With his portly complexion, mane of silver hair and thick-rimmed glasses, Enzo Catellani strikes an affable presence in person and a boyish sense of humour that has informed his startlingly minimalist lamp designs to date. The founder of Lombardy-based Catellani & Smith has made a reputation out of subverting industry trends while adding a dash of devil-may-care irony to the cerebral design profession, and having a ton of fun in the process.
On a recent annual trip to Hong Kong – a city for which he effuses admiration for its energetic atmosphere – the Italian shared with us his favourite spots in the city, as well as what keeps him occupied otherwise.
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Which design are you most proud of?
I was surprised at the unbelievable success of the Fil de Fer. An architect in Rome asked me to make a big lamp for the Trevi Fountain. I came up with this design and the architect didn't like it, but friends and clients who visited my studio loved it – my clients around the world wanted it so much that they wouldn't buy any other lamps unless I sent them the Fil de Fer. After that, there was an explosion [in sales].
The best one is Constantin Brancusi. He was ahead of his time. He combined Asian and European design to create contemporary art, but Brancusi came from Romania, where they don't have any background in art.
It's Yves blue. Yves Klein was another crazy, fantastic guy. He made art history just out of one colour, it's fantastic! I painted my Nike [lamp] with this blue, and I was joking. My blue was not Klein's blue, it was Calvin's blue [laughs]. But the Klein family took me to court! I was so sorry, I said I wouldn't make more. He copyrighted the blue! Would you even think of that? There's no humour in his family.
Favourite travel destination?
The beach in Sardinia, Italy. It's like a European Caribbean. The sea is amazing.
The China Club. It's a surprise, because it's in the old world. I reflected so much because I thought, this historical period is amazing. I think Hong Kong must have been fascinating in that time.
In the past, my hobby was horse riding. My horse Logan Smith was my partner – he is the Smith in Catellani & Smith. I love the horse races here in Hong Kong. Live music, young people, drinking beer, it's fantastic!
Catellani & Smith is now available in Hong Kong exclusively at Zodiac Lighting.
Top image: Sandy Wong/Zodiac Lighting