A Trip to Planet Italy

The Italian trade organization, representing furniture firms and related industries, is an unmistakable presence at ICFF. But you could easily miss Federlegno-Arredo’s booth, near the entrance to the show’s scrimmed-off Italian section. The booth—by that country’s impeccable design standards—is fairly modest. But the group is not showing products anyway. They’re incubating a larger idea: the culture of Italian design.

Federlegno-Arredo’s impresario role in pulling together the 50-plus Italian manufacturers displaying here is a sign that the Italians want to be a permanent part of the American furniture market. “It’s a long-term commitment,” says Antonella Lanari. “We think Americans are interested in our [Italian] design. So a large part of what we’re doing is introducing the public to a culture.”

And indeed it is a kind of culture. Walking through the aisles here is like a trip to Planet Italy, a sleek and stylish world of elegant lines and gorgeous kitchens where, as one observer says, “Even the schlock is well-detailed.”

If the American furniture industry, especially the design-oriented sector, is searching for business models, they might look at the relationship between Federlegno-Arredo and the Italian Trade Commission. Most Federlegno-Arredo events at ICFF are joint sponsorships between the organization and the Italian government. Clearly both groups have come to the same conclusion: design is one of their country’s business assets.

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