Tomorrow (Saturday), Italian lighting company FLOS opens its first-ever US store next to Moss in Soho. We stopped by for a preview and met Piero Gandini, Flos' Chairman, who chatted with us about his affection for New York, the difference between Italian and American design processes, and the company's all-time best seller—the Arco Lamp.Piero's father Sergio joined FLOS in 1964, after just two years of the company's existence under founding members Dino Gavina and Cesare Cassina. When we asked him why he was finally opening a New York store after all these years, Piero answered, "It's really just instinct and my great affection for New York. I've loved it since I was 15 years old and I first visited. It's a city that's lots of fun, lots of work. I fell in love here, and I was almost married here. There's a wonderful circulation of ideas that's always flowing through the city."
When the gallery space next to Moss became available, Piero decided it was time to set up shop in the United States. He acknowledges that there are differences, however, between the European and US markets, particularly when it comes to the design process. "In Italy," he explained, "companies are small and many of them are family owned. Second, designers are partners in the process. They are paid in royalties, and the system requires that a company must make a great investment in the designer.
The creative side and the business side have to believe in each other, which creates some freedom to experiment with products and edit designs over time. We are always trying to make the ultimate lamp, so we only work with people if they're talented, passionate, and innovative."
The most famous collaboration between FLOS and its design partners occured in the first year of its founding, 1962, when brothers Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni designed the Arco Lamp and FLOS began production on what would become a modernist icon.
While the Arco Lamp remains FLOS' biggest seller, they continue to collaborate with contemporary designers including Philippe Starck, Marcel Wanders, and Antonio Citterio, whose new design—an LED touch-light called the Kelvin—debuts at the store this weekend.
FLOS continues to be a family-owned company based in Italy, with stores in Milan, Rome, Paris, Hong Kong, Stockholm, London, and (finally) New York. They plan to open their next location in Lyon, France. FLOS also sells through several US distributors, including Y Lighting, Moss, and Design Within Reach.
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