MAGIS is a household name within product design circles for its innovative, outsourced approach to industrial design that sees a roster of industry heavyweights vie to work with the brand, including the likes of Konstantin Grcic, Jaime Hayon, and longtime collaborators Ronan amd Erwan Bouroullec. Guiding the brand’s overseas expansion is second-generation owner Alberto Perazza, in his capacity as Global Operations Manager.
On a recent stopover in Hong Kong to introduce a new product lineup, we caught up with the Venetian to discuss his views on the similarities between this city and rural Italy, the shifting tastes of the vast Chinese market, and the continuation of Italy’s long design tradition.
Do you think city dwellers are seeking that Italian la dolce vita that your products symbolise?
I like to think that we somehow contribute to beauty not just in design, but in wellbeing, and the relationship that a user feels towards the product. Whether this is Italian, I’ll leave this to someone else to decide. Beauty is not just the look. It’s about who a product is made for, who made it, sustainability, how nicely a product ages with you. Regardless of whether people like our things or not, hopefully they see that there is an idea behind a product. Sometimes I ask myself, does the world need another chair? Maybe not. But we like to work on the ideas behind a product. It’s not just a style exercise.
How much of a role does Italian design heritage play at MAGIS?
Italian design was more relevant in the past – many Italian companies had very novel ways of thinking. We are missing something today in terms of new Italian designers. There’s some great names around, but maybe the world has changed and design has become common. Somehow, Italian history has become a burden because we have too much of it, of predetermined concepts that don’t give much freedom. However, design is not so much about where a designer is from. Our collaborations are, first of all, about the feeling that we have with a designer, and secondly, how well it fits with MAGIS.
How do you see Chinese tastes changing?
Based on my little knowledge of China, I can only say that things seem to be developing in the right direction for MAGIS – business in mainland China has tripled in the last four years. We see a lot of opportunities, and a very peculiar and complex market ruled by their own rules. The tastes of Chinese consumers are changing in the sense that there is a clear distinction between the genuine product and a copy. There’s more attention towards design, originality and authenticity. There is more attention to the quality of the public environment, and as a result, there’s great local architecture.
What similarities do you see between the lifestyles of Venice and Hong Kong?
We live in a very nice corner of Italy – the quality of life there is very high. Here, Hong Kong and other major cities in Asia, you are in an environment where you feel the sense of speed. Back in Italy, people probably do things at the same pace, but you don’t feel the speed or the pressure. You don’t feel stress. The tastes of people in Italy and Hong Kong are rather similar, but the use of a product is different. If a product is successful in Italy, it will probably be successful here and vice versa.
What advice do you have for industrial designers looking to enter a collaboration with a company like MAGIS?
I would simply say to believe strongly in your ideas, to understand and realise that you might fail today but succeed tomorrow. It’s not easy, but designers should work less on the computer and more on sketches. In the end, all of the things we make here are physical, so we have to sit down, meet people, sketch, exchange ideas, see the prototype, and develop things gradually. We have a very good relationship with people in the design world because we have a dialogue between equals, a constant flow of ideas. We like to challenge a material or a technology. This is the process we work with.