The Perfection of the Imperfect

Since 2019, creative jack-of-all-trades Luca Nichetto, who runs his own design studio in Stockholm and Venice, has been art director of the French lifestyle brand "La Manufacture". In addition to interiors, this also markets fashion of a kind on which Nichetto has his own particular take. How does he see the present and future of the design industry?
by Silke Bücker | 7/9/2021

Robert Acouri, CEO of Groupme Cider and the mastermind behind “La Manufacture“, has been mulling over the idea of marketing both fashion and design under one umbrella brand for quite some time now. Nichetto, who loves exploring hitherto uncharted waters, was immediately hooked. His approach to fashion is very much the same as his attitude to design – he really does see every item he produces as an object in its own right. Democratic, timeless, not subject to seasonal fluctuations and, above and beyond this, gender-neutral. His focus is on three key coordinates: quality, tradesmanship and high-end aesthetics. After all, Nichetto himself knows only too well what real quality means, after working in close collaboration with Hermès in the past. “Hermès is in a league of its own,” he explains – “undoubtedly one of the last remaining luxury brands in the lifestyle sector.” And he adds that the people there really don’t like being seen as a fashion brand and nothing more. An attitude that Nichetto also applies to his own personal philosophy.

He continues: “Before the word designer became en vogue, people like us used to be known simply as ‘product-makers’. This term describes how I see things pretty well. It doesn’t matter whether I design a sofa or a coat, what I am aiming at more than anything else is for the things I devise to last a lifetime. When I started looking into the fashion industry, I initially considered it arrogant to be telling consumers what to wear at what time of year. After all, we are now living in a globalized world – and who needs diktats in times like these? Indeed, we can all shape our own realities, any requirements we might have, exactly the way we ourselves need or want them to be. I am not concerned about a particular time of year or the gender of my customers, what I am interested in is in people as such.“

To mention one example, when pondering the shape for his collection, his immediate reaction was ‘oversize’. Not specifically so as to follow that particular trend, but in terms of an aspiration to fit all types of bodies. “That way, our customers have a choice and our clothes do not have to conform to a particular predefined gender, or size right from the outset”. Moreover, the collection consistently builds on the principle of the single item. People can choose from a smorgasbord of options, brands, styles and price tags when creating their own personal look. “And that’s just what I do when I furnish my own living room” – here, too, he takes his inspiration from the mother discipline. To make his collection relevant, independent of season, Nichetto opts for uncompromisingly superlative quality, primarily sourced from his home country of Italy. “Nowadays, as designers we need to be aware that every action we take contributes to world pollution. Accordingly, the consistently right choice for all the aspects of the value-added chain is particularly crucial. After all, everything leaves a footprint. It is important to me, to create things that can be used for a long time. With this in mind, as creatives, it is also important for us to educate our customers. At the same time, I would like to make a contribution to preserving traditional skilled trades, in order for the latter to survive as our society’s cultural institutions. If a La Manufacture T-shirt costs 300 Euro this does not just represent an ‘artsy’ markup. At the end of the day that is its actual value. We should all be rethinking so that the world we have come to appreciate can continue to exist.”

However, in his opinion, a solid investment in the product and an emancipatory approach to the customer are not enough to change our worlds of commerce lastingly. At the end of the day, what we need to do is to completely remodel our infrastructures because the latter are geared towards creating a desire to consume more and more on a permanent basis. “What this amounts to is an educational mandate, one that should start as early as when people are at college. Furthermore, institutions such as governments could employ designers to consider, with the power of their creative potential, how structures could be changed in order to establish new and more considered purchasing patterns. This could, for instance, mean that it is no longer demand that governs production, but that we, as designers, dictate market demand. This can in turn only function if creatives remain autonomous. Genuine creativity is always dependent on freedom and autonomy – at the end of the day, in other words, in a niche. As soon as large corporations start approaching you and offering you commissions you are running the danger of selling your innovative power and thus your soul.”

With this in mind, what distinguishes Nichetto’s fashion collection is not only its classy appearance with its characteristic prints, striking colors, uncompromising quality and various wearing options, but also the fact that it demonstrates an attitude by means of a strong symbolic message. The clothes boast variously styled patches of the kind with which we are familiar from the worlds of sport and music and convey a feeling of belonging. They show a panda bear and a superhero. The panda, an endangered species, symbolizes the power of nature and the traditional skills of artisanal trades, the kind that it is important to preserve. The selfless superhero assumes the role of a protector, “armed with” a pair of pliers and a measuring tape, the insignia of the manufacturing industry. His mission is based on La Manufacture‘s canon of values and its objectives – to create an interdisciplinary collection that combines outstanding Italian craftsman’s skills with views that exist independently of one another while exerting the best kind of mutual influences on one another.

Even though Nichetto certainly has doubts about his aspirations and views on modern product and consumer worlds meeting with approval on a grand scale, his commitment remains unbroken. “I can only think and act for myself and my own world, but I try to make them better and at least as good as possible. And I hope that by doing so I will encourage other people. Then I will have achieved my own personal goal. In the final analysis, the great thing about being a human being is the privilege of being able to make mistakes sometimes,” he explains.

Tip: Under the title "Opinionated", Nichetto Studio, in collaboration with Studio Blanco and Paolo Ferrarini, has recently started presenting a podcast. The variety of topics ranges from economics and sustainability to contemporary art and music.

Opinionated Podcast - Episode #1: Luca Nichetto with Daan Roosegaarde
La Manufacture store