Italian Design Day In Kuala Lumpur Showcases Firms Bringing High Style To Your Everyday

In March, the seventh edition of Italian Design Day took place at the modish Sky51 lounge at EQ Hotel Kuala Lumpur, which was lit up by il Tricolore—the Italian national flag. This event welcomed the city’s movers and shakers, and was hosted by His Excellency the Ambassador of Italy to Malaysia Massimo Rustico. This annual initiative, held in concert across 100 global cities, was organised by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, together with the Italian Trade Agency to promote the excellence of ‘Made in Italy’, an economic contributor worth €630 billion.

For this year’s edition, the theme adopted was: “The quality that illuminates. The energy of design for people and the environment.” In this, the theme also grapples with the idea of environmental impact in design, and creating a future that is both sustainable and ethical. Italian artist Franz Cerami, the key speaker for this year’s edition, chose to present ‘Pink City Kuala Lumpur’—a visual journey of cityscapes, where building facades become giant canvases for digital wall paintings, video mapping and abstract expressions, in what he describes as “an urban museum”.

H.E Massimo Rustico mingling with guests

In total, seven prominent Italian brands were invited to share insights into their respective industries: luxury marque Maserati; fashion house Roberto Cavalli; VIP helicopter maker Agusta, a brand by Leonardo; fine jeweller Roberto Coin; Lightcraft, which represents 38 different Italian lighting brands; Ficantieri, the world’s largest shipbuilding group in cruise ships and mega-yachts; and Icona Design Group, a design company for smart mobility and automotive.

There was also time for Italian Design Day to introduce celebrity chef James Won, whose work with Italian luxury flatware brand Mepra is manifested in the many beautiful pieces of cutlery being used at the Shin Labo restaurant. “Every single element of your dining experience must be curated for you,” he says. For this, he went to Mepra, established in Italy since 1947, and with the collaboration of Italian 360-degree design firm Pininfarina, he was able to produce modern, cultural flatware that infuses colour and emotion in the dining experience. In closing, the talk shifted to Expo 2030 Roma, a possible site of the World Fair, with the announcement set to take place in November 2023.


Klaus Busse, Maserati’s head of design since 2015, and creator of the genre-expanding MC20, spoke about pure visual longevity from his own studio, the inner sanctum of Maserati. “Italy is about beauty and beauty connects people,” he says. During his presentation, he introduced the audience to elements of the new Granturismo 2023 and offered hints of their upcoming Project24, a limited-production, high-performance track-day special that “brings Maserati back to its racing roots”. “When you buy a Maserati, it will go into your collection and maybe even a grand prix d’elegance one day,” he says of his responsibility as a designer.


Ever since Roberto Cavalli was young, his inherent fashion sense was already evident. His artist grandfather Giuseppe, whose works are exhibited at Florence’s renowned Uffizi Gallery, served as his inspiration. Cavalli would go on to concentrate on textile prints, inventing and patenting a printing style on leather that earned him commissions from the likes of Hermès. Anna Cordini, Brand Manager of Roberto Cavalli in Malaysia—its first flagship store in all of Southeast Asia, located in The Starhill—spoke of the fashion label being recognisable on the very first sight. “Every detail on a Roberto Cavalli is informed by years of experience,” she says. Cordini cites the icons of the 90s such as Cindy Crawford as those who are seen in Cavalli, as well as Jennifer Lopez, Madonna and latterly Taylor Swift as reflections of the fashion label’s enduring appeal and its iconoclastic style—bold, independent, sexy and strong.


Presented by Manuela Barbarossa, Head of VIP/ Corporate and Service Marketing at Agusta, a Leonardo Brand, this segment shed light on how Agusta blends technology and design. In 2021, Agusta created a fully dedicated helicopter division producing multi-engine VIP choppers with spacious and comfortable cabins, matched with speed, power and aerodynamics. “There are various people behind the scenes creating these masterpieces that fly in the skies,” Barbarossa says.


As the founder of the eponymous jewellery brand, Roberto Coin refers to the jeweller’s home base of Vincenza as its inspiration. “This city traces its history to 1,600 years, and has spawned more than 5,000 jewellery workshops,” Coin says, adding, “Roberto Coin is now travelling over the world, being present in more than 60 countries and with more than 1,000 points of sale.” Coin’s own contribution to the jewellery world also includes his work with supply chains, as one of the founders of the diamond council and working with the United Nations on the Kimberley Process, which requires all diamonds to be ethically sourced. The Roberto Coin Kuala Lumpur flagship is the first and only Southeast Asian outpost thus far, and Coin paid tribute to the beautiful diversity of Malaysia, from its geography to its people. “Each Roberto Coin bracelet carries a ruby on the inside, which touches the wearer,” Coin says. “This is the heart and soul of my jewellery.”


For Enea Colombo, General Manager of Icona Design Group, the root inspiration for the company lies in automotive design. “In 2019, we no longer considered automobiles as cars, but vehicles. We saw a shift in thinking of the car as an extension of people,” he says. With the coming of autonomous vehicles, which Icona is contracted to, the firm began looking into the innovation of design. “Today, design is meant to improve people’s lives—how to give them a good feeling and to give them something that makes the technology friendlier and more approachable.” Ultimately, for Colombo, good design is all about creating emotion. “My earliest emotional design experience occurred when I saw my first Lamborghini Countach—it wasn’t my own—but belonged to a friend of mine.” Happily for Colombo, Icona Design Group would go on to work with Lamborghini. “It was a fulfilment of my dream.”


“Why do so many chose to work with Italian brands?” asked Sherreen Ho, Project Director of Lightcraft Retail, a major player in the luxury lighting solutions scene in Malaysia and Singapore. “Each Italian lamp, every piece, is an original masterpiece,” she answers. In total, 38 Italian lighting brands are housed within Lightcraft’s gallery, located at the kinetic Jalan Tun Razak. “It’s our wish to provide each Malaysian home with an original Italian lighting masterpiece.”


In the case of Fabrizio Ferri, Ficantieri’s Head of Asia Pacific region, he observes that the heritage of Ficantieri spans two centuries. “We were building ships even before Italy’s unification,” he says. Today, Ficantieri can lay claim to having built more than 7,000 ships, including more than 50 per cent of the current existing cruise ships. “The recipe and key are thinking about the passenger and giving them the Italian sense of style and design, where comfort, technology and entertainment are all achieved through excellence of manufacturing. What is most important is that our supply chains that serve our shipyard have been working with us for many decades, fully understanding our process.”

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