Wandering through Paola Lenti’s popups during Salone del Mobile in Milan is like being transported into a visual wonderland drenched in explosive color and irresistible touch-me textures. It simply takes your breath away.
Lenti is a masterful maestra of weaves. With a magnificent understanding of color theory, she fearlessly explores bold, as well as soft nuanced permutations, fiber by fiber. Pair that with a brilliant perception of textures expressed in exciting weaves: Knits, appliques, tufts, braids, fringes.
So, you can imagine that a collab with accomplished, internationally acclaimed furniture designers, who also understand craft and possess a charming sense of whimsy, can only be spectacular. And that was the story at Lenti’s studio HQ, which opened its doors for the debut of the Metamorphosis collection in April during the 60thinstallment of Salone.
Lenti teamed up with the Brazilian Campana Brothers—Humberto and Fernando–to create Metamorphosis. This playful capsule collection features five large informal seats and a tapestry made by hand, literally piece by piece.
The works draw inspiration from the natural world and not just token references, like mimicking the colors of leaves or oceans. Fun shapes include caterpillars before they become butterflies; the positions centipedes can assume; a sinuous marine mollusk; a Mediterranean Sea creature with tentacles.
This is a sublime dish masterfully served up from leftovers. It’s a sustainability story, as each product is fashioned from offcuts of fabrics and materials from other items the company has produced. It’s a design coup, plus an expression of responsible behavior.
The creative re-use of scraps for a company like Paola Lenti, which produces all fabrics in house, is inevitable. That is, for creators with an eye to transforming a problem into an asset with extraordinary potential.
“Walking around our workshop, I can never stop myself from retrieving a few pieces of fabric from the waste basket,” says Paola Lenti. “Not only because I believe in the value of re-use, but also because I am taken by the unpredictable beauty of the different colors and shapes. If scraps stimulate the imagination, then (there’s) still an element of life,” she says. “So how can it be considered landfill material?”
Remnants from fabric and cord production are recovered and sewn onto synthetic felt and imaginatively composed into fresh formats to be used for appliqués. The felt itself is a result of the recycling of polyethylene bottles.
Seat pads are crafted from recyclable expanded polyethylene mixed with Aerelle® Blue. This is a polyester fiber derived from the recovery of abandoned disposable plastics, collected before they reach rivers and oceans. These are treated through a modern industrial process that is EU ecolabel certified and GRS Global Recycled Standard, an independent certification process audited for traceability.
Metamorphosis, according to Lenti, is an awareness-raising project.
“In this period characterized by limited access to materials, this new collection…reunites us with the cultural values of its not-too-distant past,” says Lenti. “When reusing objects and materials was considered a virtue rather than a defect.”
In fact, the company has been devoted to ecological responsibility since its inception in 1994.
No strangers to traditional craft, the Campanas’ Vermelha chair, manufactured by the Italian company Edra in 1998, is iconic. Its seat is constructed from interlaced red rope, inspired by Brazilian weaving techniques.
Humberto Campana savors the idea of turning remnants into “something precious that can help transform the life of the immigrants trained to produce it, adding an element of humanity.”
“This project is so much more than the product itself,” says Campana. “It contains everything: recycling and reuse, handmade craftsmanship, and hope and dignity for people in a fragile situation. This is incredibly important.”
The global design community mourns the unexpected death of designer and architect Fernando Campana on November 16. He was 61.
All images © Paola Lenti