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DANIELE LAGO: HOW TO REVOLUTIONIZE THE CONCEPT OF DESIGN
Thirty-five years old, youngest of ten sons of a Venetian furniture craftsman, a design course attended at the University of Padua and tons of independent experience. This is Daniele Lago's profile, art director at the eponymous Paduan furniture company which is revolutionising the wooden-furniture sector. What are the characteristics that set Lago apart from its competitors?
We decided to redefine our approach and make design the heart and soul of the company. The shift took place five or six years ago, when we began to develop a new design concept, intended to include a cultural component and not only seen as an operation to research and develop "glossy" products.
How did your innovative views on design impact your business model?
Completely, beginning with our factory: the entire infrastructure of the production plant in Villa del Conte (Padua), covering eleven thousand square metres, is made of plywood. There are no concrete walls but only external glass walls which let in natural light all day long. Lago seeks to manufacture not only products, but also thoughts and processes, in its quest to redesign economy.
This is an ambitious goal, but it risks being dead in the water if it is not translated into innovation of both product and process. For example, how were engineering styles affected by this "design revolution"?
We chose simplicity as the common thread, both in terms of product design and of materials, for which we favour glass, a clean and 100% recyclable product. In some ways, this choice runs counter to current market preferences which prefer opulence. However there is a risk that beyond appearance there is but little substance.
But is not one of your leading products, the "Fluttua" one-legged bed, which you designed, the triumph of provocation and hence of appearance?
Not at all. It is a concrete product, which incidentally registers very high sales. The bed features an iron frame, attached to the wall, and a wooden plane with a sole leg in the middle which holds up this kind of oversized shelf. We took away everything we could: this engineering solution allows to reduce the amount of materials used, the environmental impact and the cost of the product. After all, modern designer's role should be to offer solutions that are in line with both the client's budget as well as aesthetic taste. And what is "Fluttua" after all? A flying mattress, a dream of a bed.
That's a fascinating concept, but how do you pass that on to the customers? How is your distribution network organised, in Italy and abroad?
We invest a lot in catalogues and internet sites, but to appreciate our products you need to see them in person. We are setting up a chain of branded stores, called "Lagostores": the first one was launched in Rome. We are also present in around one thousand multi-brand stores, both in Italy and abroad. For Lago, the Italian market is still significant, as our export quota is around 30-35%. But in the next two years we envisage balancing the ratio between our Italian and non-Italian turnover: abroad, the key markets are Spain and Russia. We must improve in Germany, while in France, the United Kingdom and the Benelux countries we are taking our first steps. In the meantime, total income in the first five months of 2007 grew by 55%. On the other hand, we are having trouble recruiting sufficient personnel to sustain this growth. For example we are currently seeking to hire an "area manager" for Italy.