Inside: B&B Italia / by joel lim

Inside: B&B Italia

A while back I had the chance to go on a factory visit to B&B italia's headquarters in Milan and it was definitely an eyeopening experience to be able to see first hand how they manufacture their furniture pieces. 

To those familiar with the whole design and furniture industry, would have probably heard of B&B italia. They are one of the major italian furniture labels, and have produced famous works by Mario Bellini, Ettore Sottsass and Gaetano Pesce, some of the great names in italian design. The company was founded in 1966 by the Busnelli family, who currently owns and manages the company. 

Exoskeleton metal structure resembles the Pompidou in Paris. 

Exoskeleton metal structure resembles the Pompidou in Paris. 

Compasso Di Oro

B&B has won a total of 4 Compasso Di Oros, the Italian design world's equivalent of Olympic gold.

The awards were given for  Sisamo by Studio Kairos (1974), Le Bambole by Mario Bellini (1979), Sity by Antonio Citterio (1987) and in 1989 B&B Italia became the first company to be recognized with a Compasso d'oro directly awarded to a design manufacturing company.

Olympic gold.

Olympic gold.

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Retro Bridgette Bardot.

Retro Bridgette Bardot.

Milestone wall at the entrance. 

Milestone wall at the entrance. 

Walk down memory lane

Stepping into the main entrance of the building we were greeted by a wall of posters, displaying B&B's ad campaigns from the 60's to present day. There were some interesting and bold ads that B&B had undertaken during the 60's and 70's, and it definitely showed how the company wasn't afraid to push the boundaries of art and design.

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Kate moss's mum in one of the bold ads.

Kate moss's mum in one of the bold ads.

Where the magic happens

After a short history lesson on the company we made our way down to the factory floor. The highlight of the trip! 

Picolo Papilo by Naoto Fukusawa

Picolo Papilo by Naoto Fukusawa

On the cutting table

On the cutting table

Pattern cutting starts off by marking out the blemishes by hand with fabric chalk on the leather. Blemishes on the leather can be caused by a range of factors such as insect bites or from fighting. The computer scans the leather and positions the patterns digitally onto the leather, avoiding the marked areas. This way, during pattern cutting, the blemishes are avoided. The machine then proceeds to laser cut the pattern.

Uncut leather pieces in storage

Uncut leather pieces in storage

First stop was the leather department, and the smell of leather hits you as soon as you enter, it's like walking into one of those expensive leather bag stores. They had leather in every color and texture imaginable. The company's representative went on to explain the different grades of leather and measures taken to ensure that only the top quality ones are accepted. 

leather leather everywhere

leather leather everywhere

Start of the laser cutting process

Start of the laser cutting process

Famous silhouettes.

Famous silhouettes.

Unfortunately, no photography was allowed in the production area. But I did manage to snap some pictures of the fully moulded foam pieces. As they sat there waiting to be upholstered, their familiar silhouettes looked oddly lifeless.

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The visit ended at the showroom and we were given time to browse and try out the finished pieces. There were so many pieces to see and I had a great time looking at the different details and finishings. 

I walked away from this experience feeling slightly overwhelmed by the task ahead of me. The multitude of designer furniture packed into that showroom was a daunting reminder to just how competitive this industry is and also how hard it is to be original these days. 

Back to the drawing board!

 

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