Alessi: Fun Design for Everyone

When Alberto Alessi joined the family housewares company he brought his love of architecture and art to the table.

Alberto Alessi always dreamed of becoming an architect. Instead, he joined the family firm—upscale Italian homewares company Alessi—and did the next best thing: hired them. In his 36 years as CEO, Alberto has tapped some of world’s best known architects, transforming Alessi from a manufacturer of boring stainless steel tableware into a design powerhouse. “Architects are our source of inspiration,” says Alberto.

It was Alberto’s desire to “do something a little less boring” that brought the brand into the avant garde. Founded in 1921 by Alberto’s grandfather Giovanni, the business began as metalworks factory, manufacturing basic copper, brass, and nickel-plated tableware. But Alberto’s decision to enlist some of the world’s best-known artists and architects including Salvador Dali, Michael Graves, Aldo Rossi, and Philippe Starck helped Alberto and the company turn everyday household items into attention-grabbing works of art—albeit at tabletop scale.

Many are now recognizable design classics such as Philippe Starck’s arachno-inspired Juicy Salif lemon squeezer, Michael Graves’ Kettle with Bird, or Ettore Sottsass’ domed oil and vinegar cruets. “They combine functional design with extraordinary aesthetics, often making people smile in the process,” says Rita Clifton, chairman of Interbrand UK in London.

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