Italy is a nation known for oozing effortless style, yet Lema, one of its biggest furniture brands, is borrowing a new look from British shores this season.
A bit like raiding a friend’s wardrobe, four of its newest seating designs have been reimagined in textiles from Osborne & Little.
Just launched at LDF, the reimagined designs include Gordon Guillaumier’s saddle-esque Fantino armchair, the modular Neil sofa,David Lopez Quincoces' Alton armchairand Chiara Andreatti’s Taiki armchair, each dressed in exclusiveOsborne & Little fabrics.
Founded by the Meroni family in 1970, Lema is still managed by the same family today. We spoke toAngelo Meroni, president of Lema, andUmberto Salon, Managing Director UK, to learn more about this first time collaboration.
SO, WHY OSBORNE & LITTLE?
AM: Our idea was to sell more upholstered pieces, and in the process, find something that will appeal to a new crowd of British architects and designers. Osborne & Little is a very important brand and they are based just down the road from our London showroom, so it was a natural choice. They have an infinite collection of fabrics, so it was our job to work out which of their designs would fit with our collection of furniture.
AND IS THIS THE FIRST TIME LEMA HAS WORKED WITH A BRITISH BRAND?
US: Yes. It has been the first collaboration we have put in place. Lema is an iconic brand and we decided to start the collection with O&L as it is also very iconic. It is also a brand that is very British - we believe in this market and wanted to create a ‘merger’ that would connect Lema to an iconic British brand. That’s how the idea started.
OSBORNE AND LITTLE'S COLLECTION OF FABRICS IS PRETTY VAST. HOW DID YOU NARROW IT DOWN TO JUST 19 DESIGNS?
AM: We have experts in this field and every year they will advise us on which fabrics to insert in our collections, and which to take out. They helped us throughout this project.
BROADLY SPEAKING, WHAT WOULD YOU SAY ARE THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN ITALIAN AND BRITISH DESIGN?
US: Lema is an Italian brand and we represent Italian style. That is our DNA. Yet we approached Osborne & Little in order to achieve something that was fresher and more colourful. We believed that with the history of O&L and its position in the market, they could be the perfect matching partner. It has been a true adventure and in the future we will be working on more collaborations, all in the pursuit of creating something new that will bring a twist to our signature Italian style. This is our starting point and it’s exciting.
SOME OF THE PIECES FROM THE RECENT COLLECTION YOU SHOWED IN MILANCATERED FOR THE MARKET IN THE FAR EAST. DO YOU DESIGN FURNITURE WITH DIFFERENT COUNTRIES IN MIND?
AM: Yes. At the Milan fair, we presented the Bulè table that comes with a rotating ‘lazy Susan’. This was perfect for the Asian market. Of course, you can sell it without the rotating centre and then it becomes a normal table. It is made from resin with copper chips, which at first sight, looks like marble.
THAT DESIGN WAS BY CHIARA ANDREATTI, WHO ALSO DESIGNED THE TAIKI ARMCHAIR THAT HAS BEEN REVAMPED IN O&L’S FABRIC. DO YOU SEEK OUT CERTAIN DESIGNERS OR DO THEY COME TO YOU?
AM: We are open to anybody. Our head of design, Piero Lissoni, looks after a preferred team of designers that we have been working with for years and whom we know very well. Yet we are especially open to young designers.
US: This is one of the big values of Lema. We like to discover new designers and Piero Lissoni is at the helm of this design development. While some names have been part of the team for five or six years now, they were only 22 or 23 when they first started with us. It’s an evolving process and it carries on with no ending.
SO LONDON DESIGN FESTIVAL 2019, WILL THERE BE ANOTHER PROJECT?
US: Yes. And it will be even more exciting!
Head to Lema’s expansive Kings Road showroom to see the designs all dressed up in the flesh.
Photography by Emanuele Rambaldi