Claudio Luti has been the president and CEO of Kartell since taking over the reigns from founder Giulio Castelli in 1988. In that time, he’s transformed the furniture brand into an empire with over 130 flagship stores around the world, opened the Kartell Museum in 1999, and become the president of Milan’s Salone del Mobile, among other achievements. Luti has kept Kartell at the forefront of Italian design for decades through a mix of quality-based design research, designer collaborations, and an attention to detail at every stage. In between launching the collaboration with La Double J and celebrating NYCxDesign, Luti sat down with AD PRO to talk about what the future looks for the plastic furniture giant.
Lanterns designed by Fabio Novembre.
Photo by Simona Pesarini. Image courtesy of Kartell.
AD PRO: Kartell cites itself as having an aggressive retail strategy. What does that mean?
Claudio Luti: The world is so large, and we have to control not only the product, but the distribution and communication as well. We are an international brand, and much like in fashion, it’s so important to have dedicated space for the brand. We have flagship stores all over the world – 130 countries, to be exact – but we are also in multi-brand stores. It’s important to have the collection, not just a few pieces spread out. I don’t like that. If you have just one chair in a corner, you don’t get the idea of the full collection. Our collection is very strong, and I would rather have it shown all together when I can.
There are three different markets we’re focusing on: retail, contract, and online. We’re very strong in retail, but now we have to work at growing the contract projects – hotels, restaurants, cruise ships, etc. It’s becoming a bigger part of the focus day by day, and the market is growing. Online is also obviously growing, and we’re well-positioned there because there is a lot of personality in the product. We’re making it easier to buy Kartell; it’s not enough to only have one website, you have to be on the other good online marketplaces, too. The plan is to expand – particularly in Asian online marketplaces. There’s a lot of growth there.
AD PRO: You mention the importance of e-commerce and the internet, but the flip side is that it gives way to knockoffs. What are you doing to combat fake Kartell pieces appearing online?
Luti: (Laughs) I fight it every day! We have an office of two lawyers who are assigned specifically to combatting knockoffs. We fight copies being sold not only online, but on the street as well. Every time we are alerted to a fake, we fight and remove it. It’s a continuous battle, and I think that the internet has helped grow the counterfeit market. But I hope that the consumers are interested in getting educated about the fakes and want to buy the original. Because they often buy a piece without knowing that it’s fake and end up with a bad product, even though they spent less.
Some countries aren’t as active in fighting counterfeits. In China it’s particularly difficult, and same in Brazil. They produce the fakes in China, and while the distribution is easier to stop, the production is not. They change factories and move all the time, so we never know where they’re making them. But, if people want to copy Kartell pieces, it’s because of our success. If Kartell wasn’t successful, then no one would want to copy it.
Kartell has over 130 flagship stores around the globe. Pictured above is a wall in the Milan flagship.