falper's carefully crafted new visual identity in place at the Italian manufacturer's Salone del Mobile stand
The recently deceased British guru of brand consultancy Wally Olins knew, thanks to decades of pioneering practice and theory in the corporate-identity industry, that a logo is more than just a logo. ‘The fundamental idea,’ he wrote, ‘behind an identity programme is that in everything the organisation does, everything it owns, and everything it produces, it should project a clear idea of what it is and what its aims are.’
Elegance and uniqueness – two of the defining characteristics of the Falper design and material language. Shown here, part of the 'George' (top) and 'Handmade' (middle and above) collections
Premium Italian bathroom brand Falper gets this, too. Its recently launched new visual identity has as its keystone a finely crafted new logo, which, typographically, with its bespoke letterforms, evokes the values of uniqueness and elegance. Implemented as part of a strategic move by the manufacturer to underscore and amplify its brand proposition globally, the distinctive new logotype mirrors the family-owned company’s distinctive stock-in-trade: the production of bathroom furniture, wash basins, bath tubs and accessories that offer their users an anything-but-ordinary experience through value-adding, sophisticated design, smart manufacturing methods and a discerning use of top-notch materials. ‘It’s in our DNA to always try to find different ways of doing things,’ explains Falper MD and art director Luca Fallavena. ‘When we started out in 1962, it wasn’t always about design. Now it’s absolutely related to design and elegance. Today, we create unique, extraordinary products that call out to be touched and felt.’
Referencing in its form more industrially inflected objects, the 'Contrastampo' collection is available in either white Cristalplant or Corten-steel-coated liquid Cristalplant
No wonder then that when Falper decided, as part of its rebrand, to introduce a strapline based on its customers’ perception and experience of the brand, it ended up with ‘A matter of style’. The thing is, anyone can say they make products for the bathroom, but what differentiates Falper from so much of its competition is the value it places on value and the absolute specificity of its sanitaryware and furniture – via a careful, research-driven consideration of materials, finishings and processes and – for this particular environment. Style, yes, but certainly not without substance.
The family-owned brand's HQ, just outside Bologna, houses 'a team of fantastic people, working together on new challenges and adventures,' says MD and art director Luca Fallavena
There is, of course, the functional value of its products, their impeccable performance on a utilitarian level. (You wouldn’t expect anything different from a company with over 50 years in the business.) But, more than this, there’s the emotional value that Falper imbues its products with, underpinned by a clear understanding that the objects with which we interact on a daily basis should do more than just serve us. ‘I always try to give to our products a certain identity,’ says Fallavena. ‘I never start from the point of trying to create just another piece of bathroom furniture or a basin. I always try to develop elements that give emotions to our products and, by extension, form an emotional connection with our customers. Products that live with us and in doing so shape us. Products that themselves live.’ So we have, for example, the aesthetically expressive ‘Contrastampo’ basin, launched at this year’s Salone del Mobile in Milan – available in either white Cristalplant or Corten-steel-coated liquid Cristalplant – whose form and carefully worked surfaces reference the design language of industrial objects; and the visual poetry and haptic texture of Michael Schmidt’s ‘Handmade’ collection of bath tubs, floor-standing and wall-mounted wash basins, and shelves, where matt Ceramilux is handcrafted by means of a lathe.
'Sartorial care' is how Falper describes its approach to every last detail of its products, which combine expressive aesthetics with high-quality materials, such as antique woods
The value Falper products offer in emotional terms isn’t some abstract, free-floating idea, however, but rather something that is, in turn, anchored to a resolutely tangible value – that is, the real value of materials. High-quality, value-adding materials, processed and applied in an innovative way. If there’s one thing that that customers the world over disdain, regardless of the regional market they’re in, it’s spending money on something that doesn’t have any intrinsic worth. The use of premium materials acts as guarantee, so to speak, for your investment. ‘This is very important,’ maintains Fallavena. ‘We’ve been using antique woods for the last two years, for example. Many items are now available in spruce that we recover from old cottages, or in thermo-treated larch.’ Visitors to the Falper stand at this year’s Milan Furniture Fair will have seen the extended ‘George’ collection, an emphatic articulation of considered style and elegance that incorporates such prestige materials as highly polished copper and Italian-made Baxter leather. ‘Baxter’s a company with a philosophy very similar to ours. They strive for the same uniqueness of product.’
