Paola Lenti, whose work is available in Australia through dedece, is in the top tier of contemporary designers and is celebrating a quarter-century of collaboration.
September 15th, 2023
In the world of Italian superstar designer, Paola Lenti, colour and texture vie for dominance – with both winning. This is a rare thing, and speaks directly to the designer’s understanding and foundational career in textiles. Which is almost getting ahead of the story. Having studied graphics design at Scuola Politecnica di Milan, she went straight into design as an art director, image creator and graphic designer in fashion and event houses, creating displays and setting the seasonal tones of the late eighties.
By 1994, it was time to establish her own brand and she founded Paola Lenti with small ceramics and objects. It was her rugs and textiles, however, that held her heart and gave her the freedom to truly engage with colour and texture. This is a truth that continues today with her textiles ranging from the padded and colourful Feltro range of rugs to the sculptural extravaganzas of her High Tech offering.
Consistent across all her rugs is the articulation of materiality. These are not flat images, patterns and colour, but rather each colour shift or embellishment is slightly varied in weight and loft to give a pronounced engagement with colour as form. At its most low key, the area rugs, for example, have their pile sculpted into rhythms such as long ripples with Dune, and the raised bumps of Shore (which has the unique surface of the shoreline as water recedes).
At mid-point the Feltro rug Pixel is a patchwork of raised layers of padded felt with seemingly random arrangements of colour combinations and bulk. Meanwhile, at the most extreme is the High Tech rug Wind comprising a repeated folded ribbon of woven rope.
When it comes to displaying her rugs, the brilliance of her design mind in clear. For Fuorisalone in 2019, for example, each of the rugs was mounted on a hard surface and lent against the wall as a piece of art. Concurrently, her textiles have shaped what is possible in furniture, with her rope creations, such as Aquatech Trecca 95 and Rope Corda (both for outdoors), and Chain with its fat woven sausages of knitted yarn (for indoors), of particular importance.
In 1997 she started her collaboration with Francesco Rota, another Italian design superstar of impressive calibre, with their first indoor collection launched in 1998 and outdoor in 2003. Combining the textural nous of Lenti with the sculptural forms of Rota in colours (and colour combinations) that Lenti has become synonymous with – acid yellow, turquoise, canary yellow, emerald and hot pink – the furnishings skyrocketed into the canon of Italian design.
“Francesco and I have always had a positive working relationship that puts the design component above business logic,” says Lenti. “We both take a similar approach to creativity and quality. We followed our intuitions, not the trends.”
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As such, while Lenti has expanded her collaborations to include Francesco Bettoni, Victor Carrasco, Claesson Koivisto Rune, Vincent Van Duysen, Marella Ferrera, Marco Merendi, Nicolò Morales and Lina Obregón, those with Rota are central to the brand identity. Ami, for example, is instantly recognizable as the work of these giants, as is Smile with its squishy friendly form. Shito, is another, Walt and Uptown, similarly recognisable and fabulous, and the list of incredible design born of this collaboration goes on. “I must say – we have worked in great harmony,” says Lenti.
Milestones within this collaboration are many, but arguably the most significant was the creation of an indoor chaise longue. Using Lenti’s felt to create a self-supporting sculptural form that held the body comfortably, Roti delivered what has become an icon of Italian design. Presented during the 1998 edition of Maison & Objet in Paris, Linea was greeted with instant success, press accolades and more importantly, a keen take-up by high-end specifiers, architects and interior designers.
In 2002, Lenti developed Rope, an exceedingly important textile to both the Paola Lenti brand and outdoor furnishing in general. Roto responded by using this fabric on Linea to create an outdoor version, Wave. As such, it was the first chaise longue with a textile character suitable for outdoor living. It was also completely fabulous.
In celebration of the 25 years of collaboration, these iconic pieces, Linea and Wave, have been re-editioned. In the 2023 iteration of Wave, the backrest is fixed as is the structural weave, which is available in three different patterns, A, B or C, in Twitape yarn. These new weaves, with a star like pattern overlaying the base weave, are made by hand and are inspired by the complex knots of Japanese tradition. For Linea a new felt has been developed with pink on pink flowers over red with a white border detail – simply divine!
Paola Lenti is available in Australia exclusively through dedece.
Courtesy of Paolo Lenti
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