On the fast track

The new label La Manufacture doesn’t do things by halves: Within the space of 14 months, its founder Robert Acouri and Creative Director Luca Nichetto have created a prestigious design and fashion brand and brought on board big names including Sebastian Herkner and Nendo for the first collection.
by Fabian Peters | 7/1/2020

“Every item we made before always sold straight away!” grins Robert Acouri, recalling his first steps as a design manufacturer. And it’s no wonder – he was his own customer, namely in the form of Groupe Cider, which designs and furnishes offices for major corporations such as insurance company Generali and cosmetics giant L’Oreal. For the projects, he repeatedly collaborated with young designers and as a result down through the years a whole series of different furniture designs arose. At some point Acouri got the urge to start selling these designs – as well as some new items – under his own label. For this idea, he turned to a designer he rated particularly highly and with whom, as he puts it, the chemistry was particularly good: Luca Nichetto. Nichetto took a look at the existing designs, which were supposed to form the range for the new brand – and had serious doubts that the concept would work as it was. “‘Your collection is like a general store,’ he said to me,” recalls Acouri. Instead, Nichetto suggested designing the whole range entirely from scratch, and the plan now is that by 2021 there will be a coherent collection of around 50 items. Instead of launching a small spin-off from Groupe Cider to market existing designs, Acouri was now also suddenly faced with the challenge of getting a new design label off the ground. “I was 48 and was suddenly right back at square one,” he remembers. “La Manufacture” was the name he chose for the new company, which he launched with Nichetto in 2019.

Fashion as bait

Time and again in his life, Acouri has dared step into the unknown and to tread new ground. His career began at the Monaco Opera House. He then shifted to the fashion industry. 2012 he founded Groupe Cider. “Fashion and design work in much the same way,” Acouri believes, so it’s no wonder that La Manufacture produces its own fashion line alongside the furniture. The fashion designer chosen was Milena Laquale from Italy, who created unpretentious, high-quality pieces that are particularly notable for their excellent cuts. Into some designs Laquale has also incorporated La Manufacture’s eye-catching monogram logo, designed by Studio Blanco, as an appliqué feature. Acouri believes the fashion collection is a real USP in the face of competition – but also a temptation that lures buyers to the new brand. With his products, he seeks to convince them to publicize La Manufacture. “There are two ways to establish a brand for luxury goods,” says Acouri: “Either with luxurious products or with luxurious marketing.” No prizes for guessing which route he’s chosen with La Manufacture.

As Creative Director, Luca Nichetto ensures that the products live up to the brand’s own aspirations, and to do so the Stockholm-based designer called on a few colleagues to help him. For the label Sebastian Herkner, for example, designed a sofa which features a very balanced mix of classic and zeitgeist and whose base and solid-wood runners impressively convey the quality of its craftsmanship. A screen made of interwoven straps was also designed by Herkner. Patrick Norguet’s contribution to the first collection, meanwhile, includes the symbolically designed “Gardian” stool, while Nendo contributed a series of cushions, Todd Bracher a swivel chair, Marco Dessi a seat and Emma Boomkamp a selection of rugs featuring geometric patterns. Naturally, Nichetto himself also designed a series of furniture items for La Manufacture, including the striking “Melitea” chair, the backrest and seat of which are perforated with large, circular notches. A similar design language is evident in Nichetto’s “Soufflé” standing mirror, whose glass is encased in a padded frame that simultaneously forms its feet.

STYLEPARK ZOOM IN with Luca Nichetto

Luca Nichetto sorgt als Creative Director dafür, dass die Erzeugnisse der Marke dem eigenen Anspruch gerecht werden. Dafür hat sich der in Stockholm lebende Designer der Mitarbeit einige befreundeter Kollegen versichert. Sebastian Herkner etwa hat ein Sofa für das Label gestaltet, das eine sehr ausgewogene Mischung aus Klassik und Zeitgeist bildet und dessen Basis und Kufen aus massivem Holz eindrücklich seine handwerkliche Qualität vermitteln. Auch ein riemenbespannter Paravent stammt aus Herkners Feder. Patrick Norguet hat zu der ersten Kollektion unter anderem den zeichenhaft designten Hocker "Gardian" beigesteuert, Nendo eine Sitzkissenserie, Todd Bracher einen Drehsessel, Marco Dessi einen Stuhl und Emma Boomkamp grafisch gemusterte Teppiche. Natürlich hat auch Nichetto selbst eine Reihe von Möbeln für La Manufacture entworfen, etwa den markanten Stuhl "Melitea" dessen Rücklehne und Sitzfläche mit großen, kreisrunden Aussparungen perforiert sind. Eine ähnliche Designsprache spricht Nichettos Standspiegel "Soufflé", bei dem das Glas von einem wulstigen Rahmen umfasst wird, der zugleich die Füße ausbildet.

Ahead of the game

The perfect venue for presentation of the La Manufacture collection has also been found: Last December, the label’s first flagship store opened in Paris, just a stone’s throw from the Opéra Garnier – a step which, according to the time plan set out by Acouri and Nichetto, was not to take place until much later. But it didn’t work out that way. In January 2019 the project was already much further ahead than anticipated, and suddenly an opportunity arose to acquire a large store space in the very complex where Groupe Cider has its offices – an ideal prerequisite for a quick detour with clients to view products. Luca Nichetto and the team at La Manufacture and Groupe Cider were able to plan and set up the showroom in the space of but a few months. The aim, Robert Acouri explains, was to create an interior that inspires architects and their clients alike and presents sample solutions for various different living situations. At the same time, the store had to live up to the brand’s overall aspirations and form the right setting for the furniture and fashion collection. Particular attention had to be paid to the large display windows if the brand was to be transported optimally out into the street space. For this, Nichetto developed the idea of a curtain made of aluminum slats, which surrounds the store space and varies in length. Sometimes it reaches down to the floor and thus separates the display window from the store space, while elsewhere it falls only halfway down, permitting glimpses from outside in and vice versa. Incidentally, the “folds” in the metal curtain replicate the “M” from the La Manufacture logo – the kind of passion for detail that defines the label’s products, too.

Following the store opening, the team are now tackling the next steps. The second collection will include contributions from Neri&Hu as well as Noé Duchaufour-Lawrance. Overall, says Acouri, the designers involved in the project have become part of a veritable family. The next milestone is scheduled to come in 2021 with the team’s participation in January design week in Paris. The exhibition concept is being created, of course, by Luca Nichetto. It will be exciting to see where the next surprises come in this fast-tracked success story.