State-of-the-art machinery and software mean Falper can offer its customers a bespoke service, with the latter specifying dimensions, materials and finishings on their order
There’s a delicate line between perfectionism and obsession. Luckily, Fallavena is just the right side of the divide. ‘The particular style Falper has consciously developed – the unique and elegant – covers some extraordinary products. But across our catalogue, you won’t find a single product that’s too extreme.’ What you will find is an impressive attention to detail. ‘Sartorial care’ is how Falper describes its approach, electing to use, beyond its choice of fine materials, finishes and adhesives that are not only hard-wearing and robust, but also have as little an environmental impact as possible. Wood lacquers are water-based, while polyurethane glue is used for bonding plywood layers. Further eco-credentials are clocked up through the company’s use of the composite material Cristalplant, high in natural mineral content and low in polyester and acrylic polymers, and its recycling of manufacturing waste.
God is in the detail: functional bathroom sanitaryware and furniture that goes way beyond its utilitarian function
Where the emphasis on detail really comes into its own, however, is Falper’s ability to offer customers a bespoke manufacturing service on all of its products, allowing them to specify the exact dimensions, the materials and the finishings for their particular order. If this sounds a bit like creating a rod for one’s own back, Falper see it otherwise. A strategic collaboration between the company’s in-house technicians and a German multinational has resulted in a suite of innovative machinery and software, introducing an unparalleled flexibility into industrial production. This means, as Fallavena explains, ‘we have the possibility to manufacture one by one every piece of furniture and product in every dimension and configuration requested by our customers, and in a completely automated way.’
A dedicated retail-design team at Falper ensure that, internationally, the brand's dealers present their products with the same elegance and careful staging as the company itself applies to its presentations
This is critical for a brand like Falper, 30% of whose products are specified by interior architects and planners internationally for such wide-ranging projects as hotels, private luxury yachts and residential buildings. ‘The UK, the US, new emerging markets such as China and the Middle East – these are projects markets. You need to go bespoke, otherwise you’re out. Wall to wall, you will never have a standard dimension.’ Dealers, meanwhile, who make up the remaining 70% of the company’s customer base, tend to prefer standard items. Contract, however, is the main growth area for the Italian manufacturer, which has recently set up subsidiary in Switzerland to take care of overseas markets. With a recent agreement signed in China to supply products for several hundred new high-end residential properties indicative of the globalised business Falper is operating in, launching a dedicated team to raise the brand’s profile across different regions globally is a strategic one that will undoubtedly pay dividends.
Falper MD and art director Luca Fallavena: 'I always try to develop elements that give emotions to our products. Products that live with us and in doing so shape us'
For Luca Fallavena, securing one’s position as a long-term player on a highly competitive, international stage requires more than just the ability to sell. It’s about embedding your brand into the markets by developing permanent structures and channels, including marketing services and communications. This means taking a holistic, joined-up view to how the brand is expressed and experienced. ‘We use the web and advertising, of course, to reach end consumers,’ explains Fallavena, ‘but it’s also important that our dealers realise in their showrooms the same kind of stylish presentation that we do in our own fair exhibitions.’ To this end, Falper has its own retail-design department, which has recently been working on a series of shop-in-shops in, among other places, Germany, Austria and China, with a showroom soon to open in Dubai. ‘The showroom is still the best place for the customer to appreciate our products – through both seeing and touching them – given their particular elegance and originality. The dealers who are collaborating with us in this way have all had fantastic results.’
It’s the kind of integrated, through-the-line brand management that would have made Wally proud.