April 16 2010
Lucia van der Post
At last year’s Milan Furniture Fair, the annual design fest where international design struts its stuff, one of the hottest tickets was a visit to Skitsch, a brand new venture that had just opened its doors on Via Monte di Pietà. Skitsch, I wrote at the time, is a shop but it’s also much more than that; it’s a celebration of creativity. Or, as Cristina Morozzi, one of its creative collaborators, puts it, “It’s not so much about a style as ideas.”
The driving force behind Skitsch is Renato Preti, a former banker who was always been passionate about design. His funds often invested in major design-world players – B&B Italia and Moooi among them – and a few years ago he left banking to dive into the more creative waters of, yes, design. And he decided that he wanted to create the sort of retail operation that didn’t yet exist.
First, unlike most fine design brands, it was to have three selling arms – a catalogue, a website and a real shop (or shops). Second, it was to commission and inspire some of the world’s best designers to produce pieces exclusively for it to sell. They were to be unique and reasonably accessible. They would range from simple lights, hooks and cups to big pieces of furniture.
Unlike most major Italian companies, there was to be no over-arching homogeneous look. “That’s not how people want to live,” says Preti. “After all, today I am wearing a jacket by Zegna, some trousers made by a tailor, a shirt and shoes each from quite different designers – that’s how people furnish their homes. They don’t want something that looks as if it’s come straight from a showroom.”
He has collaborated with names that resonate around the world, established design stars such as Marcel Wanders and Maarten Baas, but he has also recruited the talents of younger, less well-known designers such as the Swedish group Front, Alessandra Baldereschi and Luca Nichetto, about whom he is particularly excited.
The brand is powering ahead: a year after the first shop opened in Milan it has just opened a London branch on the Brompton Road (pictured). What makes it exciting is that everything in it will be entirely new and exclusive to Skitsch and, crucially, everything will have sprung from the imaginations and talents of seriously gifted designers.
The overall ethos is eclectic not only because Preti believes that’s how we mostly want to decorate: “What would be suitable for a farmhouse isn’t what you’d want for a metropolitan apartment or a chalet in St Moritz.” Nor will they do “just another piece of furniture”. For him design has, in the words of Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer, “to surprise” and to engage the emotions.
What binds it all together is the shared “eye” of Preti and Morozzi. They’ve gone to great lengths to make sure that the prices are reasonable. For example, Stefano Giovannoni (whose Bombo stool designed for Magis has sold in the hundreds of thousands around the world) has come up with a wonderful acrylic light in the shape of an abstract skull for about £86. Meanwhile, Marcel Wanders has designed what Preti thinks is the best sofa that turns into a bed he’s ever seen and, being by Wanders, there are some little surprises: crystal legs, for instance. And look out for Alessandra Baldereschi’s charming chest called The Four Seasons.