Vintage can be scary. Here’s why

After this Salone – that doubtlessly has been a great success – I feel a funny aftertaste. I have seen many beautiful things (and I will talk about them in the months to come). Yet I could not do without observing how so much of top production seemed to be guided by a main principle: that beauty stems mainly from the past.

From Flos’ beautiful lamps by Gino Sarfatti to Gastone Rinaldi’s bench and armchair for Poltrona Frau, most top brands have put their best bet on vintage pieces: risking in the sunstance (they all used new materials, technologies and production methods) but not in the surface: the forms were those of the past. Vitra, for instance, has reproduced the mythical Standard chair by Jean Prouvé in a plastic version: it looks (and feels) identical to the original but it costs almost half the price. All this to say that there was, indeed, a great deal of innovation in all these projects. Yet companies skillfully hid it behind the vintage looks. It is significant, in a way, to remark how Cassina, who had developed a series of visionary furniture pieces with high tech guru Carlo Ratti, decided to show them on the second floor of their showroom in Via Durini: at street level there was an exhibition of photographs by Karl Lagerfelf featuring Cassina’s classic pieces.

This is not a complaint. After all, being able to bring back to life the archives, especially when you can find it them pieces of astonishing beauty, is a priceless privilege. I am also astonished by the asymmetries of Alva Aalto’s lamps (re-proposed by Artek), by the immortal grace of Zanuso’s Lady (reinterpreted by Arflex), by the Danish wonders of the 50s that GamFratesi selected for their beautiful exhibition about Chromatism at the Triennale. It is beautiful, splendid, if all this can continue to live and be appreciated by younger generations.

Yet this year, for the first time (possibly due to the pessimism that engulfs us all when reading daily papers), vintage seemed to me more like an answer to the desider to reassure, by quoting known and timeless shapes than as a mere style option. And this, I admit, scared me a bit, insinuating the thought that the crisis has carved into the depth of the design system: and has pushed those who can afford it to (thanks to the greatness of their history) to prove how solid their ship is in view of a perfect storm that might be on the horizon… I hope I am mistaken.

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About Laura Traldi

I am a journalist at D la Repubblica. I also have a blog about #design that sometimes makes people talk. Visit www.designatlarge.it
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