Rossana Orlandi

Last year my daughter started working with me and I truly enjoy that. But I don’t regard my gallery as a family business. Not at all. I invented it myself. My entire family worked in textiles. So I started in fashion and stayed in the industry for many years. Too many. One day I got fed up and stopped – with pleasure. There’s a gap between the two worlds. In fashion you have to create a full collection every six months: and that’s just for women. If you do men as well, it’s crazy. It’s so much work, there’s very little room left for creativity! In that sense alone the world of design is very, very different from the fashion industry. And I like that.


Apart from talent, I find all other distinctions quite irrelevant. I don’t know the sex, I don’t know the name, age, or nationality of the creator when I pick a design. If I like a prototype I select it, at face value, for a show in my gallery. So regarding the category of ‘feminine design’ I admit that I’m quite lost. With one specific exception of course: Nika Zupanc, who I launched ages ago. In the beginning people said she was a feminine version of Jaime Hayon (I didn’t say that). But she continued to develop and invented her own language. But just by looking at the objects you know that the designer has to be a woman. It has definite feminine traits. But Nika is a rare example. Looking at the products designed by someone like Patricia Urquiola, you really can’t tell. I started Spazio Rossana Orlandi in 2002 and during the early years the gallery became closely related with Dutch Design and – more particularly – Piet Hein Eek. I introduced Piet Hein during Fuorisalone, long before anybody in Italy had even noticed him. I always say Eindhoven is really an amazing place to find talent and I particularly remember the pleasure of meeting up with Lidewij Edelkoort during her term as director of the Design Academy. To me that school presented a fabulous pool of talent, it was where I discovered Nacho Carbonell and Maarten Baas. And Job Smeets (Studio Job) at the beginning of his career. I still visit Eindhoven, but nowadays I find the developments at the school far less exiting. They all seem so entangled in highbrow intellectual and ‘social design’ projects. Even though I spot less talent in Eindhoven than before, I still love the Dutch design scene, of course. Last October I was really blown away by the installation Studio Mieke Meijer did for Luxaflex. That was really the best of the Dutch Design Week. And I found an amazing recycling project ‘Spacious Plastics’ by David Hakkens, an installation at Sectie C.

best of both

Curiously, most of the designers that I do scout in Eindhoven nowadays are not Dutch. One of our most recent discoveries is Guglielmo Poletti. He’s a young designer from Italy that I discovered in 2016 in a tiny, 1 m2 presentation of exam pieces at the DAE. His work is elegant, super essential and so very perfect. Poletti lives in Eindhoven, but works mainly for Italian companies. So in this case the experimental mindset of Eindhoven finds effective use within the industry. And also FormaFantasma, I discovered Simone and Andrea in Eindhoven. Obviously they show the best of both worlds. And yet they are undeniably Italian – you can’t escape your basic identity.


Museo Bagatti Valsecci Milan Design Shop Yellowtrace 06
Gallery Rossana Orlandi
Klat Rossana Orlandi 16
Gallery Rossana Orlandi

free space

Creatives are globalist by nature. Real designers are openminded and it’s difficult to say where exactly they come from, or to what degree nationality is important. In 2008 Li Edelkoort curated an exhibition here called ‘North Meets South’, presenting work by designers from Europe and Africa. You couldn’t tell which was European or African. The truth is that a really good designer is free. In the Netherlands you have a pool of talents that flourish because they feel less connected to the industry. While in Italy all young designers seem to be obsessed with working in the industry, and less able to experiment freely. And it’s true that we have a terrific industry in Italy. In that situation designers start to work specifically for a brand. And you’ll find that relationship mirrored somehow in the curriculum of the schools we have here. But in my gallery I offer ‘spazio’ – free space, open to experiment. If it’s not a risk, it’s not my business. But a lot of the pieces that are shown here as prototypes do eventually find their way into production. Moroso, Cappelini and other producers have all discovered designs in my gallery. So I always advise people: ‘buy the prototypes’, once they go into production some of the authenticity of the original will sadly end up down the drain. We promote the designers and put them in touch with the right people. So maybe that’s why they started calling me the ‘godmother’ of design. What does it mean? La mamma? La madrina? La Madonna? I take it as a compliment (she admits, smiling).

last minute

As usual I’m preparing for the Salone at the last minute, but this year we’ve opened up the garden. Good news is also that we’re re-opening our restaurant called bistro – which will be run by Aimo e Nadia, two Michelin-star chefs who already own a well-established Milanese restaurant. Kiki van Eijk designed some special textiles for Google that will be presented in our space. Yes, there’s plenty of work for young people to do. Surprise me.

Bistro Aimo e Nadia
bistRO Aimo e Nadia 1
Bistro Aimo e Nadia

This interview was published in WOTH issue No9 still available in our shop.