Port speaks to the veteran designer about his latest design for B&B Italia, which takes its form from the humble edamame bean
Piero Lissoni – the celebrated Italian designer and art director of no fewer than seven brands – never switches off. It’s the secret, of course, of any great creative, finding inspiration from anywhere and everything, but, with his latest design for B&B Italia, Lissoni takes this concept to a new level. Inspired by the simple soybean popular in Japanese cuisine, Lissoni translated the form of the humble edamame into a gracefully curving sofa, twisting like a Möbius strip from a high-backed chair to an easy chair to a pouf.
It’s an organic, flowing object that attests to Lissoni’s innovative, playful approach to design, even if, as he says to Port, he was unable to think of a name for the piece – “I tried to come up with something important and sophisticated, playing with something more Japanese or more European. We tried ten different names but in the end we stuck with the project’s nickname, Eda-Mame.”
Here, speaking ahead of Port’s event with B&B Italia and food design studio Bompas & Parr, which explores the themes of weightlessness in Lissoni and the brand’s furniture, the veteran designer discusses his multi-disciplinary approach to design, his ideal sofa and the art of taking inspiration from life.
When did you decide to be a designer?
When I was young I wanted to be an architect, and I still like to think of myself as an architect who sometimes does design. I grew up in a family that was interested in that world, and had lots of important antiques around. That taught me to go to museums, to see exhibitions, and still every day I try to discover something new. It’s really possible to jump from one field to another – it’s a very humanistic culture. One day I’m a graphic designer, one day I’m an architect, one day I’m an interior designer, one day I’m a structural engineer. And one day I’m a designer.
Do you have one approach to all these varied roles?
Perhaps you could say that my work is quite minimal or elegant but for me it is important to have the freedom to do something different. I’m free to decide whether I like something or not. If something is too decorative or too Baroque, too exaggerated, it doesn’t matter, it’s not my work, I don’t judge. I’m not a prisoner to a style.
Thinking about Eda-Mame, what qualities do you look for in a sofa?
I don’t know because I’m pretty well recognised around the world for all my furniture being uncomfortable [Laughs]. It is true that the first thing I look for is for the beauty of the design and then after that, I think about comfort. Of course when you work with a fantastic company like B&B they work around the beauty, bringing in lots of technological solutions, to make the sofa super comfortable. So unfortunately they are ruining my reputation.
On a serious note, it’s important to remember the process of working with a company like B&B. It’s teamwork. I’m the public face and everyone knows that it was me who designed Eda-Mame, but I was not alone. Without that collaboration and support nothing would have happened.
But it also depends on having that initial idea, which I presume came from the soy bean?
I love edamame and it has such a distinctive shape. It has all these incredible curves, it’s asymmetric. The design really didn’t change from the initial sketches.
Where do you take inspiration from generally?
Life! It is all about passion. I’m paid to be passionate! It’s not a traditional job. You are constantly thinking about it, when you watch a film or you’re reading a book or listening to music, eating, drinking, dressing, walking down the street. All 24 hours of the day you are following this passion.