Introversion isn’t something the Greeks have much time for. Particularly when it comes to design. Informed by a culture of sociability and dialogue, a cohort of export-focused Greek design manufacturers will be showing their quality products to a global audience at this year’s Salone Internazionale del Mobile in Milan, supported by the Interiors from Greece platform.
As harmony expressed through line and form go, you can’t get much more harmonious than the Greek key design, that highly graphic, decorative border found on architectural friezes and pottery of the ancient period that marries the labyrinthine with the logical. In it, a single, continuous line, through its structured meandering, creates a compelling repeated motif, bringing the eye that traces it back to where it started.
When it comes to the political, social and economic, things in contemporary Greece have been a little less harmonious of late. The much-publicised sovereign-debt crisis and the resulting imposition of swingeing austerity measures, combined with popular unrest, have made for troubling times recently in the Mediterranean nation. While the spectre of Greece crashing out of the European monetary union – a so-called ‘Grexit’ – and the ramifications this would have for the global money markets looms less large that it did 18 months or even a year ago, the state of affairs is still less than optimal in terms of growth. Which is why it’s now more important than ever, when it comes to design, to do two things: a) to manufacture good-quality products that work well, and b) to realise the full potential of one’s overall market by participating in effective export initiatives.
This is where Interiors from Greece comes in. It’s the leading export-focused platform for high-end Greek brands, exploiting both online and offline channels to promote the best of contemporary Hellenic furniture, lighting and materials design and manufacturing to an international audience. Launched in 2013, Interiors from Greece (www.interiorsfromgreece.com) doesn’t seek to present a specific aesthetic agenda, but, rather, aims to showcase products with clear added value, be it through their choice of materials, their craftsmanship or their highly considered function.
That said, Costas Koustantonakis, Interiors from Greece's Brand and PR Manager, believes that Greek design cannot help but be informed by Greek culture, the latter manifesting itself in objects characterised by warmth and emotion. For him, ‘the differentiation of Greek design has to do with Greek lifestyle. This means that Greek people are quite sociable and extroverted, a fact that is reflected in our daily lives; we like gathering together in large groups, not only outside but also at home. For example, for us having lunch or dinner together is not just a way to satisfy hunger but it is more like a ritual. It’s the time when we discuss and spend time with our loved ones. This cannot but influence our national design culture as well.’
The brands that have so far taken to the Interiors from Greece stage, so to speak, understand the power of presenting themselves under a collective marketing and communications banner, the rationale being that the total is greater than the sum of the individual parts. Such brand amplification has clear benefits when it comes to showing at trade fairs, in particular at that mother of all design big-tops, the Salone Internazionale del Mobile. With over 1,200 exhibitors pitching up at the Fiera last year, strength in numbers is the motto; almost a dozen diverse and innovative brands have chosen to show under the Interiors from Greece umbrella in Milan this April, thereby maximising the impact of their presence.
‘Being part of the Milan showcase – the world’s most significant furniture and design fair – is an important strategic decision of ours,’ explains Koustantonakis, ‘and every company that has the chance to show there is privileged. It’s the place where trends are set for the following year. This will be our third year participating, as we attempt to create continuity and long-lasting bonds of strategic significance.’
Visitors to the Italian design capital next month, and more specifically to Pavilions 12, 14, 18 and 15 at the Salone, will be able to get up close and person with 11 design producers from Greece, all exemplary of contemporary Greek creativity. al2 (Pav 12, Stand F18) describes itself as a ‘team of optimistic people who felt the need to rethink furniture, restudy the use of it and re-examine the social environment that was meant to fit in.’ With a firm focus on quality materials and fabrication, their interrogative approach sees them deliver a range of uncompromising yet friendly tables, chairs and storage. Quality is the watchword of Lattas (Pav 12, Stand B04), too, which for over thirty years has been producing a range of high-standard furniture for both residential and domestic contexts out of their 6,000-square-metre factory near Athens. Ecology is also part of their agenda, with the company sourcing wood from certified and controlled logging and using ecological varnishes. High-standard upholstery is the key feature of Greek design and manufacturing group Papadatos’s products (Pav 12, Stand A03). Established in 1990, their sofas, armchairs and beds, which combine simplicity of line with high levels of comfort, are produced in collaboration with the some of the best raw-materials factories in Greece and abroad.
de-code (Pav 18, Stand A05) meanwhile, also showing in Milan, uses a more resolutely contemporary design language, producing innovative furniture – through an excellent combination of contemporary design, manual dexterity and technology – that’s aimed squarely at an international market. Another long-established manufacturer and exhibitor at this year’s Interiors from Greece show in Milan is Candia Strom (Pav 18, Stand E16), the leading mattress producer founded in 1973. Again, comfort is king, the quality of its products assured by a highly skilled workforce and the latest in manufacturing technology.
Further exhibitors include Mia Collection (Pav 14, Stand B36), with over 30 years’ experience of producing furniture for both residential and contract markets, and with a particular emphasis on the hotel sector; Kitwood (Pav 18, Stand B02), a family-owned furniture brand with an equally long track-record – 45 years – which combines unique simplicity and style, offering comfort and aesthetics together with a value-for-money philosophy; and Vero (Pav 18, Stand A05), which specialises in sofas and beds designed to meet individual and customised human needs.
Alongside them will be showing Casa Ampia (Pav 18, Stand A05), established in 1972 with the aim of combining classic design with excellent craftsmanship, and the textile-flooring manufacturer Wise (Pav 18, Stand A05), which uses recyclable, weather-resistant materials for its products, making them, indeed, a wise choice for indoors and out. The innovative kitchen brand Cassandra Cucine (Pav 15, Stand E27), creator of the world’s first curved, closing kitchen cabinets in front view, completes the cohort.
With all eyes on the Salone Internazionale del Mobile for the unveiling of new directions in design and the entry of new players onto the global design stage, Koustantonakis is confident that the collective presentation of high-value contemporary design from Greece will reap rewards for all involved. The recent economic misfortune of the country has forced companies to take an even more entrepreneurial and smart approach than they normally would to articulating their brands, and Milan is a key part of this. ‘The economic recession has helped Greek design evolve and grow. We used to be a country of almost exclusively import activity but over the last few years we’ve shown extroversion and interest towards the international markets. Companies, in order to “survive”, have realized that the foreign markets constitute a necessary get-away.’
So the bags are packed and the future looks bright. ‘Absolutely,’ says Koustantonakis. ‘In the long-run, Greek design will establish a confident identity of its own. It will become a recognizable point of reference. That’s why we consider the Salone to be the best communication channel, as it gives us the opportunity to talk and be listened to.’
When in Milan, do as the Greeks do.