I am fond of two different Bellinis – both Italian, both legends, and both created in the 1930’s.
Bellini – Mario that is – was recently in New York City to speak about about his career – including a 50+ year relationship with Cassina Furniture – and to share some thoughts on design, inspiration and to launch a couple new pieces of furniture.
I jumped at the opportunity to be in the presence of such legendary greatness….
In 1987 Mario Bellini was the first designer to have a retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art devoted to the works of a single living designer. In addition to the 25 items designed by Bellini in the permanent collection of MoMA, Bellini has an enduring international reputation for his award-winning architecture and his extensive collaborations with Olivetti, B&B Italia, Flos and Cassina.
Mario Bellini has designed many objects that have experienced both critical and commercial success, but none as much as with the Cab Chair, designed in 1979. An innovative combination of a flexible steel frame that is covered with saddle leather with exposed stitching, it is zipped tight at the legs. During his talk Bellini described this chair as a skeleton ‘wearing’ a leather coat. Widely acknowledged “as one of the more significant chair designs of the twentieth century”, over 500,000 of these chairs have been sold!
Five-hundred year-old oil paintings; tribal belts; the human body; dinosaurs; and of course classical architecture are just some of the things Bellini shared as the diverse sources of his inspirations.
My first commercial project was in 1987 when I launched Glenn Gissler Design; the project was designing a showroom and office for the then emerging fashion designer Michael Kors. Then, as now, Michael was a VERY specific about what he liked and didn’t like.
When it came to selecting the furnishings for the showroom the mandate was to keep things minimal. Michael wanted the room to be as blank as possible; however we still needed tables and chairs to make it a functioning space.
The tables were custom Oak Parsons’ tables stained black and the chairs – Mario Bellini’s ‘Break’ Chair on wheels. They hit the mark!
When it came to selecting the furnishings for the showroom the mandate was to keep things minimal. Michael wanted the room to be as blank as possible; however we still needed tables and chairs to make it a functioning space. The tables were custom Oak Parsons’ tables stained black and the chairs – Mario Bellini’s ‘Break’ Chair on wheels. They hit the mark!
One of the things that I find so compelling about much, if not all, of Bellini’s furniture designs is that they are ‘essential’ – avoiding superfluous details. With his ‘Il Colonnato’ Table he uses forms and materials from the past – the Parthenon – to create a modern classic. While Cassina no longer manufactures this table, they occasionally appear at 20th century furniture auctions, and on 1st Dibs.
‘The massive elements of the “La Rotonda’ table are in some ways similar to the ‘Il Colonnato’ table but with a more overtly modern sensibility; this table design was inspired by the sculpture of Swiss architect Max Bill. If you’re inspired by the many different designs and shapes created by Mario Bellini, Furniture in Fashion offer a range of furnishings like contemporary glass dining tables, and many more to suit your preference and style.
Attending the evening event was a wonderful opportunity – a fantastic experience to hear Mario Bellini speak about his career and his influences to both demystify, and to amplify the mystique of a great modern designer.