Rossana Orlandi is the great female designer, a sort of reference guru for every professional in Italy and beyond.

Her kingdom is a stronghold of contemporary design with an area of 1,700 square metres, a testing laboratory for new talents, where what prevails are pieces of furniture from emerging designers as well as limited editions from several international acclaimed ones.

A former brick factory, then a tie factory, and later recycled as a mix of showroom, design gallery or concept store, it is made up of a sequence of a dozen spaces around a “patio” decorated in a relaxed way, with creativity and spontaneity, whose theme changes periodically.

The aura of the place has been kept with little effort which contributes to the charm enjoyed by almost 30 thousand people every design week but also by fewer people the rest of the year.

Her personal touch (a mix between Iris Apfel and Rosita Missoni) are her XL frame spectacles, her collection of necklaces and her hair tied back which make it difficult for her to go unnoticed even in a city where the cult of sophisticated and extravagant attires is the norm.

Born in Cassano Magnano, in the NW of Milan, Rossana Orlandi graduated from the prestigious Instituto Marangoni and then started her career producing fabrics for some of the most prominent designers: Kenzo, Issey Miyake, Donna Karan or Giorgio Armani, to finally open her own company.

Below there is an extract of the interview conducted by Klat Magazine:

_ What is hidden behind those spectacles?

My eyes, of course, if you can find them; they were beautiful once, not so much now. I decided to start producing these spectacles because the people wouldn´t stop asking me where they could buy them.

_They want to become Rossana Orlandi, doesn´t it make you jealous?

Not at all. Feeling jealous is not a flaw; I have plenty of these, but not this one.

_ The flaws of Rossana Orlani, what a great beginning for an interview!

Ahh! (Laughter) Numerous and unmentionable.

_At least one?

I have a strong character and I believe I have had it since I was born.

_ Qualities?

I´m generous, I´m not envious or jealous. I am curious and full of energy. It always amazes me when people say they are tired. And in the same way, they are surprised when my mails arrive in the wee hours of the day. But I have an advantage…

_ What is that?

The following day I can fall asleep wherever I want: I just hold my head in a certain position and my glasses help me go unnoticed.

_Let´s talk about the gallery, we know that you are trying to create an e-commerce platform for the Spazio Rossana Orlandi.

Stores will gradually disappear; I am sure of that. They must look for new approaches and the world is changing very quickly and the sky is the limit; we cannot constrain our activity to a confined space, without mentioning the costs of having a physical space. Maybe those who represent a single brand will survive.

_ But not all of them will die, some will manage to survive.

That´s obvious and I´m not thinking about closing the gallery but opening a virtual parallel line.

_What objects will be sold?

Unfortunately, I don´t have the crystal ball. It´s difficult to make predictions because there are items that have a very positive answer and demand and others that are not sold for a long time. We foresee fashion, and very frequently we are ahead of trends which become popular two years later. This is what happened with the collections of two designers of Studio Formafantasma: Andrea Triarchi and Simone Farresin.

_How did you meet them?

They were the first to do the Master Studies at the Design Academy Eindhoven as a duet many years ago.  They showed us clay bowls and then a fantastic project based on folk tales about bread in Sicily. Enzo Mari visited the exhibition and as was typical of him, he despised it and treated it as rubbish. But then came the work of Formafantasma and he was thrilled, although he did not show it at that time. Andrea had left, but Simone had stoically stayed to wait for the feedback: “If you follow along this line, call me.”

_ Enzo Mari, however, is known as a self-confident person and one with a good heart…

I like self-confident people because they usually have secret readings.

_ Not only are you visited by people from Europe, but we know that you receive groups of students from China. What do you think about the design there?

I admire them but at the same time they scare me because they master the art of copying. They are intelligent and when they are good, they are really good. I come from the fashion world, and I have seen many factories which have been closed after their production was relocated to China. This is why I really fear the damage they can inflict on the European economy.

_ In what ways have you applied your fashion experience to design?

When you work for a spinning mill, you must know about trends and colours. It was at this time when I learnt to keep my eyes open and alert for new developments.

_ And now the million-dollar question: what is design?

It is difficult to describe it: pleasure, surprise, taste. It is always an emotional issue. For me, a design piece is a source of emotion and discovery.

_ Why do people prefer the black colour nowadays?

Because it is convenient, practical. As far as I’m concerned, white in winter and summer, all colours in autumn.

_ Are there any new talents?

I don´t want to mention them. Either you mention all of them or they feel offended.

Sources: Klat Magazine, WSJ, Rossana Orlandi, Surface, Vogue,

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